DevOps / Networking

Learning at the Speed of Modern Infrastructure

22 Oct 2018 10:58am, by

Kris Beevers
Kris Beevers is the co-founder and CEO of NS1. He leads NS1’s team of industry experts as they create products to enable companies to use DNS to build and deliver dynamic, distributed, and automated applications that delight users. Kris is a recognized authority on DNS and global application delivery, and often speaks and writes about building and deploying high performance, at scale, globally distributed internet infrastructure. Kris holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from RPI, and prior to founding and leading NS1, he built CDN, cloud, bare metal, and other infrastructure products at Voxel, which sold to Internap (NASDAQ:INAP) in 2011.

As businesses adopt modern application and content delivery strategies and embrace technologies that require new computing approaches, IT teams are challenged to develop and maintain the skill sets needed to design and operate advanced infrastructures. The need to bring people and organizations up to speed is one of the big challenges facing IT organizations across the board. According to a report by Gartner on how to motivate employees to reskill for digital transformation, 70 percent of employees have not yet mastered the digital skills they need for their jobs today, and 80 percent lack the skills needed for their current role and future career.

New skill sets are required at all levels of the organization encompassing the roles of CIO, department directors, architects, application developers and operations. New modes of the IT organization, such as DevOps, require cultural, organizational and skill set development. The drive toward hybrid infrastructure requires specialization in areas like data centers, cloud, microservices and containers. As a result, the skills requirements have shifted, and IT professionals must develop a true understanding of how modern infrastructure works.

Organizations are shifting from a mode where network and operations personnel were focused on device management — ensuring the physical cabling and network connections are correct, and setting up configurations through device-specific interfaces. In modern infrastructure, these functions and activities are abstracted in software. The new skills needed are software oriented — the programming languages and toolsets to create, configure and orchestrate whole IT environments in software. This has also precipitated organizational changes — moving from specialized teams that control a particular part of the environment (e.g. server team, firewall team) — to integrated teams that can manage the end-to-end process of application development and deployment. This is the essence of DevOps. New roles are emerging — such as site reliability engineer — to ensure a smooth, efficient, agile delivery of modern applications.

In its annual global survey on the state of IT, analyst firm ESG identified three areas where organizations are facing their biggest skills shortages. They are: cybersecurity, IT architecture and planning and server/virtualization administration. IT organizations need access to relevant training and professional development opportunities so they can develop staff with skills and motivation to move their businesses forward.

Below are six areas in where educational opportunities are important to survive and thrive in today’s dynamic technology landscape:

  • Infrastructure as Code — Modern IT infrastructure operations teams can automatically manage and provision through code rather than using a manual process. Infrastructure as Code is sometimes referred to as programmable infrastructure. Training would offer modern infrastructure paradigms and techniques such as immutable infrastructure, service discovery, modern security, and application deployments, using such tools as Terraform.
  • Cloud Technologies — The 2018 IDG Cloud Computing Study found that 77 percent of enterprises have at least one application or portion of their enterprise computing infrastructure in the cloud. Teams are working with Amazon, Google and Azure. These environments have their own interfaces for setting up servers, storage and compute. People must understand the use of cloud technologies and what’s the best architecture to support the needs of their organization, understand the pros and cons of moving to the cloud, and evaluate providers to determine if they should adopt a multicloud approach. The technologies are interrelated with these decisions, and there is value in gaining diverse skills and technology perspectives that come from working with more than one cloud provider.
  • Application Architectures — Application architectures are becoming more distributed with organizations embracing multi-cloud, hybrid architectures and edge computing. DNS plays a vital role for developers and operators in modernizing the application delivery stack. Highly distributed and dynamic applications are created by DevOps teams and delivered through a diverse mix of on-premise, public and private clouds, content delivery networks (CDN) and microservices platforms. Traffic management and load balancing also play a major role in distributed, global infrastructures. These developments become additional considerations when adopting distributed delivery architectures which require specific skill sets for day-to-day management and long-term planning.
  • Containers and microservices — The emergence of cloud computing and agile development requires an infrastructure that can respond quickly to market changes. Companies are looking to transform their architectures and adopt new approaches, such as microservices and containerization. Teams must understand what they do, the pros and cons of implementing them, and their optimal uses. Skills might reside in one individual but the IT organization as a whole should be prepared to address any changes.
  • DevOps — Large enterprises are turning to DevOps to deliver software and security updates rapidly. Since DevOps engineers combine requirements of multidisciplinary teams, they touch many technologies and complex problems. Not only must they learn about infrastructure automation, security, testing and networking, but they also must collaborate with other departments and understand what fits within their organization’s culture and goals.
  • Security — Security is no longer an area of specialization, but rather it is foundational to everything in IT. Security must be baked into the application development processes, so all IT team members must have basic security competencies. This is especially true for companies using a DevOps approach paving the way for the concept of DevSecOps. As cloud servers and microservices spin up and down, the environment is fluid, and a static audit isn’t relevant anymore. DevOps teams need to uplevel their skill set to include security knowledge.

Information technology staff must continuously hone their skills as organizations upgrade their infrastructure. Teams on the application and infrastructure sides need to be more integrated. The game has changed for the existing and new workforce. There is a balance between veteran engineers with years of hands-on experience and institutional knowledge, and those who started out learning newer technology. Regardless of how long someone has been working in tech, it’s important to keep their knowledge up-to-date.

Training is intended to establish proficiency for novices and to expand current practitioners’ skills. In addition to specific training programs offered by such firms as ASPE and QA, staff should get the time to attend technical conferences (e.g. Velocity, DevOps conferences), which not only helps them develop skills and network with peers, but it also helps organizations retain staff.

Vendors can commit to enabling success beyond their customer base by offering training and certification programs on their solutions and industry trends. This serves as an extension of a customer’s team by helping to fill the skills gap and offer IT staff assistance that would otherwise be hard to accomplish on their own.

Feature image via Pixabay.


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