Will cloud adoption bring about a datacenter and IT job apocalypse?

Moderated by Larry Dignan | July 15, 2013 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

Summary: Jason Perlow and David Gewirtz look at clouds -- and IT jobs -- from both sides now.

Jason Perlow

Jason Perlow




David Gewirtz

David Gewirtz

Best Argument: Yes


Audience Favored: No (69%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

Only the most agile and adaptable are going to survive

Jason Perlow: As in the zombie movies, only the most agile and adaptable are going to survive the datacenter apocalypse.

During my five-year tenure at IBM, beginning in the summer of 2007, I was heavily involved in the business of consolidating and relocating datacenters and performing different kinds of IT transformation and migration types of activities. These were very large, long-term projects engaged with large IT organizations that netted a significant amount of revenue for the company in the form of hardware, software, and services. For a time, we had many such deals running concurrently.

At the time I left the company, the pipeline began to run dry, and we started to look into ways we could use those skill sets of IT practitioners in doing other things, such as private cloud implementations.

Over the last six months, I've been hearing from my former colleagues that things have really, really slowed down since I left.

In the cloud, organizations can take advantage of self-service and pay-as-you-go infrastructure using the existing applications that they have today, and are willing to do more with less, putting transformation activities off for the time being.

That includes laying off some of their own staff, and deciding not to outsource as much to large services players like IBM as they used to.

Unless you have skill sets that are easily translatable to income in cloud and big data, you're probably going to end up as dead wood at a large services delivery firm.

It probably goes without saying that if the healthiest and largest of the consulting and professional services firms in our industry is going through a preventative workforce rebalancing act now, then I shudder to think about what the weaker ones are going to eventually have to do.

Or what the fate of the rank and file of many of the people who work in corporate datacenters and have sysadmin and implementation roles is going to look like, for that matter.

There will be jobs

David Gewirtz: Uh, no. Apocalypses haven't exactly lived up to their promise, now have they? Y2K? Meh. 2012? Yawn. The cloud? Well, it's not like all those servers are going to run themselves, now are they?

I know, you're thinking that's the point: they're automated. Yeah, when they work. But someone has to create the automation, someone has to maintain it, someone has to update it, and someone has to fix it when the programmers, who should have been paying better attention, instead got distracted for a week by a new release of Halo or a new Game of Thrones.

The computer biz is a cyclical business. We once had mainframes (think olden-day cloud). Then we went to PCs. Then we went client/server. At each of these transitions, there was going to be a job apocalypse. Sure, some of those old RPG and COBOL programmers didn't make the transition, but there were certainly plenty of IT jobs to go around.

The big secret is you have to keep growing your skills. As long as you keep learning, you won't be left behind in the excitement over cloud computing. There will be a tremendous amount of IT work to do, from porting legacy systems to defensive security to integrating mobile users to building distributed applications and on and on and on.

Might you have to learn some new skills? Sure. But will the entire industry of IT people come to a screaming halt because we have enormous data centers and use browsers to interface with them, rather than using an MMC plugin? Nope. There will be jobs. No doubt about it.


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  • Dave, of course

    I vote with Dave and 'no'. Stop whining and belt up; learn new skills. The days of lifetime employment with one company ended quite a while back; so too are the 'do one thing for an entire career'. IT is a growing field; but you still have to do your homework and be flexible.
    beau parisi
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for No
  • New Skills, Jobs Move

    Overall, a move to the cloud will probably result in at a minimum the same number of jobs overall. The issues are the skills required and the job locations. On the skills, the problem will be what new skills and difficult will they be to obtain. The job location is probably a bigger issue since the server farms do not need to near the users will many of the jobs migrate to other countries or will they reamain in the country.
    Reply Vote I'm for No
  • Agreed with Dave here

    If anything, it'll required more higher skilled IT personnel then less. In the 'new data center', you'll need higher skillsets ppl. Outside of the data center, you'll need more IT 'sales consultants' that can explain to the prospective new customers. Same for both in house and outside people to help transition as well as maintain both the new and the old application stacks on the new+old infrastructure.
    Reply Vote I'm for No
  • Would've been a nice debate in 2006.

    Would've been a nice debate around 2006, when the term really took off.

    Not so interesting in 2013, when it's obvious that "the cloud" is creeping up slowly, rather than happening all at once. Jason can talk all he wants, but it only happens as fast as businesses are willing to adopt it. You can't really force it on them.

    And yes, there will be jobs. Users will still struggle with their devices, and businesses will still want tailored solutions. Not to mention you can't really "cloudify" everything. "The cloud" certainly has its benefits, but it also has its drawbacks.

    "and someone has to fix it when the programmers, who should have been paying better attention, instead got distracted for a week by a new release of Halo or a new Game of Thrones."


    Take that back!

    I'm looking forward to Star Citizen ;).
    Reply Vote I'm for No
  • No

    I have had to learn new programming languages every years since 1956. I don't expect this to change.
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for No
  • Fewer Locations

    There will undoubtedly be new jobs, but in addition to being more specialized, they will be consolidated at fewer locations, and farther from population centers AND from one another. This will restrict the mobility of their technical workers, locking them into areas with only ONE employer nearby that can use their skills. Unlike Silicon Valley where workers could switch companies and work next door to their old jobs, companies will force their existing workers to move to a small, rural town to keep their existing jobs, then force them to move again if they want to work for a competitor. This will bring technical wages and benefits down, since relocation can be so expensive.

    And this is assuming that the new locations are not in third world or emerging countries, where American citizens would be unable to follow their old job since the country holding the new work site will insist on reserving jobs in THEIR country for THEIR citizens.
    Reply 2 Votes I'm for Yes
    • As long as there are more jobs than skilled IT professionals, ...

      ... I'd expect salaried to continue to rise. You can learn a new programming language at the local junior college but learning how all the parts fit together takes years of experience. Many IT professionals are Baby Boomers and they are beginning to retire. As they are replaced, the demand for experienced IT professionals will only increase.
      M Wagner
      Reply 2 Votes I'm Undecided
    • Unlikely...

      Those small, rural towns don't have robust power infrastructure, fiber optic, etc.

      More importantly, they don't have universities. The knowledge workers aren't going to spring from the ground like weeds. Look at "Research Triangle" and lots of other areas that tried to steal Silicon Valley's thunder, and it's only Dallas that's made a big dent. And it's for the same reason, tech schools.
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • I agree with Rtechie above.

        In my corner of the US. Although I am on Comcast best consumer Cable Internet. I have to unplug modem and plug back in to reset the connection, up to 5 times a day in summer time and at least once a day in the dead of winter. I've replaced the modem three times. Our town never heard of Fiber (Fibre) Optic and DSL is delived over Copper. I can't even sign up for either MS cloud based Office 365. Nor Adobe Creative Cloud because I don't have a dependable enough Internet connection for those to Phone home. with the ability to Phone home the not dependable They would be expensive paperweight.

        Plus knowing the way Companies are today about shipping jobs overseas I predict when it gets fully up and running they will be moved to India, China, Mexico, South America and other parts of the world where they can pay semi-skilled workers 5¢ on the dollar.
        The big corporate is all about forking over as much money as possible to the eir Officers and BOD. And care nothing about customers. And will continue to bring our ecconomy down to where people can't afford the products then they will go out of business.
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
        • Data integrity - security - in the cloud worries me.

          (Can't touch wdlist's record, I've only been in IT for 45 years...)

          A problem I've seen in Cloud-based services, particularly those that keep your sensitive data, is that back-to-back contracts against non-disclosure sound really good when negotiating for services, but in practice are only as secure as the geography where the Cloud sits.

          In many countries, even with an excellent skills and infrastructure pool, your security may be still limited by a local culture that considers your data to be a resource they can mine and sell to others. Some are good, but some are unpardonably corrupt.

          I suspect local hosting firms may be the better option. After all, isn't that all the Cloud really is? A host provider over the net?

          The Cloud is a marketing invention to cover just another infrastructure pendulum-swing to centralized service providers. You still have to be careful where you hide your lunch.
          Reply Vote I'm Undecided