Commentary
2/25/2014
01:47 PM
Steve Shah
Steve Shah
Commentary

DevOps: The New Outsourcing

DevOps will change the way CIOs hire and IT pros thrive. Embrace it or get swept aside.



Pay attention, IT. DevOps will drive the first major transformation in staffing since outsourcing swept the industry a decade ago. In the years ahead, we're going to get more done with fewer people than ever, and the positions that remain won't look much like the type many of us are doing today. If you want one of those jobs to be yours, you'd better get on the right side of history.

We all know how outsourcing has played out. In the name of efficiency we sliced out non-strategic parts of core IT and farmed them out to other companies, whether offshore or domestic. CIOs loved it because of the budgetary benefits. Meanwhile, it sparked a thousand conversations about what outsourcing meant for IT, the US economy, individual careers, and the relationship between people and businesses.

But it turned out that we took outsourcing too far. It makes sense for some functions, but it can also mean losing control over management, quality, and security, among other things. Now we're seeing a lot of those big contracts being pulled back, and the word of the day is insourcing.

[Do you have the skills to land one of these lucrative gigs? Read IT Jobs: Best Paying Titles Of 2014.]

Insourcing is great news for domestic IT staffers, right? More jobs to go around, bigger budgets for in-house IT -- everybody wins! Not so fast. Concurrent with the move away from outsourcing, we're seeing another trend with even bigger implications for staffing: DevOps.

The automation of IT
Until now, innovations like SDN and the cloud have had more of an impact on our systems than on the people who run them. Given that staffing accounts for most of the CIO's budget, we've also been waiting to see the full financial impact of the transformation of IT.

As IT shifts from nuts-and-bolts maintenance and manual processes to virtualization, automation, and IT-as-a-service, different skills are moving to the forefront. Yes, work is being brought back in-house, but it's coming back in a different form, and different people will be doing it.

We no longer need to carry dozens of people just to keep servers running, make changes, or understand what's happening in the network. Instead, we need just a few people with a higher-level understanding of business needs and the insight to convert ideas into automation scripts.

"DevOps Ninja" is quickly becoming a cliché, but there's some truth behind it. This is one more reason CIOs should love DevOps. Instead of increasing headcount to get more done, you just change the kind of people you're hiring -- and you can hire far fewer of them.

The news is more mixed for rank-and-file IT. If you can reinvent yourself as a DevOps pro, you can move up the stack, provide more value for the business, and thrive in the new IT. But if you keep trying to get by on basic certifications, you may well find yourself out of the picture. Automate or be automated -- that's the career imperative for IT professionals at every level.

We've already seen this in other industries. After decades of offshore auto manufacturing, carmakers are bringing their factories back to the US -- and automating them. If you want to work the assembly line, you'd better learn how to design, build, and repair robots. If all you can do is make cars, you're out of luck.

At a high level, this is all a positive change for our industry. IT jobs will get more interesting and strategic. CIOs will save money and deliver greater value. Businesses will get what they need faster, better, and cheaper. Just make sure you're on top of that wave instead of getting swept out to sea.

Don't miss The DevOps Pay Raise: Quantifying Your Value To Move Up The Ladder at Interop Las Vegas. This session will look at look at how you can use tools such as Chef, Puppet, Sensu and Logstash to quantify your value to your company. Register here.

Steve Shah is Vice President of Product Management in the NetScaler Product Group, where he drives product direction and go-to-market strategy. Before returning to Citrix, he was Principal of RisingEdge Consulting, a boutique consulting firm that specialized in strategic ... View Full Bio

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