In a recent presentation, PowerShell creator Jeffrey Snover talked about the coming bifurcation of the profession of Systems Administrator into what he called “Blue Collar” and “White Collar” IT. His argument is that the ongoing trend in the industry is towards fewer people being responsible for more and more servers and that roles that would likely see wage growth were the ones that drove that consolidation.
Snover prophesized that IT Pros who had the ability to heavily automate processes that today required “repetitive click through configuration” were still going to have jobs in the future. That through embracing increasing automation you would keep yourself relevant and that the guys who ignore automation in favor of repetitive configuration were soon going to find themselves out of a job. Sort of like how you need a whole lot fewer people working on desktop and application deployment when you start to use centralized tools like System Center Configuration Manager.
Snover predicts that we’ll see blue collar low paid IT jobs and white collar high paid IT jobs. That the blue collar jobs would involve replacing failed hardware on servers – a job that doesn’t require a substantial amount of training – and that the white collar jobs would focus around Sysadmins with the ability to automate complex repetitive processes. Someone will always need to replace the failed hardware, but that if your job could be replaced by a complex script it wouldn’t be too long until it would be.
Snover talked about PowerShell as the golden chalice that Systems Administrators needed to grasp and that Sysadmins needed to put down their mouse if they wanted to embrace the future. I think he’s partially right in that those that learn to consolidate through automation will still have jobs at the expense of those whose duties can be replaced by complex scripts. What I think he missed is that it isn’t just PowerShell that allows you to create powerful automation on the Windows platform. System Center Orchestrator, formerly Opalis, makes it even easier, quicker, and therefore cheaper to automate many complex Windows systems administration tasks.
Although PowerShell is a well designed language that pretty much allows you to do anything on the Windows platform, it still takes time to put together a PowerShell script that can automate a complex task. With Orchestrator’s Runbook Designer and product integration packs, putting together a complex set of automated steps for a significant number of tasks becomes a drag-and-drop affair rather than something that needs to be hacked together in a text editor. You can use PowerShell with Orchestrator runbooks if you find you need to do something that isn’t included as an Integration Pack item – but you’ll find it a lot simpler to automate processes if you use Orchestrator with PowerShell rather than just using PowerShell by itself.
I think Snover is right in that automation is going to shrink the number of IT professionals needed to manage complex server infrastructure. I disagree with him about Sysadmins having to put down the mouse, because with Orchestrator you can use the mouse to automate complex tasks a lot more quickly than you could by bashing out the same automation in PowerShell. Systems administrators who have jobs at the end of the decade will not only believe in the efficiency of automation, but the efficiency in developing that automation.
System Center Orchestrator 2012 is currently in beta and can be downloaded from the following address: http://blogs.technet.com/b/systemcenter/archive/2011/06/15/announcing-the-system-center-orchestrator-beta.aspx