Will I lose my job to the Cloud?

(Image: Hindu BusinessLine)

One of the questions that I get asked constantly nowadays is, “Will I lose my job to the Cloud?”. The people asking me range from system administrators to senior managers. They could be involved in Infrastructure projects or Development projects but their concern about cloud taking away their job is real.

I had written earlier that Cloud now demands a broader skill set from administrators. Earlier you were a server admin, AD admin, storage admin, network admin and so on. Some of these tasks are simplified on the cloud that if you are specialized in only of these, you may not be a right fit for the cloud. Let us take the case of Storage. We have excellent admins who specialize in administering complex storage products from Dell-EMC, NetApp, Hitachi and so on. The cloud storage takes most of the complexity. If you take the case of block storage in AWS, you have EBS for block storage, EFS for file storage and S3 for Object storage. All three of the them are setup for you and there is nothing much for a storage administrator to do. Similarly when it comes to networking, the complexity in the cloud is much less than what it is when you have to setup networking in your data center. Setting up a VPC is much less complicated than setting up routers and switches (sometimes from different vendors) in your data center. Similarly starting an EC2 instance is a very easy job and you don’t really require a server administrator to do it.

In other words, Cloud values technical knowledge over product knowledge. Additionally it also values breadth of knowledge. Ofcourse some areas may not be impacted much like say Microsoft AD Administrator or DBA, until and unless someone is using a PaaS in which case some of these will also be impacted.

So what should you do if you are an administrator? How scared should you be of losing your job? To be honest,  I cannot answer you with hundred percent certainty about what the future holds but these are a few steps you can take:

  • Expand your knowledge base. If you are a storage admin, start checking what networking is all about and vice versa
  • Understand what the roadmap is for the product you are supporting. Let us say you are supporting a NetApp product, you need to understand what the company’s roadmap is for that particular product. This will give you an idea if you are supporting a soon to be obsolete product or an evergreen product.
  • Find out the roadmap of your company and whether it has a Cloud strategy. In many cases, once people land a job, they rarely ever try to find out the roadmap of their own company. You must get rid of this lethargy and find out if and when your company will move to the cloud.
  • Also try and understand how the external market is growing. Is everyone going to the cloud? Are the sales of Dell-EMC, NetApp, Hitach etc are going up or going down. Your job depends on how the market is growing and in which direction it is growing
  • If you are serious about moving to the Cloud, then check if there are any cloud projects within the company. In order to show your seriousness, try and get yourself certified in any of the major Cloud vendor certification based on what is required in your company. Certification will cost money but it may be worthwhile if you are serious about moving to cloud

As I see there is no need to panic because though cloud migration is happening it is not happening at a pace wherein major companies are dismantling their data centers. That will not happen soon or may never happen. Yet, the demands of the future would be different: more wider knowledge on diverse topics, good grip on the fundamentals and so on and you must be prepared for it.

I also get questions from mid level managers on the impact of cloud on their jobs. I will write a separate post on that soon.