To say things are changing in the world of I.T. is an understatement.
Innovation is at the heart of information technology, and if a company’s tech is exactly the same as it was last year, then they’ve got a problem.
There is nothing static in this business. As the technologies change, so do the roles of those who manage them. And nothing is more revolutionary in today’s tech environments than the migration to cloud-based computing and communications.
How Traditional IT Worked
To understand the monumental change related to cloud and how it is affecting IT departments, we should consider the way things were before the cloud came along.
In the 1990s, IT implementation processes followed a familiar routine. Once the designs and plans were in place for a new piece of hardware, at some point a delivery truck would back up to the loading dock of the company or data center, unload the boxed equipment, and leave it to be installed by qualified personnel. The equipment was now considered “on premises”.
Next, a hardware tech would take possession of the item whether a pbx, router, or server, or other type of hardware, and position it for commissioning in the right location.
The installation would involve racking, running network cables under raised floors, connecting to other devices, and doing initial setup so that the equipment was online and reachable.
From there, network and server specialists would log onto the device and load pre-written configurations, or write them from scratch. Sometimes problems arose, requiring troubleshooting and resolution that could take some time. Following testing, the equipment eventually passed an “acceptance” process and became part of the regular production environment.
The movement toward virtualization was a major shift in IT management that was a precursor to today’s ongoing migration to the cloud.
At first, multiple servers known as virtual machines were created on single physical devices. This removed the need for individual hardware for every device. Eventually network devices followed, with technologies such as network functions virtualization (NVF) and software-defined networking (SDN).
A fundamental shift has been taking place over the years as lower-level technologies have improved and become automated.
The longstanding requirement to install and configure dedicated equipment for each function has been replaced by “off-the-shelf” boxes (servers). And now just about anything you can think of that was once the domain of hardware can be created and managed in a software environment.
Virtualized machines paved the way for more versatility in software applications. And the great reliability of network and server technology meant there was much less need for hand-holding and constant maintenance. In a sense, networks and servers have become a commodity.
And now the emphasis is on applications. Users take advantage of online applications that were once limited to single servers in a particular data center. As virtualization and cloud computing have matured, the underlying resources for application delivery could exist anywhere, with dynamic reallocation possible with a few mouse clicks.
The Migration to the Cloud
In January 2019, the enterprise cloud solutions company Flexera released its 2019 State of the Cloud Report.They interviewed 786 IT professionals about cloud adoption and their use of cloud infrastructure.
They found that 94 percent of respondents were already using cloud computing, with 91 percent using the public cloud, 72 percent using the private cloud, and 69 percent using a hybrid cloud architecture.
Clearly the growing role of cloud, either infrastructure-as-a-service or platform-as-a-service (such as hosted VoIP) is a major component of the delivery of IT services today. So does that mean that the cloud will make IT departments obsolete?
Are in-house IT professionals going the way of the typing pool? Not necessarily.
As with any technological development, there is a level of adjustment required. And there are still plenty of resources that must remain in private clouds, requiring further local data center management.
Anyone who has been in IT for very long knows they need to keep learning and growing in their profession if they want to survive. Depending solely on the skills you learned 10 years ago won’t serve you very well if you want to keep your job.
The real effect of migration to the cloud is not that IT people start getting pink slips, but that their job descriptions evolves and change.
With cloud, it’s a new world.
Rather than turning in your company laptop and heading home, there are a lot more things to do in the IT department. You may not have as much equipment to unpack, install, and configure, but you will have a whole dynamic cloud architecture to manage.
One writer says that the move to cloud makes the in-house IT professional a custodian rather than an owner. Sure, some other techs may be taking care of the physical, data link, and network layers of the IT architecture. But the IT department will still need to manage users, take care of applications, control capacity, monitor network usage, and optimize data and voice performance.
The Role of Cloud Managers
The traditional responsibilities of systems administrators kept them focused on local resources. It turns out that the skills they developed along the way will help them in the cloud too.
Just because somebody spins up a new cloud device doesn’t mean that everything is on autopilot. You may have more automated processes and reporting tools, but there’s no substitute for human intellect in dealing with thorny issues that arise.
Just as virtualization managers gained a lot of influence in the IT department in recent years, cloud managers -- or those that take on more cloud management responsibilities -- will have a big say in the way IT is done.
Cloud management encompasses aspects of system management, DevOps, network administration, and IT operations.
Unified Communications as a Service
Of course, when speaking about the cloud we are not limiting ourselves to just the hosting of data applications, (such as Office 365, Salesforce), or data storage and archiving (such as with DataCore). Everything we have touched on so far in this article also applies to voice communications migrations to cloud.
Gone are the days when voice traffic traversed such technological work horses like the Nortel DMS-100. The voice switch could handle over 100,000 subscribers, and it was maintained by highly skilled voice engineers who managed the SS7 protocol and configuration parameters that veterans referred to as “translations”.
Eventually voice technology moved beyond the old voice protocols to data-centered traffic. Voice over IP (VoIP) is the way that telephony is done today, and it is moving out of the local data center and into the cloud. The new technology has a lot of names, including:
- hosted VoIP
- virtual VoIP
- cloud PBS
- hosted PBX
- cloud-based VoIP phone system
- unified communications as a service (UCaaS)
- contact center as a service (CCaaS)
Look for example at the partnership between RingCentral and Avaya that was announced in October 2019 where all Avaya customers can migrate to RingCentral’s communications open-api platform with enterprise omnichannel functionality that yes…. can be all cloud-based.
Just as server and network cloud traffic must be closely managed by the local IT department, cloud telephony requires local control as well. Keep in mind that cloud providers have their own interests.
You can’t just turn your VoIP infrastructure over to cloud companies and go out for dinner. IT management is about managing, which is more than just typing in commands on a keyboard.
The Future of Those in IT
We won’t go out on a limb here and make any fantastic predictions. For that kind of advice, you might want to consult the technical journals or read science fiction novels.
What we can say is that information technology won’t be the same next year as it is today. And if you want to keep your IT career and IT department relevant, you’ll need to stay current on the latest technology -- whatever that is.
Cloud computing may seem like it’s vacuuming up all the functions of the IT department, but take another look. The role of the IT department in the organization is bound to change. Just make sure you’re a part of it.
Converged Technology Professionals is a RingCentral partner that offers IT voice and data consulting services to help businesses migrate their data and voice communications to the cloud. Converged has offices in Milwaukee, Crystal Lake, Indianapolis, and Grand Rapids area.