Is Automation Killing The Engineering?

Is automation killing the engineering? When MTV first appeared on the air, the first video it played was, “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Fast forward a few decades and I have to wonder if automation is killing the engineering. In the early days of virtualization the administrators were expected to be proficient in using the command line, and to be honest, if you wanted to really understand how things worked, command line administration was an absolute must-have skill.  Virtualization has evolved from those early days. More and more features and services are being added to the infrastructure, such that the need for the vast number of skills required seems to be fading as the technology continues to mature. Looking forward to a time when cloud computing is working to achieve complete and total automation, I have to wonder how administrators will handle the stress of getting issues resolved when automation is not an option.

Recently I had the pleasure of working on a disaster recovery exercise for a client. The automation tools that they had in place to use for the exercise could not be used, and we had to perform the complete offsite recovery manually. Once the determination was made that the recovery steps would have to be done manually, I could not help but notice that a few of the administrators on the recovery team were a little confused as to where to begin in the recovery process and were definitely struggling to learn about the different nuances that come from manual intervention.

Automation tools and workflows are definitely getting better and more solid as the technology continues to mature, but each of us that work with this technology must be able to get deep in the technical weeds to be self-sufficient when things are not working correctly and the automated tools we rely on are not functioning or are not available.

In a realistic understanding, virtualization and cloud computing systems have become large and complex with many moving parts. Could there be a change in the near future where we will start to move away from the master of many, and the virtualization/cloud teams will be broken down into specialties? I believe this will be the case as software defined data centers really take hold and continue to mature. The future is almost guaranteed to be more automated and even more complex. How much longer are we going to expect the team to have the massive amount of knowledge and experience that is expected and needed for the cloud? This kind of setting can only make it more difficult for companies to find the right candidates who can still keep up with everything new. It is time to really break down the technology, with a chance to cross train and learn all you can while really being the master of a technology.

Steve Beaver (142 Posts)

Stephen Beaver is the co-author of VMware ESX Essentials in the Virtual Data Center and Scripting VMware Power Tools: Automating Virtual Infrastructure Administration as well as being contributing author of Mastering VMware vSphere 4 and How to Cheat at Configuring VMware ESX Server. Stephen is an IT Veteran with over 15 years experience in the industry. Stephen is a moderator on the VMware Communities Forum and was elected vExpert for 2009 and 2010. Stephen can also be seen regularly presenting on different topics at national and international virtualization conferences.

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