Neither was #cloud or #virtualization or Web 2.0 or …

chicken-cloud Every time there's a major technological shift in operational models you can hear the hue and cry from across the land of IT: the sky is falling. Our jobs are in jeopardy. Technology "X" will eliminate the need for "Y".

Like the children's fable of Chicken Little, the sky never falls, the need for "Y" is never eliminated, and life continues on. If anything, the exact opposite tends to occur: a new set of skills requires new roles, new people, new services. The complexity introduced as new technology is integrated with the old becomes unmanageable without additional training, people and budgets.

Consider the predicted elimination of IT with the introduction of cloud. Didn't happen. As expected, the complexity of integration and management via means foreign to operations resulted in a dearth of employees with the "right" set of skills.

Cloud computing professionals that are most in demand are those with technical skills, such as software engineers, systems engineers and network administrators.

-- Talent pool can't meet skyrocketing demand for cloud skills 

With the enhanced demand for Cloud professionals and interest in this field of technology, cloud-computing certifications are becoming increasingly popular and easily available. HP has introduced the Cloud Architect certificate, which will enable you to demonstrate to an employer that you can not only manage but also design and implement cloud infrastructures. The other certificate generating interest at the moment is Cloud Integrator, which is indicative of an IT professional’s ability to integrate new elements into established cloud systems.

-- Skills in Demand for Cloud Professionals in 2012 

Virtualization, too, is in large part responsible for the interest and growth in devops as organizations began to adopt a more rapid application deployment lifecycle. The complexity of virtualized server infrastructure – mostly due to the introduction of virtual switches and networks – only served to reinforce the need for IT, not eliminate it.

Today's major technological shift in the data center focuses on SDN (Software-Defined Networks). Again, there are many who hear the marketing presentation of SDN and its impact to the data center (and on operations) and fear for the future of IT – or specifically in this case, networking experts.

Once again, there is nothing to fear. The sky is not falling, networks are not going away, and the complexity that will be introduced by yet another layer of networking a top traditional networks will require new skills and new roles and solidify the need for IT, not eliminate it.

Networking blogger Ethan Banks replies to this concern:

My short answer to the concerns raised here is that networking folks haven’t got a thing to worry about. Sharp network folks at all levels of ability and experience will always be employable, even in the coming SDN netpocalypse. More than that, I don’t think SDN will enable IT organizations to shed network staff members. As my friend Tony Mattke is fond of saying, “Complexity goes against robustness.” And software defined networks will inevitably be complex. SDN does nothing to make networks simpler – not down underneath, not down where it counts. They are every bit as complex as legacy traditional network are today; I could argue that they are more so. With complexity comes things not working right. And when things don’t work right, it will take someone who knows where their towel is to make it better.

-- Does SDN Mean IT Will Be Able to Get Rid of Network People?

Like virtualization and cloud, SDN will not wholesale replace the data center. That means integration, that means inter-networking, that means traditional networks and next-generation networks living together, cats and dogs, mass hysteria. Well, maybe not mass hysteria but certainly some mass confusion as the two technologies attempt to find a way to cohabitate for at least the foreseeable future.

Major technological shifts like virtualization, cloud and now SDN are not necessarily replacing existing technology. They are enhancing it by making it more scalable – both from an operational and a managerial perspective. 

That's because while cloud and virtualization were maturing, data center capacity was expanding. That means the operational efficiencies gained enabled the data center to grow without requiring a complementary growth in people required to manage it.

That's what will come about with SDN: it will enable "network people" to effectively handle the growth and change in data center networks without requiring a complementary growth in staff.

SDN is not going to kill traditional networks or eliminate the need for the folks who manage them. Like cloud and virtualization and many other technological shifts in the past, it will improve the ability of the data center and its operational staff to scale.