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General Chat Thread, The Future of Employment in IT Support in General; This thread reminds me of the paperless office promises 10+ years ago. Because those promises really panned out, and we're ...
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    AButters's Avatar
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    This thread reminds me of the paperless office promises 10+ years ago. Because those promises really panned out, and we're all paperless and printerless now aren't we? *glares at the 110ppm gynormous Ricoh MFP units*

    IT support is still bread and butter in Education - it will take 10+ years (if ever) until they don't need us any more.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SYNACK View Post
    But it is generally not cheaper, they can and do charge much more for the convenience, they are the ones saving the money and that goes right to their profit margin, the school gets sold on the idea of paying less but it usually never works out that way.
    Perhaps. The big savings usually come from staff reductions. In a schools, where technical staff pay is generally poor and where we spread ourselves thin, the savings are harder to come by.

    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk View Post
    Not to mention being tied into proprietary platforms in the cloud - getting your data out of one cloud service and into another is much like moving MIS's - a complete nightmare.
    I'm thinking of what it will be like in 5-10 years rather than now. I think most Virtual hosting technology is moving to accept .vmdk containers. So moving servers from one provider to another will eventually be as easy as VMWares vmotion is now. It is not just moving the application data, it's moving the whole platform.

    Interestingly (again from the Reg) : Capita bungs its email into Microsoft's cloud. So Capita, a company that other companies and governments go to to outsource their technology and services, is outsourcing a core technology service.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcstru View Post
    Perhaps. The big savings usually come from staff reductions. In a schools, where technical staff pay is generally poor and where we spread ourselves thin, the savings are harder to come by.



    I'm thinking of what it will be like in 5-10 years rather than now. I think most Virtual hosting technology is moving to accept .vmdk containers. So moving servers from one provider to another will eventually be as easy as VMWares vmotion is now. It is not just moving the application data, it's moving the whole platform.

    Interestingly (again from the Reg) : Capita bungs its email into Microsoft's cloud. So Capita, a company that other companies and governments go to to outsource their technology and services, is outsourcing a core technology service.
    Thing is, you're talking about remotely hosted virtualised servers. They still need system admins.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcstru View Post
    I'm thinking of what it will be like in 5-10 years rather than now. I think most Virtual hosting technology is moving to accept .vmdk containers. So moving servers from one provider to another will eventually be as easy as VMWares vmotion is now. It is not just moving the application data, it's moving the whole platform.
    Better hope their processor architectures are compatible!

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    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk View Post
    Thing is, you're talking about remotely hosted virtualised servers. They still need system admins.
    I think there is a mix of stuff, from reductions in on-site processing-iron and storage to externally managed and hosted services. I see fewer people working in our environment. Their knowledge will need to cover systems admin, but they might well outsource the actual doing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ephelyon View Post
    Better hope their processor architectures are compatible!
    I remember as teenager, talking to my dad trying about systems and he was suggesting a system which would run programs regardless of the hardware. It was nothing new even then [*1] - emulators were around and the idea of a interpreted languages was that your code would be portable (although machine specific commands and other incompatibilities made that somewhat of a dream). Interpreted code was just ... slow, so emulating a whole machine was almost unthinkable. We have moved closer to that though. Java is truly cross platform and machine code from arcade machines which I fed coins to, now runs in a window on my PC despite the PC not having a single compatible chip in common with the original hardware. Infact, natively a modest PC emulates the whole of the hardware rather too well, the emulation needs to idle to get the code to run at a reasonable speed.

    Processor architecture - it's important to the guest but the host - who cares what it's running on.

    [*1] - I guess it's really nothing new since Alan Turing gave us the Turing Machine. Any processor architecture can be emulated by a simple Turing machine.

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    I meant things like this:

    VMware KB: Enhanced vMotion Compatibility (EVC) processor support

    It's come a long way recently, but the Notes section near the bottom shows there are still some manual steps to be taken sometimes.

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    Maybe we're heading to this with all the automation that's going on...
    Jobs Are Not the Answer | Allan Sheahen

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    Quote Originally Posted by AButters View Post
    This thread reminds me of the paperless office promises 10+ years ago. Because those promises really panned out, and we're all paperless and printerless now aren't we? *glares at the 110ppm gynormous Ricoh MFP units*

    IT support is still bread and butter in Education - it will take 10+ years (if ever) until they don't need us any more.
    True, but what constitutes 'us' is open to interpretation. 'us' covers from junior techies to Senior Network managers.

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    Which was also my point about always describing IT as "support". Across the different roles, some of it is "supporting" while other areas involve "doing".

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    Quote Originally Posted by AButters View Post
    This thread reminds me of the paperless office promises 10+ years ago. Because those promises really panned out, and we're all paperless and printerless now aren't we? *glares at the 110ppm gynormous Ricoh MFP units*

    IT support is still bread and butter in Education - it will take 10+ years (if ever) until they don't need us any more.
    How much knowledge do you need to do your job now? IMO, you need to know much less about the system you're maintaining. Win7 or Win8 - bung the install DVD in, it does it for you - drivers all sorted in a jiffy. Win98 or ME or 2K - you'd need to really know your hardware. Floppy drives and driver installations, God the misery. Same with server architecture IME. Same with switches, networking, etc.

    The job isn't 'easier' per se but the kind of knowledge you have to carry around to achieve the end result is very different. Admin tasks are a doddle compared to a decade ago, and they need fewer people with less complex skills.

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    I think the point about deskilling is a valid one but it's not all bad. Sometimes the focus of where the most skill is needed just shifts, and as @broc has said, we are in another iteration of that.

    Yes, there is less focus on setting up individual machines in the same way one might have had to deploy them using 98/ME (without the ZAK or something like RM Connect 2.3)... but back then we didn't have things like virtualisation, elastic service provision or redundant SANs on the cards either. Or at least, not what the modern equivalents of certain mainframe-era ideologies turned out to be. I have to say I don't miss painstakingly installing Rise of the Robots off 22 floppies though! Plus, as fun as it was at the time (when I was about 9) to be insisting that DOS was damn well going to load itself into the Upper Memory Block, and that I wanted Expanded Memory and I wanted it now... I wouldn't want to be doing that with all 300-odd workstations at this school.

    But when you get past all that, you're into a different skillset: that of running a managed environment, which is only possible to begin with because we moved on from doing everything manually everywhere to automating it across nodes (which was the later-generation equivalent of not needing to automate it because everyone connected from a dumb terminal to a single mainframe, or a cluster of them). Having seen a VAX cluster in operation once, it's truly a sight to behold if your inner geek was born in the 80s!

    Running an IT resource for a school often means basically doing the CIO/CTO role. Not for all of us, but for many. That's a skill in itself; understanding the organisation and its needs is a skill in itself. Personally I take the view that that's the natural progression for us. Plus, if the world is going to entrust more and more of its resources to the technical people who push the buttons, it really ought to hope that the prerequisite of already being in the position to understand a client organisation (any client organisation) and its goals, should be a bare minimum standard for recruitment.

    That's what I want to see our profession become anyway. People who can all do that, without needing to report to a teacher just to make sure they understand what it's all about... because they already do and that's a given. It's a way off yet but it's achievable, and it could count as the kind of reskilling that we've been talking about in this thread.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Flatpackhamster View Post
    How much knowledge do you need to do your job now? IMO, you need to know much less about the system you're maintaining. Win7 or Win8 - bung the install DVD in, it does it for you - drivers all sorted in a jiffy. Win98 or ME or 2K - you'd need to really know your hardware. Floppy drives and driver installations, God the misery. Same with server architecture IME. Same with switches, networking, etc.

    The job isn't 'easier' per se but the kind of knowledge you have to carry around to achieve the end result is very different. Admin tasks are a doddle compared to a decade ago, and they need fewer people with less complex skills.
    That's true, but its similar to saying farmers don't have to use seed drills any more. Sure they don't, they have tractors with a pile of attachments that do all the heavy lifting for them. They still have to understand how farming works though, and how to use the tractor, how to optimally space their crops etc...

    We don't need to faff (too often) with drivers for individual machines, but instead we do things like build universal images using management software containing driver packs, streamlining updates into installers, packaging a million and one different bits of software, providing rapid restoration of teacher working environments in the event of failure etc...

    The fundamentals are still needed - we need to know about vendor ids and device ids for devices, to craft the right driver packs. But we don't often need to go around deciding if we need to put a NIC in PnP mode or not.

    Switching is very different now too - managed switching is complicated on its own, with full scale internal routing a commonplace thing in schools. Whereas in the past, the most complicated bit was remembering to install the terminators on a 10Base2 network (in a school environment anyway, I've not heard of any schools using things like TokenRing or the like).

    So, its not a case of de-skilling, more of skills moving into modern technologies.

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    I believe 'desktop hardware engineer' was a fairly well paid and respected job until the mid-late 1990s. You actually had to know your stuff back then, and there wasn't the plethora of information available on the internet either. Any issues had to generally be resolved by speaking to the manufacturer or supplier direct.

    I'd love to see a page full of advertised IT jobs and salaries from the period 1990-1998

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