Technology Common Sense Never Gets Old (Part 2)

In my last post, I noted that “Every 12 months, computers and the IT technologies that use them, double their capabilities”; and pointed out that knowing what you have, how those resources are being used, and what they cost are significant in making sound decisions on technology adoption.

Most people with a technical background  will immediately assume that those would apply to switches, servers, firewalls, storage, software and such. Well, that is a starting point. The flip side of that is to consider your people, a business’ most valuable asset, in the same terms. As the hyper change aspect of the features and paradigms of IT continues, we need to make sure that our people can flex and grow with the technologies. The biggest shift in the IT market is a move to a “Software Defined” paradigm.

Software defined is an approach to networking, storage, and servers that abstracts the lower level functionalities and allows for “automated” configuration and placement of workloads as they are introduced into the environment via higher level rules and Application Program Interfaces (API’s)

Software Defined Networking, Software Defined Storage, Software Defined Data Center, and Software Defined Servers are all amidst huge swing to API enablement (not to mention cloud) within the IT infrastructure. This signals a need to ensure our people are equipped to take advantage of all that comes with the “Software Defined” age and the automation that comes with it.

There are grumblings that all network, data center, and cloud engineers need to become software programmers, and that software programmers need to become IT engineers. I disagree…

What these new Software Defined paradigms require is awareness, some basic knowledge, and I hate to say it… respect of the other side. Being a programmer for the start of my career, I was constantly blaming the “engineers” for infrastructure issues. They in turn blamed the programmers for the issues the software created on the infrastructure side.  The worlds are overlapping now more than ever.

So what do IT engineers (yes, yours and mine) need in order to not be irrelevant as we move into the “Software Defined” era? Here is a quick list of some things your engineers need to be conversant with if they are not already:

  • Scripting: Python, JavaScript, VB, Tcl,
  • Working in a Linux/Unix Shell (say hello to Bash, Ksh, Tcsh)
  • Working with an editor such as ATOM, VIM, Sublime, Notepad ++
  • Using/Consuming REST API’s
    • Git (GitHub) – Version Control and public program repository
    • Ansible – App deployment, configuration management and orchestration
    • PyCharm – Python IDE
    • Postman – My personal favorite. Allows you to try REST API’s in n easy to use environment

So do IT engineers need to go learn how to program? No. There is immense value in the deep understanding and expertise they have in the lower level workings of IT that will be required and relevant for some time.

Should they start building a familiarity with some of the concepts and tools that will allow them to automate tasks and leverage the power of the “Software Defined” world, absolutely! The use and consumption of API’s will be a must have for all engineers in the next several years, and is of huge benefit today. If you are not moving your engineers towards the tools and skills listed above, start now with basic scripting, and then move up the ladder.


Noel Barber is a veteran of the IT industry and serves as the Director of Implementation Technology at ABS. In addition to staying on top of industry trends and changes, Noel works to ensure ABS continuously brings the best Data Center, Enterprise Networking and Collaboration solutions to our clients.