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IT Pros are not feeling the love from Microsoft

Are IT pros getting the short end of the stick at Microsoft these days, or is that just a misperception fueled by fear of change and the unknown? Debra Littlejohn Shinder tackles the question head on.

Microsoft has traditionally catered to two distinct groups in the technical community: developers (programmers or coders) and IT professionals (systems and network administrators, security specialists, and network architects). The former write the software and the latter install it, manage its operation, and troubleshoot problems.

Typically these two different job categories attract people with very different skill sets and personality types. Coders are usually mathematically inclined and tend to be more introverted, preferring to work with machines and not completely comfortable in social situations; these are the folks who often fit the "nerd" stereotype.

IT admins spend much of their time supporting, training, and responding to their organizations' computer users and often must also interact with management personnel. They need well-honed people skills. They also must understand the technology, but at the operational level rather than the code level. To many of them, programming languages are foreign languages.

For computers to fulfill the needs of business, both roles are important. As the company making the software that powers most business scenarios, Microsoft has built internal support systems aimed at each of these communities. This is typified by their two popular subscription services: MSDN for developers and TechNet for IT pros. However, over the past few years, I've been hearing a lot of grumbling from the IT pros that they are feeling a bit neglected, and this talk has intensified over the past year. Is it true that Redmond's passion for IT professionals has cooled?

Who's your daddy?

To understand Microsoft's relationship with developers and IT pros, it might help to look back at the company's origins. It was founded, formed, and shaped by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, consummate geeks who cut their computing teeth on FORTRAN and COBOL and spent their free time in high school writing software programs and figuring out how to exploit bugs in the timeshare mainframe to obtain free computing time. During the early years of Microsoft, Gates is said to have reviewed every line of code in the company's software and to have rewritten much of it. After running the company for roughly a quarter of a century, he handed the CEO position over to Steve Ballmer in 2000 and took the title of Chief Software Architect, a pretty clear signal as to where his first love still resided.

Ballmer, the current head of Microsoft, is a businessman -- not a geek. At Harvard, where he and Gates met, he managed the football team while Bill and Paul were fiddling with code. He graduated (unlike Bill, who dropped out to start Microsoft) and went to work in product management at Procter & Gamble. He attended the Stanford Graduate School of Business. However, although he might not be a developer, his actions indicate a longtime admiration of them and enthusiasm for what they do. One of his most famous onstage performances is the over-the-top chant of the mantra "Developers, developers, developers."

The old flame burns hot

Microsoft's love affair with developers, then, is nothing new. But it seems to have heated up over the last couple of years. Mary Jo Foley, in her ZDNet blog, recently reported on an internal memo indicating that the company is increasing its focus on developers. Recent personnel changes and reorganization decisions seem to bear that out. Some saw the replacement of Server and Tools president Bob Muglia with Satya Nadella as indicative of this new direction. There is also a big push to woo talented developers for various teams. For example, the company recently announced changes to the application submission process for Windows Phone 7, in response to feedback from the developer community. Microsoft has also released an iOS-to-WP7 API mapping tool, in an effort to persuade mobile developers to port their iPhone apps to the Windows Phone platform.

Microsoft regularly hosts a number of conferences aimed at the developer community, such as the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) and MIX. In an inordinate show of affection at PDC 2009, Microsoft gave all attendees a free Acer Aspire 1420P convertible tablet PC. The Microsoft India website is currently advertising a contest for Windows Azure developers, wherein the top six applications will win their creators an all-expense paid trip from India to Seattle.

As a matter of fact, if you look closely you'll notice that the new emphasis is not just on developers in general but specifically on developers working on cloud-based applications and the Azure platform. In fact, it appears that -- in keeping with its "all in" commitment -- Microsoft is moving most of its investments (both money and talent) to its cloud products. And that's one of the things that has IT pros so scared.

Cloudy days ahead for IT admins?

I first started hearing the rumblings from the IT pro community back as long ago as 2006-2007, in conjunction with the first serious wave of talk about Software as a Service (SaaS); this was before the concept morphed into "the cloud." I remember Microsoft touting SaaS, even then, as the future of software,  and I remember the pushback from the IT pro community. Their concern: In this vision of a world where companies don't need an IT department, what happens to me and my job?

The problem was that nobody ever really effectively answered that question to their satisfaction. It was glossed over, with SaaS advocates mumbling some insincere-sounding generalities about how "the jobs won't go away, they'll just change." Most IT pros weren't convinced.

Cloud proponents seem to have recognized, this time around, that in order to get widespread adoption, they are going to need to win the hearts and souls of the IT professionals whose recommendations, in many cases, have a lot of influence over the decision-making process. I'm seeing more of a concentrated effort to show IT pros the benefits of cloud computing, and of course we're now being offered a more palatable option -- the private cloud -- at least as a transitory mechanism. Nonetheless, while they might not be as adamantly opposed as they were five years ago, IT pros aren't yet rushing to embrace the cloud.

You have to remember that most people are resistant to change -- even when it's positive change. When told that their roles will "evolve," most see that as an indication that, at the very least, they'll need to do a lot of work (probably unpaid, "off duty" work) to develop new skills that are applicable to the new environment. Despite headlines such as "Why Cloud Computing Won't Kill IT Jobs," that very article acknowledges that a whopping 75% of the IT pros with whom the author talked are still afraid of being pushed out by the move to the cloud. And many of those I've talked with see Microsoft's "new" focus on developers -- especially Azure devs -- as indicative of the fact that IT pros are no longer important to the company because they aren't going to be around much longer anyway.

I was at TechEd North America 2010 in New Orleans last summer, and fear and loathing of the cloud was apparent among many of the IT pros I talked to there. Bob Muglia's opening keynote address began with all that's wonderful about the cloud. Fifteen or twenty minutes into it, I noticed something I had never seen before during one of these keynotes: people were walking out. Later, I had the chance to ask some folks what they thought about Muglia's speech. "Not what we wanted to hear" was the response. "I felt like he was sounding a death knell for my career," said one more dramatic fellow.

A month later, a report from AMI Partners predicted that cloud computing would single-handedly annihilate 200,000 to 250,000 jobs in the SMB channel over the next decade. Is it any surprise that IT pros are worried about what they perceive as Microsoft's current "all cloud, all the time" business strategy?

Are IT pros evolving into developers?

At the same time that the future for admins is looking bleak in some quarters, the outlook for developers continues to be rosy. Sure, they need to learn new skills too in order to create applications for the new cloud platform, but Microsoft is bending over backward to help make that easier. They've put together free instructional videos to teach the fundamentals of cloud development from the very beginning, and they are providing a free (limited features) version of Visual Web Developer 2010 Express and a 90-day free trial of Visual Studio 2010 Professional.

MSDN subscribers are being offered complimentary usage of the Azure platform. Others can take advantage of the free trial, which gives you 750 hours of compute time, 20GB of storage, a 1GB Web Edition database, and 20GB in/out per month, all free through September 30.

On the IT pro side, some in the industry have complained that the documentation used by admins is becoming sparser and that there's less updating of the information. Product Help is, according to some, getting less helpful, and they seem to detect a push by Microsoft toward steering IT pros seeking information to forums and wikis, with more focus on the type of "community support" that's popular in the Linux community and a decrease in the amount of official documentation that's been thoroughly vetted by the company.

Some of the content creators whose businesses thrived over the last decade as they contracted to write whitepapers, product documentation, and similar content for Microsoft have noticed that they're now getting much less of this well-paying work. The company seems to be shifting to a new content creation model where more of the work is done either by Microsoft employees or by unpaid volunteers. Many of these IT-pros-turned-writers are finding themselves having to scramble for new sources of income. One area where good documentation seems to be especially needed: how to navigate the new, command-based administrative tools.

For several years now, I've been listening to IT pros complain that Microsoft seems to be trying to turn them into programmers. They've felt this pressure build as deploying and managing Windows products has become more and more dependent on programming knowledge and scripting skills. Examples include the advent of PowerShell, which some IT pros refer to as "PowerHell," and Server Core, which takes away the admin-friendly graphical interface and replaces it with a UNIX-like, text-based UI. Just last month, Brien Posey wrote about "The Disappearing Windows Server GUI" in Redmond Magazine.

Like it or not, Windows administrators are now expected to spend more (or even all) of their time in the "dark place" and learn all about cmdlets, scripts, functions, and executables. Some are excited about the opportunity to expand their skill sets and the flexibility it gives them, but many have to be dragged kicking and screaming into this brave, new world. A successful consultant once told me that "The reason I've always preferred Windows is because of the windows -- that is, the graphical interface. If I wanted to do everything at the command line, I'd just use UNIX."

These people are not happy about the new "minimalist" look of Windows, and some are taking it personally. They've even said they feel like the developers want them (the IT pros) to do too much of the programming work for them.

What can (or should) Microsoft do about it?

There's an old saying here in the southern part of the United States that "if Mama's not happy, nobody's happy." And if the people who keep the corporate IT departments humming aren't happy with Microsoft, the company might not stay happy for very long, either. Those folks have been some of Microsoft's strongest supporters and have recommended (or in some cases, demanded) that their organizations keep purchasing expensive Windows server and client licenses and stick with Microsoft productivity applications even when others started experimenting with open source software. They have frequently been the ones driving their companies to upgrade to the latest and greatest versions of Microsoft software because the new versions had features that made their lives easier.

If the doomsayers are accurate, many of those people will lose their jobs in the coming stampede to the cloud. But some will move up in their companies, out of IT operations and into management, and will be making decisions about whether and how those companies adopt next-generation computing technologies. If they believe Microsoft has let them down, they're not apt to cast a friendly eye toward Microsoft's cloud solutions -- so that even if the move into the cloud is inevitable, disgruntled former partners will select a different cloud provider.

In fact, many of today's corporate IT personnel may be the ones operating tomorrow's cloud datacenters. But if they believe Microsoft lost interest in and abandoned them, the best and brightest among them will be motivated to go to work for the company's competitors.

How can Microsoft be true to its commitment to the cloud without losing the loyalty of the IT professionals who have helped to make the company so successful in the first place? I think one way is to recognize that IT pros possess specific, important skills that will still have a place in the technology world for many years to come. The company needs to realize that with some rare exceptions, IT pros cannot easily transform themselves into programmers. The mind-sets, the personalities, and the work itself are too different. Stop trying to teach them more and more coding, and put the real coders to work developing the friendlier administrative interfaces and tools that the admins are going to want and need -- whether they're managing systems in a company's traditional IT department, in a public cloud provider's international datacenter, or in an organization's private cloud.

I'd love to hear what you think about this problem. Or is it a problem? Are IT pros really getting the short end of the stick at Microsoft these days, or is that just a misperception fueled by fear of change and the unknown? Should IT pros just stop whining and face the fact that, in the view of a company built by a pair of avid programming buffs, they've always taken a back seat to developers? Is the fear of and antipathy toward the cloud just unjustified paranoia or is it a real threat to tech jobs? Should IT pros be looking for a new line of work, or will they just be doing the same work in a different location? Post to the discussion forum and/or write to me at deb@shinder.net.

About

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 add...

122 comments
moabrunner
moabrunner

From server standpoint I switched to Linux years ago because of these issues. The first thing I do on a Linux server is turn off the GUI. It runs much better and frees up resources to be used in database transactions or some other process. There were always constant bugs and more time spent on maintenance of a windows server than it was worth. All I can see happening if they go to a command line is just making it harder to find out why the server crashed or a program stopped running. There won't be a pop-up window to tell you what happened. The GUI is why most windows guys stay with windows, if they take the time to learn a command window way of doing things they will be happy with how easy things get, and how quick you can information about a resource or program running, or a configuration.

ChuckSomerville
ChuckSomerville

Cloud stuff is trying (at the urging of Microsoft, Google, etc.) to move from being marketing hype to being something business will have a good reason to embrace. Meanwhile, Microsoft, which sells most of its products to business (not kitchen-table users) has become more marketing-department-driven and less user-focused. Marketing departments seem to believe that they must introduce new products which are not "new and improved" but rather "new and completely re-designed". VISTA / WINDOWS 7 Many businesses (including my 20,000-employees world-wide employer) simply said "no" to Vista. First, because of application incompatibility (updating or getting updates for many apps that are otherwise not broken is a bad use of business resources). Second, imagine that for all the users (remember, most of them are not geeks) it will take 1/2 hour or more of training to begin to be comfortable with the new user interface. To over-simplify, for my company that's 10,000 man-hours of regular worker lost productivity while they are re-trained, and 10,000 man-hours of IT people providing the training/coaching - a huge expenditure with no good business case for being spent. (Nothing was broken - what does all this fix?) In Vista you COULD tweak it to keep the classic user interface and Start Menu but now in Windows 7 you must take the (completely different) Start Menu unless you get a 3rd-party add-on some guy wrote in frustration. I think my company will be moving (reluctantly) to Windows 7 simply because Windows XP support will be going away (more IT love lost). At least on the application compatibility front, they built some of the VirtualPC technology into Windows 7 so you can set an older program's icon to "run as if it were XP" which (at least for some non-Vista-compatible apps I've tried) can make them run under Windows 7. MICROSOFT OFFICE Another similar debacle. Beginning with Office 2007, we are inflicted with "the Ribbon" whether we like it or not. Why was Windows so wildly successful over the years? If an app was written to comply with the Windows User Interface Guidelines, the learning curve for it was small. (All apps have the gas pedal and the steering wheel in the same place.) We did NOT need another (completely different) Windows control. Office uses the Ribbon, provides no means to revert to a classic interface (again a third-party add-on makes a Ribbon group that looks like the old menu and button bar) and they moved everything "just because". You have to learn how to drive it all over again. My company IS rolling out Office 2007 and several users just in my immediate area have insisted that the local IT support people put Excel 2003 back on their machines because they are heavy users of Excel charts and the user interface for charts in Office 2007 is completely different and the Ribbon Classic UI add-on is no help for that. The really irritating thing about both Vista/Win7 and Office 2007/2010 is they are only marginally better (new features) but are massively different in the user interface to the existing features for no good reason. These things are why IT staff are ticked at Microsoft these days. (Don't even get me started on Visual Basic being religiously upward-compatible from versions 1 through 6 but Visual Basic .NET is a different language - that's a different rant for another day.) When the majority of your products' sales are new versions to existing customers, making the products different "just because" is a BAD marketing strategy. I wish Microsoft would replace some of the children in the marketing department with some software marketing experts who understand the corporate market.

tmcclure
tmcclure

I've been in IT for 18 years. I love learning new things. The operative word is "new". With MS I am not learning new skills, I'm learning how to do the same thing differently. That is a waste of my time.

gdrapers
gdrapers

A related trend within a cloud and services world is that the role of developers is morphing at the same time in to a DevOps role, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DevOps. So no that developers are wearing pagers, is an other layers between developers and IT Pros disappearing?

David Chassels
David Chassels

See what Gates said http://bit.ly/dQrGIS So the end of traditional programmers for business but not good for Microsoft? Maybe that's why it has not appeared? See what is coming - and SAP By Design seems on same track? http://bit.ly/f7tcOm Believe me it works and will change shape of software in Business Technology

nicholas.rose
nicholas.rose

Agreed - this is a trend with increasing momentum....why not bring the targets right to Al Quaeda and make things easy for them? Or park our Cloud Computing centers right into the crosshairs of Pakistan's medium range nukes at a time of increasing regional instability in southern Asia? Sure those Pakistani nukes are under secure lock and key....by the same people who did'nt even know where Bin Laden was living....Brilliant idea by some hare-brained MBAs to increase the next few quarters profits with no real world understanding of current geopolitics.

dwdino
dwdino

Just wanted to share some tips on using PowerShell. Important routine tasks can be very handy in PS. I would like to give one example. This is within Exchange, but with PS we have automated the auditing of our client devices. We have put together a list of allowed devices and users. The PowerShell script pulls ActiveSync users and their associated devices. If a device has been idle for too long, or is not approved, the script removes the ActiveSync relationship and disables AS for the user. So, instead of having to periodically do security checks on remote devices, it is automated. Just an FYI... On the other hand, MS does have some challenges as the pendulum swings toward distributed independent systems. The "domain" made admininstration easier for large groups of systems, but the new paradigm is consumption based, not management based, and can decrease the need for centralized control enterprise wide. Pools of administration may rise. But this opens the concern of federation and portability... But I digress...

christop095
christop095

you go girl! this is one of the most intuitive, well thought out articles I have ever had the pleasure of digesting. You hit the nail right on the head. Thanks for the great article and the obvious hard work!

KaGeN101
KaGeN101

I think they should even expose kids at school to scripting as a subject as serious as math. If you can script in this new age we are going in you will be much better off and some of your daily work tasks can be automated. IT pros should embrace this oppurtunuty and go into the dark place that puts them closer to the system, you will have much better systems and much better IT pros at the end of the day

delphi9_1971
delphi9_1971

Personally, I think the Cloud can't last. I mean really how many times can this happen- http://venturebeat.com/2011/04/21/amazons-cloud-crash-takes-down-foursquare-reddit-and-others/ - Before IT departments lose trust in these providers and bring these systems back in house? Also, with thing like Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPPA and PCI that hold corporate executives personally responsible for violations of these laws, I think the trust required to place your organization's most precious assets in to the "cloud" is more than most C-Suite executives can stomach. Just think, the first time a Cloud provider causes the exposure of some highly visible confidential piece of information, be it Credit Card data, some companies new product designs or leaked financials, companies will be clamoring to bring these services back in house. The "private" cloud makes sense. You host your own data and deliver it to users via a web browser. This reduces ownership costs on the desktop by streamlining support. Since you'll need less client applications. However, you'll still be able to trust that your data is secure since you have the most vested interest in that security. I've been in this business for more than 15 years. I've heard these arguments for cloud computing before, it was called "thin client". It didn't take hold then, I don't think it will take hold now.

russoisraeli
russoisraeli

The opinion that IT Pros do not code is far from truth. Maybe beginner IT tech's spend most of their time explaining how to login into one's PC, but real IT pros spend much of their time developing system scripts, which can get into pretty complex programs!

rsmcomputer
rsmcomputer

Deb (at least I thought you preferred to be called Deb), this is one of the BEST articles I've ever read from you! Especially, the last few paragraphs where you call the duck a duck. In a quick few words (not one of my stronger suits), Microsoft is out of touch with the majority of business with this cloud thing. Just like the thin client hoopla of eight or ten years ago, someone gets "wind" of an invented trend and the so-called experts think that everyone must get on board. This is like offering sushi to all the meat-and-potatoes eaters, just because someone noticed some restaurant was attracting the "right crowd". The government tried shoving down our throats Obama-care -- MS is kinda doing the same thing with this SaaS redux.

wizard76
wizard76

This is just part of the over-class ongoing plunder at the expense of the middle class. IT professionals are unfortunately the layer above the high-wage laborers and will be out sourced. There is no choice but to work up the payroll ranks to find more money. Business executives today are only interested in scoring big and getting out. The easiest way to accomplish this is to pillage in the short term at the expense of the future. This is especially true when they won't be around past the long term anyway. If you think I'm just a paranoid nut case, how many executives can you name that have been in their position for more than a few years? The days of the career chairman/CEO/president are largely over. Maybe the worst part is the laws have been changed so these immoral actions are no longer illegal. For more information, just visit http://americawhatwentwrong.org/ and think what the future holds for you. If you don't have your millions safely locked away already, extrapolate how you will be targeted soon.

john.hellmann
john.hellmann

I don't completely understand "cloud" computing, but I do get the "subscription software" stuff. I consider myself an IT guy, although most of you commenting are from considerably larger organizations. I'm "THE GUY" where the rubber really meets the road. I'm the one that talks to the one sitting at a keyboard, the one that can't get his or her 'thingy' to 'do that.' I'm a one man shop, so my scale is considerably different than many here, BUT... Seems to me that regardless of the 'cloud', they can't do away with a user having a device to interface that cloud. Whether its a desktop, a tablet, or a smartphone, someone has to service the users, right? And it seems to me that an organization with 1000 users will still need IT pros to attend their needs, whether cloud or not.

RechTepublic
RechTepublic

Cloud = Internet, World Wide Web, Information Superhighway, The Net, The Web, etc. Cloud in my office = Intranet Going into someone elses Cloud = Extranet Cloud Servers = IIS and Apache Clouding = Really? The whole point of Microsoft adopting the word "Cloud" is to make you think that this is something new. Sadly, it looks like it has worked on many of you. Now read everything you read about Microsoft's Cloud and replace cloud with Internet. See how easy to understand and familar it is all of a sudden? Most of us have had an IIS server or Apache server at our disposal for over a decade already. Antivirus, backup and database applications have been leveraging these servers for almost as long. Most of us use Extranets daily to logon to Windows Live, Gmail and any financial institution. Personally, I am overjoyed that my bank moved to the "cloud". I don't give a cr@p about the employees at the bank that lost their job in the process. It is about results. It is not about some idiot who thinks that their degree or certification will last them a lifetime. Things change, continue to learn or get out of the way! Clouding...ROFLMAO!

SHAMKEN@MAIL.VA.GOV
SHAMKEN@MAIL.VA.GOV

I use to do a lot of IT and Admin. Believe me it will be awhile for this kicks in, If it happens. Microsoft does a lot of work for the Government where COBOL IS KING. We all know how the economy is now. It will be awhile.

Peleg
Peleg

I'm a developer, always been a developer. I don't do networking and admin, but I've had to depend on those folks in past jobs and the experience has usually not been positive. Someone called them troubleshooters? I think not. With only one or two exceptions, most of the IT folks I've worked with have a list of 10 or so things to try to fix a problem and if none of them worked, they usually said, "Reformat and reinstall". Do some digging around, some experimenting, to really find out what the problem is? Not only did the thought never seem to cross their minds, I don't really think most of them had the background to do such a thing. When it comes down to it, what these folks do all day is manipulate the OS or OS-type software. One would expect these folks to intimately understand and know the internals of how OS's work. When I found out that this was not the case, I finally understood their approach to "fixing" things. I once mentioned the FAT bit map that keeps track of the allocated disk sectors while discussing a problem we were having. I got a roomful of blank stares -- they had no idea what I was talking about. How is this possible? No wonder they are scared. They don't have the ability (or perhaps desire) to train themselves in a new technology. Developers do this every day. We are not, as a class, smarter than they are. The difference is that we, if we are any good at what we do, really know what the hell we are doing. I really believe a new graduate with a CS degree knows more about OS's than these over-revered and over-paid IT "Pros". If these IT people really knew what they were doing, then they'd just go with the flow as developers do and teach themselves what they need to know to remain gainfully employed. Instead of being a Luddite, accept the fact that the technology is a moving target and learn to aim and shoot accordingly.

NetTechToday
NetTechToday

I decided to upgrade my skill set and took Server 2008 and Exchange 2010 courses and PS ran through all kinds of exercises that turned IT subject matter that is usually intresting (to an IT geek) into a boring thoughtless trudge through of PS exercises copying multiple line cmds into each exercise. After finishing the class and thinking of the prospect of having to drop this much script knowledge into a testing enviroment, I pretty well gave up the study and simply went back to learning the new systems on my own using the gui. So how does that help IT. I mean areyou really going to pound out and study each cmdlet just so you can create multiple users in one stroke. Oh and you still have to point it to a file with users names in it, or are you going to open a gui and press the monkey button (mouse) a couple of dozen times and move on to the next task. And if your dept is anything like mine the phone rings, users walk in and everyones got a question when your trying to pound out a couple of lines of code and not lose your concentration. Yeah right ! Way to go Microsoft, and this coming from a Netware guy who was used to dabbling heavily in cmd line.

blarman
blarman

If Microsoft really wants to help the administrators, they should stop changing the administrative interfaces every time they change the operating system! This aggravates admins who have already spent a lot of time and effort learning the old system - not to mention those who go through the rigors of certification. There isn't a lot that really changes from OS to OS, yet Microsoft constantly feels the need to change the control panel and how deeply to bury each successive widget. I appreciated the old days on Windows 98 where everything was right there in the control panel, and I really like the registry hack that lets one see the extended widget list in Windows 7, but a hack shouldn't be necessary, and when working on a user's machine, it's a no-go. Microsoft, if you are listening: STOP CHANGING THE ADMINISTRATIVE INTERFACES!

sistemas
sistemas

Sure, do you think everybody has the Japanese pre-quake bandwidth? not in Europe, so every time I hear my manager crying about his 50 GB mailbox access not available in his mobile phone I just start laughing about the cloud.

pc_techs_ct
pc_techs_ct

Programmers are the real deal. IT Pros are folks who don't have the intellectual capacity to write code. It's always been this way, nothing new here.

Realvdude
Realvdude

In the Developer track, Microsoft used to give out NFR copies of Windows and VisualStudio, now it's 90 day trials, though Visual Studio Express is a good compromise for those looking to learn the "new languages". Also, the free cloud offer comes almost a year into Microsoft pushing their Azure offerings, and still comes with a cavaet that if you go over the free usage quotas, you'll have to pay for that. As a developer that also is the internal IT guy for a small company, I was able to get a new server (actually several vm servers) up and running based entirely on GUI. I recognize that may not be the norm for IT professionals. I think that part of what's behind the command line/powershell shift, is MS trying to retain and attract Linux server users. As a side note, had anyone else experienced the Vote option arbitrarily choosing what it does when you click + or - buttons?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'd say that the info security folks have been missing the love from Microsoft for many many years. Critisisms about poor security models and patch quality got back at least to Win95 if not prior to that.

rrussak
rrussak

As it goes with Microsoft, so does business. How many businesses are now outsourcing their Pro's in favor of lower paid, less experienced, support "beginners???. Microsoft has had a long standing problem with security and stability over the wide range of apps and environments that exist in the real world. Since Microsoft has pushed these issues onto developers, the product may have become more stable although security is still catching up. With that, there seems to be far less problems in the field, requiring IT pro???s to fix Microsoft???s problems. Don???t get me wrong, there is still work, but I will have to admit the volume of both hardware and software issues have declined in recent years. As the push to the cloud continues, there may be even less. As apps move more towards a service, running within another program, inside of the OS (Chrome book ??? Google Apps), there may even be less work for the Pro???s. The program in the middle, now handles the interface from the app to the OS, which allows for more controls and layers in place, to catch bad code. My position after 17+ years of being an IT pro is being outsourced to the lowest bidder, and an ???on call??? status, rather than always available. The cloud brings computing back full circle to the Mainframe mentality, and this will hurt Microsoft, as locally residing productivity programs could be eliminated. This turns the user machine back into a terminal, where the OS matters much less. If Microsoft shifts, they have a chance to remain relevant. With this shift, IT pro???s are not needed nearly as much. We may be a dying breed.

fun_to_know
fun_to_know

As a network admin, I have not yet embraced or recommended any cloud solutions to my management staff for implementation. With the advent of stable and amture virtualization, arguments about reductions in carbon footprints for LAN centers have become a footnote and the same can be said for the forecasted reductions based on moving operations to cloud based services and providers. for cash flow purposes I prefer to control my environments upgrades, maintenance and replacement costs based on my organizations cash flow rather than pay the monthly fees on demand without regard to cash flow fluctuations.

michael
michael

I disagree with Deb's basic premise that developers and IT Pros are very different types of people. While there certainly are differences between the skill sets required, there is also much overlap. I started off as a programmer (before Windows) and now I work as a system admin, and I often find that my programming background is helpful in my work (and not just for writing complex batch files). For example, the concept of methodological troubleshooting and problem resolution is one I learned as a programmer. Also, when working with a less-than-stellar peice of software, it helps to think like a programmer and understand the types of errors he may have made. Another example would be working with SQL databases. While I don't play around with my databases that much, the little that I needed to learn was made easier because I had a background working with relational databases (dBase & Clipper for those who remember). So there is in my opinion an overlap between the skills required of developers and those of IT Pros. Anyway, I also see signs of M$ abandoning IT Pros in Windows 7. Don't get me wrong, it's a great product, but they made it very difficult to copy user profiles in Windows 7, which gave me major headaches in setting up my madatory roaming profiles. Luckily I found workarounds online, but it still doesn't work as well as it did in XP. If they would have consulted with any IT admin, they would have told them not to mess with that. And I too am watching this whole cloud computing deal with a wary eye. While certain apps like email are really perfect for the cloud, many other apps are not. I don't believe those high-paid talking heads that say "in the year everybody will be in the cloud" and that whoever is not will be behind the rest. I've heard this about many things over the years, for example regarding thin-computing and virtualization. All these things, including the cloud, had and will have their place, but I doubt the cloud will be the only game in town.

britnat
britnat

Interesting article. For those who cut their teeth on systems like Novell, it seems like old times. And, come on, the power has always been in the dark place. Its been a long-standing joke (even among sys admins) that GUIs were written for people with poor memories. Be that as it may, my particular gripe is with the massive over-simplification at the start of this article, categorizing Developers as introverted geeks and IT professionals as outgoing, with good people skills. No way, Jose! A second problem is confusing Developers with Coders. A developer can do much, much more than just write code. A good developer knows that successful applications are developed for people. He need to have all those people skills that are attributed to IT professionals, plus a thorough working knowledge of the appropriate technologies. All the top class developers I know have excellent people skills. The only way to find out what people actually want, and get the application developed, is through working with people - users, management, coders, IT support . . . And, lastly, changes in technology (SaaS, Cloud technology et al) threaten developers far more than IT professionals. Maybe thats one reason why the folk at Microsoft seem to pay us a bit more attention we deserve all the help we can get.

JHarrsch
JHarrsch

The first time a manager can not access his reports for his meeting with upper management or his client & he has to call someone who speaks little English in India, Whomever moved everything to the Cloud will be looking for a new job.

jose.montenegro
jose.montenegro

I am fluent and qualified on IT systems and 'admin' like tasks; Project management and I am more than a good programmer and ... this makes me difficult finding a job. In general every one of the sectors considers am not one of them ... So cloudy days? They are already there. Storm is coming ... and don't forget: why worry, there will be sunshine after rain ...

pblakez
pblakez

The real problem for me is the overload of updates you cannot get more strategic business work done or even let staff go on holiday at times, it is ridiculous. I have moved most clients and inhouse servers to linux But the desktop is a nightmare, we are slowly winding down support contracts with clients and investing more in the development side of the business. In 3 years we will be development only shop and will not be developing for or supporting windows, nearly all development is web focused using cloud, linux, java, javascripts, nosql

shadowtaker
shadowtaker

The cloud... an interesting concept. It has its pros and cons. Companies such as Microsoft are going to focus only on the pros--for them. It does not make sense to have everything in the cloud. Email is one thing that can easily be moved to the cloud. Google is proof of that. However, from a management perspective there are a lot of costs that are down-played or overlooked for one reason or another. The general perspective is that the cloud will replace "everything" and users will essentially use some type of dumb terminal to access the applications in the cloud. Thin clients have been around for years, but they are not incredibly popular. Microsoft has been neglecting much of their base, not just IT professionals, but also the end consumer. Steve Ballmer is less than adequate as the leader of Microsoft. The company has continually blundered under his leadership. And once again, the company has missed the boat; the purchasing of Skype being the most recent blunder. Is MS trying to become some type of telecom or networking company? Microsoft needs to pay attention to what the providers of bandwidth are doing. With unlimited usage options disappearing from Internet connections, as shown by Comcast and AT&T, the cloud will become less attractive. Pushing the cloud, as MS is doing, and doing it at the expense of the people that promoted them is slow suicide. It is advantageous to learn new skills, but learning new skills takes time. I do plan on acquiring new skills. I like troubleshooting, and that can be done with programming, but I am not particularly interested in being confined to a dark corner writing code. I have had several programming courses over the years. Programming is interesting, but I find the books about programming very inadequate, Microsoft's books in particular. The books are typically vague and/or poorly organized. I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) which stated that only 3 of 100 applicants in India are hirable because the applicants do not have the people skills, the language skills, or the analytical skills that are required to do the jobs. People skills, language skills, and analytical skills are essential. Some applications will move to the cloud, but others will remain at home. What we will see is the merging/converging of the technologies. As I recall, years ago people were saying that wireless would replace the wire. Has that happened? No. The technologies have converged. Wireless is considerably more of a security risk over wired connections, it is also slower. To have everyone access everything over an Internet connection means that companies, as mentioned in other posts, will have to spend large amounts of money upgrading and maintaining their connections. Can you image everyone accessing documents, spreadsheets, databases, and other customer information over an Internet connection? A 10M Internet connection is considerably slower when compared to gigabit or a users local hard drive. I was recently at a customers location where end users told IT that they did not like using WAN connections because they were too slow. When opening Excel documents takes several minutes, users are going to become frustrated and store their data somewhere else, like the local hard drive. While Google has some of these capabilities, and Citrix does something similar. Every place I have encountered has some type of onsite storage requirement. Disk space that is rented is considerably more expensive than storage that is paid for outright, even with backups of the onsite data included. Ever looked at the agreements for cloud computing? For email, which is currently the most popular, basic agreements do not include backups of email, for example. Publicly traded companies have legal requirements that must be meet IT security requirements, and such requirements are not so easily signed away to companies such as Microsoft or Google. While it may be suggested the cloud will replace onsite IT staff, are users (especially management) going to take to calling a third party hotline that goes to Argentina or India because they cannot access any of their work that is on Microsofts servers? Large companies already have some type of cloud model in place; it just hasnt been thought of as such. Systems such as Citrix or Oracle operate on a similar model. The outsourcing of such large operations to the cloud is not something that is easily done. While it is possible to house the actual hardware at a third party location (there are several companies that do just that), the actual management of the software on the servers is something else. Companies that operate large databases cannot simply hand everything over to an entity like Microsoft. This neglects the fact that most companies have some type of unique requirement in their software as a result of unique operations. Imagine a case there the companys Internet access goes down and everything is hosted in the cloud. How many people are sitting around not able to work because everything is hosted in the cloud? Orders cannot be placed or invoiced; service calls cannot be closed or invoiced; access to documents and spreadsheets is not possible; how much money is being lost? Does Microsoft really care? After all I am locked into a contract with them; and for better service the monthly charge will at least double. Can artists work on pictures or movie files over an Internet connection? Microsoft's move to try and glorify the cloud at the expense of its base it simply another example of poor leadership. Microsoft had their day, and it was over when Bill Gates left. The landscape will change, just be prepared to adapt and realize that companies such as MS will happily stab you in the back if they think that doing so will make then a lot of money.

JDSAL
JDSAL

A whole lot of FUD being tossed around. This isn't the first time this concept has surfaced, and probably won't be the last. If there is anything Ive learned after a dozen years in this IT profession, is that no one solution fits all, period. There are applications that I absolutely will toss into the cloud like Exchange. I am sooo done managing Exchange and it's monstrous email repositories; Microsoft can have that, no complaints from me. On the other hand, there are applications that run perfectly fine on-premise and there is no benefit whatsoever to moving it into the cloud, in fact it probably would end up costing more in the cloud. What I can forsee is that the network engineer (those that actually administer routers, switches, etc) will probably increase in demand as companies who do migrate applications to the cloud will seek to bolster their Internet links (i.e. redundancy, load balancing, multihoming). Security engineers will probably continue to increase, especially in the areas of user account domains and federation. As these applications may possibly go to different providers, minimizing the number of security accounts for business users will probably become more troublesome. Methods like single sign-on (SSO) will probably soar in demand. These are my thoughts, and I look forward to the opportunities and benefits that cloud computing may offer for my company.

JackBoyer
JackBoyer

Great article. We support hundreds of users on Microsoft Dynamics ERP platforms most of which run on premise. I see this concern from many IT Professionals with or without Microsoft's "bias" toward developers and away from IT Pros. IT Professionals do not want their skills to become obsolete, but it IS hard finding different work for them once things start moving to the cloud more seriously at least in the ERP space. We have tried report writing and other database work for IT people, and the ones I've worked with don't seem to have the interest in learning even the lighter side of what a developer does. Jack Boyer http://jackboyer.blogspot.com

srikanth.nalla
srikanth.nalla

It seems the article seems to lose focus at the end. It seems to assume that IT-Admin folks are some kind of "cult" who take their IT-Admin identity too strongly and hold on to their grudge against Microsoft for forcing this transition to cloud on them. It says that when the IT-Admin folks move up the management ladder and when they are given power to decide on purchases of cloud services, they might go for Microsoft competitors (out of some revenge). I don't think so. They will make their decision solely on a) which cloud service is less expensive b) which one offers better support etc.

jck
jck

OR how about the cloud just crashing? MS cloud farm losing tons of mobile data? MS cloud farm disallowing tons of mobile email use? I've professionally (post BS degree) been in PCs almost 20 years now. I remember when they did peer-to-peer (PC-to-PC via some weird cable) with LANTastic, then coax-based networks with Novell, ethernet, etc. You're right though. Cloud is just a cool term for single-source n-tier computing. That is, you put all your trust in someone to hold your data, execute your apps, etc., so that you don't have to employee someone to maintain the facilities. But at my last job, they were shying away from cloud for anything other than web hosting and non-critical/non-sensitive data storage. Otherwise, cloud was seen as a huge liability with moderate-to-high risk for operational failure on a regular basis. I agree. Cloud is a flash in the pan. When enough places begin using it and someone's huge cloud fails and $100Ms or even $1Bs are lost, you will see folks like Dell and Microsoft laughing all the way to the bank at the return of customers in a rush to get new replacement products for their budget-saving cloud.

cybershooters
cybershooters

The thing I've found is that the media scares people with these stories, Anonymous hacking HB Gary was one, this thing with Sony recently is another. This is why I don't get too wound up about explaining why I think cloud computing doesn't make sense, because before you even get talking about comparisons of TCO the people you're talking to who are not IT experts wet themselves worrying about their data being compromised if it's out in the "cloud". Personally that isn't the biggest deal to me, internet connectivity, network latency and unknown future upward trends in subscription costs are the biggest downsides I identify but those seem to be tertiary issues when talking to company execs. They don't want their data out on the internet and moreover they REALLY don't want it stored on a server in another country. The idea that you would take the data of a company in Canada and stick it on a server in the US makes them run a mile. Or 1.6km rather.

cybershooters
cybershooters

How it works is that instead of having datacentres with IT guys looking after the servers, the servers are virtualized and centralized in one massive datacentre and it's all done over the internet. Now if you're big enough to have a "private" cloud, such as Comcast, USG, etc. okay it does make sense. If you're smaller though you've got to pay someone to virtualize it all, stick it in their datacentre and you need access to it over the internet. So your server admins at the office are out of a job (supposedly, certainly don't have to do installations or patches) because it's all being done on a subscription basis by a datacentre out there. Which as soon as you say it, you know it doesn't work that well in reality, because instead of having a guy you can yell at when something goes wrong, it's some nameless, faceless group of people in a datacentre out yonder and "out yonder" might not even be the same country you are in. People always fear loss of control in any job you care to name, which is why I tend to think the future success of "cloud" computing is overstated. Web servers yeah, e-mail services maybe (because it goes over the net anyway), SQL databases containing sensitive company info... less likely. Filing servers with internal company documents... much less likely.

ultimitloozer
ultimitloozer

I have encountered many developers that were equally clueless. Just a quick glance at the code they produce can prove it. They have no clue how the hardware actually works. Many don't even know how their development tools (esp frameworks) are meant to be used either. Come on, a forced GC in .NET in what should be coded as a tight loop? Get real. (And that one was from a 15+ year "professional" programmer.)

seanferd
seanferd

They are just tired of you and other users hosing the systems.

MaSysAdmin
MaSysAdmin

Peleg, I will agree with you that those of us in the system admin side of things don't do a lot of digging around to solve a problem. Part of this simply comes with the job description, which is to get the customer back to work as fast as possible. Under ordinary circumstances we don't have the luxury of time to find the root cause of every problem that crops up. I work with a SQL developer and we compliment each other with how we approach our work, responsibilities and jobs. If it is a one-time problem, I'm fast enough to get our users back to work. If there is a re-occurring issue, he has the tenacity to see it all the way through. As for learning new technology, I'm going to "assume" (and I know the danger of that!) is that as a developer, you can plan what it is you are going to focus on for the next 6 months and you can stay focused on that. However, as an IT generalist, I don't know what technology I might encounter later today might be, so it makes hard to plan accordingly. And again with the time problem, I'll get a call to fix something that someone has brought in this morning and they need it fixed right away. So I don't get the time to really dissect the technology. I simply learn enough to fix it until the next time it breaks because 5 minutes after I fix someone's Blackberry, I've got solve the problem with the webconferencing equipment. Got to go, I've got to provide the analysis on the website usage and apply the server patches from MS for patch Tuesday.

KaGeN101
KaGeN101

the console commands never changed and probably never will since they are rooted deep into the kernel. Learn them and forget about the interfaces...

cybershooters
cybershooters

Or you're smart enough to figure out how to make money working in IT without being sat in front of a computer writing code all day...

jck
jck

I have to say...that was obtuse. Ever seen hardware systems that IT guys have to script for? PBXs? Routers/switches? Don't get me wrong. I've known some really stupid IT people. But, I've known a LOT of stupid programmers that couldn't write a bubble sort, and a number of "VB programmers" who couldn't figure out how to write an application in VB/VB.NET even with the coding popups on. There are some really sharp IT people, and I know programmers who switched over to doing IT Admin function to get away from the constant BS of dealing with constant indecisiveness of their end-users on what they want. Heck. I even went into an IT role for 2 years doing systems support and implementations. It was actually fun.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

For me, I'd like to see more frequent updates but through a better implemented software management system that provided updates for all installed software rather than one for Windows/MS, one for Flash, one for Java and so on.. That's what really kills me, visiting several different websites and update utilities just to update a single machine.

pgit
pgit

One thing people seem to neglect is what happens when some idiot with a backhoe severs the fiber coming into your building? What do you suspect a company would do that put all it's eggs in a cloud then suffers the inevitable 'weak link' failure that cuts them off from their own data? I think there's a lot more hype than the reality will permit in this future cloud scenario. I can see it augmenting current models and replacing a modicum of existing infrastructure, but no company in it's right mind is going to totally abandon local IT entirely. Not to mention security issues and liabilities that arise from them...

seanferd
seanferd

They will make their decision solely on a) which cloud service is less expensive b) which one offers better support etc. b): No decent support for IT administrating the solution = No love for IT from MS. A main point on which much of the article hinges.

VBJackson
VBJackson

I don't agree with you on this one because if nothing else, isn't driving most of your co-workers out of their jobs going to count as "worse customer support"? I will admit to disliking the very idea of the cloud for business use. Even as a programmer, I think that SaaS is only good if you have 100% uptime and guaranteed high-speed links wherever you go. Good luck with that. The cloud for personal apps? Sure.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

If you do everything from the command line, it doesn't change regardless of the latest GUI bells and whistles.

seanferd
seanferd

;) And not updates that are poor bandages for an underlying fundamental architectural flaw.

KaGeN101
KaGeN101

what puts Ubuntu in a league of its own. Everything is updated through a single portal. That is also one of the key things everyone says that will make Ubuntu out last the Microsofts and Apples of today...