Infrastructure & Cloud: Engineers vs. Designers

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Some folks are developers; they code, they script, they make GUIs, they use platform tools to create workflow automation and beautiful things the rest of us get to look at and explore. They are the designers.

Then there are the engineers. They put the information pipes in place. They connect the resources here with the resources over there in safe, efficient ways. They set up and maintain servers, routers, switches, desktops, etc… They provide information access; they make sure there is enough capacity to handle the flow of information in and out of your business; physically and logically.

People in our industry have created (I believe wrongly) an oversimplified view of the future of IT. They say things like, “everything is moving to the cloud.” They assert that those of us concerned with “infrastructure” (the engineer’s playground) are a dying breed, increasing in irrelevance as all things march toward “The Cloud”.

In these discussions, Cloud usually means inexpensive (sometimes “cheap”), big, public, “as-a-service” and pay-as-you-go stuff. For the designers, for the IT artists, this emergent technology is a dream come true. Developers no longer need to fight with the demands of production operations to find space to test, play, and design new things. They can now get low-cost access to platform and storage resources to play “sandbox” with new process automation, web services, or LOB applications.

You can’t argue with the economics and the freedom of platforms like Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services. As old legacy Dev-Ops systems come up for refresh, businesses are moving things to cloud-based platforms. Organizations are buying less hardware than they used to. But does that mean there is no role for the engineers? Are infrastructure experts disappearing? I argue the opposite. The IT engineer is more important than ever.

Think of all the complexity required to have a multi-site organization running smoothly on a single, secure network; with wireless access for people in the office, private WAN links connecting buildings, identity and access management solutions to keep track of profiles and people etc…

This stuff is evolving radically and rapidly – but it isn’t going away. The business models for organizing, delivering, and consuming IT resources and services are changing. But for the average mid-sized business, the engineers are just as important as the designers.

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