What if Henry Ford Had Also Sold Horses?

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Our guest blogger this week, Fabrizio Volpe, works with the Iccrea Banking Group as a network and systems administrator. He manages more than 2000 users for a Microsoft Technologies workgroup in Iccrea Banca. Since 2011 he has been awarded MVP on Directory Services from Microsoft—focusing on Windows systems and security, unified communication, and virtualization.

Fabrizio Volpe
Fabrizio Volpe

Let’s start from completely imaginary; let’s say that Henry Ford in addition to selling cars was also one of the biggest (only?) sellers of horses in the United States. Let’s say that one day he decided that horses were a business with no future, and had focused on cars as a product. As a man of business, he made logical (although questionable) decisions to push his flagship product: raised the price of the horses to the point of making them an extravagance, he decided that after a year horses were to be replaced regardless of their status, losing the interest of the jockeys and blacksmiths who were just as obsolete as the horses. Maybe he also decided to sell the cars at a loss, just to entice people to move quickly on a new conveyance (to which there was a widespread distrust). If you see any similarities with real facts, you are probably a Microsoft IT Pro.

Didn’t they see it coming?

A few years ago I was in a classroom to train some support engineers from Bull who were going to transform their administrative skills from Unix to Microsoft. Their customers had switched almost completely to Windows systems (or had hybrid environments) so they had to switch too. We are talking about very smart men and women who were facing a step that is not trivial. What amazed me was their sense of displacement, some regret in front of the new situation (and the fact that their previous skills had become almost idle). Coming from previous experiences in mixed environments, having seen the rapid growth of Microsoft products, I wondered “didn’t they see it coming?” From my point of view it was clear that the administration of Unix environments was going to become one of many options, less important than before. Once again, you see references to the current situation?

Microsoft, IT Pros and the “triple win”

In subsequent years I have lived with a Microsoft policy that was quite consistent. I remember the motto was “win, win and win”. It’s the short form to say “Microsoft certified IT Pros earn credibility, companies who use certified people gain in competence and Microsoft has excellent and enthusiast evangelists at zero cost”. We all know that things were not always smooth. Over the years, we have seen too many stories of “paper certifications” awarded to incompetent people. Nevertheless, the basic concept of the IT professional who became “faithful” to Microsoft and was a vehicle for sale worked for several years. In my experience, Microsoft technical and sales people had another healthy habit: they preferred to stand alongside partners rather than go directly to talk to a customer. Again, a relationship that brought benefits to both parties.

Microsoft, IT Pros and the Cloud

Over the past four years, unless you lived under a rock, you should have noticed that the old rules no longer apply. Three years ago, during a meeting with people inside Microsoft, the concept was clearly expressed: our company has chosen a Cloud strategy and the number of IT Pros required in the future will be extremely reduced. The first to taste the bitter medicine were professionals and companies focused on small businesses. In that scenario, the Cloud is often a solution that simply you can’t beat, and their customers are essentially fading. Not even a role of seller is required. No man in the middle, for a company who now wants to sell services and has a bigger gain selling them directly. They (the IT Pros) had no time to see it coming, believe me. For professionals related to larger enterprise, the situation appeared as a long transition, made of hybrid scenarios and private clouds. I am using the past tense because all the signs suggest a sharp acceleration of the process. That famous “Henry Ford’s” situation when it is better to get rid of blacksmiths 😉

No one can hear you scream in the cloud

The future will not necessarily be the one in which there is only the Cloud (and it is not said, however, that this will be all Microsoft branded). But I hope that us (including myself) IT Pros this time saw it coming. It is a sterile knowledge in itself, so I will try to transform it in a few thoughts.

  • The private cloud scenarios are likely to remain on the scene, so a part of the current IT Pros will have to increase skills such as virtualization and automation of processes.
  • For some of us, I foresee a future of “assembler of cloud services”. It is a competitive and changing environment so, if until yesterday Amazon AWS or other services were not interesting to you, maybe it is time to investigate 🙂
  • Some of us will continue to do something similar to their current job. As virtualization has removed much of the hardware management, the Cloud can simplify systems management but does not completely remove the need for skills like networking (from the customer site to the services, for example), security, structuring of complex systems to give a customized service and so on. Certainly, the skill will be more vary than now, but the change is (already) part of our lives.
  • For those who already have it in the strings, the Cloud scenario could lead to an increase in the “developer” side of the work [horresco referens!—or I’m shuddering as I relate this😀 ]

Though my discourse has focused on Microsoft, I think the IT Pros of all types face similar challenges. I must also say that, although in a less extreme way, I think that not all of the current IT Pros will be positioned in the new reality. But from this point on, each person must find their solution.

On IT Central Station, check out the vendor page for Microsoft here. Or, if you would like to dive into a real user review for specific solution, such as Microsoft Azure, see what Gaurav Mantri says in his post: “(Some) Best Practices for Building Windows Azure Cloud Applications

 

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