Welcome Brandon Riley
Sr. Distributed Systems Engineer
Throughout the vBlogosphere these days, a common refrain is often heard. vProphets are shouting from their vRooftops that we IT people need to radically diversify our skill sets if we hope to survive in the age of the cloud. No longer will there be “server guys”, “network guys”, and “storage guys”. It is said that in the virtual world, we need to be all of the above, and more. Anyone who has dipped so much as a toe into the virtualization pool understands this well.
Unfortunately, many companies still don’t get it. VCE coalition members are saying that some executives are deciding to buy vBlocks simply to facilitate the transition away from the isolated silos which still Balkanize IT. When executives make purchase decisions based on how they will affect corporate IT culture, there is clearly a problem.
While we sit and wait for the old guard to catch on, some vendors have brought tools to market that push us a little further down the path of convergence. Storage vendors are doing a fantastic job integrating tools into vCenter and making our lives easier. Companies like Veeam and Vizioncore are showcasing tools that give us much more insight into the virtual environment and help us shoulder this increased responsibility. Server vendors are releasing great management tools for blade servers that help us deal with that layer of abstraction. Even Microsoft is trying to help with SCVMM and other tools in the pipeline.
Notice anything missing from the list?
When it comes to making this tectonic IT shift more palatable, the networking players aren’t holding up their end of the bargain. Cisco has done a brilliant job with UCS, and UCS Manager. No sane person can argue that those products don’t vastly improve management of the server hardware layer. The 1000v is also a remarkable tool, and I know they have heavily invested in the VMware relationship. But are they doing anything to make networking more accessible to the new age of vGeneralists?
As a CCNA, I can tell you from my experience that this bare minimum level of Cisco knowledge just scratches the surface of Cisco networking, and is not enough to get a decent sized VMware environment running well. As I write this, there are many volumes of Cisco material in my bookshelf that I can call upon, but I still don’t feel even remotely confident configuring Etherchannel, PVLANs, VPC, TRILL, and all the other administrative jujuitsu an optimized virtual environment requires. The “network guys” at my company each have ten thousand or more pages of Cisco reference on each of their desks, and I am sure they do not feel a high degree of proficiency with these features.
Does the market expect the new generation of cloud architects to also be CCIE certified? I hope not. As I pointed out previously, in most of the other areas where we are expected to be competent these days, we are getting some help. There are even plenty of tools out there to help facilitate all the PowerShell and scripting we need to perform. But as the number one networking player, Cisco does not seem interested in making networking more accessible to already overburdened, hyper-qualified virtualization experts.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not looking for sympathy, and I don’t mean for this to come off as a Cisco bashing session. But unless we are able to increase our efficiency at the same rate we are increasing and diversifying our skill sets, this transition will be as tough on us as it will be for the old IT guard who are refusing to leave their silos. UCS Manager is a huge step in the right direction for Cisco. If they can bring that type of functionality to the network stack, they will only sell more products. Will they apply the same optimized method of management to the rest of their line? Or will they continue on their current track just to sell more books and bill more consulting hours for their partners?