Becoming the Virtualization Admin of Tomorrow

by Kong Yang

This article is the second in a two-part series. Read the first part here.

While virtualization administrators who choose to remain stagnant are at risk of becoming obsolete in today’s tech landscape, those of us who can continue to grow existing skill sets and engage with new technologies will be more than capable of seizing on many new opportunities. You should consider the following advice and best practices to secure a place in the next generation of IT:

  1. Embrace change. Regardless of how you adapt, whether by working to remain a virtualization specialist in the era of hybrid IT or by becoming more cloud-centric, the most important takeaway of the changing landscape is that vendor lock-in is no longer an option. Just as data center roles are hyperconverging, so too is data center strategy. Virtualization administrators of the future must embrace change and look for opportunities to broaden their organizations’ infrastructure services and work with new technologies. You can start by opening yourself up to competitive offerings and adjacent technologies such as containers, micro-services, functions-as-a-service, etc. And that includes learning multiple services from multiple service providers, too.
  2. Remember that education is an ongoing process. In such a rapidly evolving landscape, education is never done. While siloed experts who managed disparate parts of the infrastructure and application stack played a fundamental role in the traditional IT department, the modern data center is more interconnected than ever. As a result, IT generalists—who know a little bit about everything, have a holistic understanding of the application stack, and can make quick, informed decisions about new technology—will be particularly successful in the near future. This goes hand-in-hand with the first best practice: embracing change. Today’s virtualization specialists who want to be successful must pursue every opportunity to better understand all parts of the infrastructure stack and how they are impacted by the growing hybrid IT strategy.
  3. Become the strategic adviser rather than simply remaining a problem fixer. All IT professionals must become more end-user-focused, and play the role of the advisor and coach, rather than simply the problem fixer. We should look to provide guidance to business units, advise them about their technology choices, and then provide the appropriate integration services. Consequently, virtualization professionals specifically must be educated on when and how to use new technologies like the cloud, containers, IoT, big data, etc., in such a way that it will derive the most benefit for our organizations.
  4. Monitoring is a discipline. When IT departments implement a comprehensive monitoring solution and adopt monitoring as a discipline, problems can be caught and solved when the first warning signs show up, preventing fire drills and avoiding business impact. IT professionals who are well-versed in monitoring as a discipline will be well-prepared to transition from a primarily virtualization role to either a more automated, ops-centric role, or even something on the other side of the fence with a cloud service provider.

Ultimately, as traditional, siloed IT roles—network administrators, storage administrators, systems administrators, database administrators, and, of course, virtualization administrators—continue to take on new responsibilities, the ability to quickly learn new IT concepts and skills will be more important than being an expert in any one technology. To seize on this opportunity and secure your place in the next generation of IT, you must look beyond the infrastructure for a true understanding of business needs, and how technology—and new skills—can meet them.

Kong Yang is the head geek at SolarWinds.


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