If you are a sysadmin who loves
iptables and detests the idea of programming or doing anything else
but sysadmin tasks, your role is becoming increasingly endangered
every day.

In an IDC whitepaper on the current and
future impact of virtualisation launched in Sydney this week, the
numbers spelled out the grim future of the stereotypical neckbeard
who works as a sysadmin.

While across APAC, over US$11.8 billion
has been saved in avoiding the cost of new servers thanks to
virtualisation, US$7.5 billion has also been saved in “server
administration costs”. For developed countries, the bulk of that
cost is the salary of system administrators.

In Australia, AU$1.30 billion in
administration costs had been saved between 2003 and 2012, and by
2020, it was predicted that $2.15 billion would be saved. The
presentation that launched the paper, which was paid for by VMware,
started with the citation of 20,000 sysadmins in Australia who have
been “moved off day-to-day jobs” thanks to virtualisation
and cloud. It was impossible to get anyone to say how many of these
20,000 sysadmins had been moved off the work premises permanently.

Speaking to TechRepublic, Matt
Oostveen, research director for IDC Australia, said that CIOs are
looking to keep their headcount, and that if there is a capability to
redeploy sysadmins to other work, they will do so, but the
affected people need to develop new competencies.

“I think that there is an obligation on people like system administrators … they need to
extend beyond that technical realm,” he said.

“They need to be more inextricably
tied to the business, because if they are not, they are competing
against global talent pools, they are competing against Chinese and
Indian resources. And if that’s the case, then your job is more at
risk than it would be if you were embedded within the organisation
and have an intrinsic understanding of the industry.”

For some workers with an IT background,
the future of their work may not be in IT itself.

“What does the future IT worker
look like? I think very much like a business analyst. It’s that
amalgamation of trying to solve critical business problems with

“If you’ve got someone with a
well-armed IT background and they are able to understand the
business, that’s a pretty valuable employee.

“It’s the dissemination of the IT
competency across the broader organisation, and we are starting to
see models in IT where we have business analysts or IT resources
sitting within lines of business that are not directly with IT.”

Disturbingly for some tech workers,
Oostveen pointed to predictions made on what skills sets are going to
look like in 2013, and his organisation found that 50 percent of all new
marketing hires in Australia in 2013 were going to have an IT

“This is about the movement away
from marketing being an art, into a science,” he said.

But while a marketing career may not be
attractive to all, the need for programmers is still strong, and for
sysadmins looking to remain in IT, it remains the strongest option — especially if they develop mobile programming skills.

The report also found that Australia is
the most advanced market in APAC for adoption of x86 virtualisation,
and, as a result, had saved almost US$8.9 billion in avoided costs
between 2003 and 2020.