As discussed previously, there is a noticeable trend in casual IT these days – cut spending on IT infrastructure management as much as possible. Companies are using all chances to eliminate the “human factor” from systems administration, and while it’s scary for incompetent administrators, it adds to the innovation factor of modern IT management offering.
So it’s quite controversial trend. But trends of that kind are very natural for innovation. Let’s see what it’s all about.
There are two questions, depending from who you are – either CEO or IT professional. If you manage the company, any company, then the question is – how much your IT infrastructure costs, and how much – the IT department?
By IT infrastructure I mean all the computer devices you are using in your business, your internet connection and costs of ownership. The IT department, on the other hands, are people and servers used to make the rest of the company operational.
Depending from your personal qualities, chances are that as CEO you dream about getting rid of all the IT guys, as usually keeping own system administrator looks like having own telecommunications specialist just because you own a bunch of phones.
The trend these days is to fulfil that dream. To create service which would substitute your entire IT department without your employees noticing any change. Imagine, that you give up all your expensive servers, all your expensive IT administrators and their rooms, by simply signing up for online service for a fraction of previous monthly expenses of your IT department.
If you are system administrator, on the other hands, then perhaps you think that it’s hard to replace you and your knowledge, so the question for you is simple – what do you know?
What if that service will care about antivirus, updates, backups, software deployment, license management, asset management, various policies and would provide users with answers to all their questions and arrange local company to fix hardware problems at the best price and speed? What would you do against the power of totally automated workflow system, backed up by top IT professionals somewhere in the middle of nowhere?
One of the first birds of the trend is system called Microsoft Intune. You probably know their Windows Small Business Server (SBS) – the Windows Server for poor, available since 2003 and now it’s Small Business Server 2008. The difference between normal Windows Server and SBS is that you don’t have to be a professional Windows System Administrator to operate it. Wizards replaced the command line tools (literally, replaced – some tools are simply not available), you can do anything using your mouse. Also, it comes together with Exchange, which is installed and managed automatically. If you have a decent server hardware – it will everything you need to power a company with up to 500 workstations. Still, you would need to have an IT guy who would take care about stuff.
Well, the reason why I mentioned SBS is that Microsoft Intune is a natural enhancement to SBS offer, but now you can go to the web page and manage your environment without all that Computer Science – everything through one nice looking Silverlight powered web page. And it allows you to do most of the stuff I mentioned before, allowing your CEO to fire half of your IT department.
But you know how it works – someone should provide a platform, and others will build their offers on it. That’s true for just about every product of Microsoft – the network of partners doesn’t fail. So expect Intune to become a platform to something more dramatic, as well as inspiration for copycats. Most likely we’ll see similar solutions from Citrix, VMWare or whoever else. And this will end the system administrator career as we know it.
So, CEOs should enjoy the new offering and take a waiting stance, while still employed system administrators should plan their training – if what you do can be covered by some cloud offering, your next and last assignment will be to implement it in your company.
I will publish video presentation of Windows Intune soon, so you will see what I am talking about.