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5 Tips for Sys Admins Tackling a Multi-Cloud World

As we celebrate Sys Admin Day throughout this month, we’re intrigued by what sys admins are learning and how their roles are changing these days. Though the terminology and trends are already radically different than even five years ago, sys admins remain the foundation of a business’s IT architecture. What your company’s users need from you hasn’t changed: They still need their apps to work and be available whenever they need them. Thanks to cloud computing, containers and more, availability and consistency are more possible than ever before. Your part in that is evolving, but brings lots of opportunity and new ways to make sure systems are fast and downtime is nonexistent. 

Wondering where to start in this new, constantly changing cloud world? Check out these five tips. Have one of your own? Let us know on Twitter at @vmwarecloud and use #SysAdminDay. 

1. Extend your technical prowess with new concepts and operating models. 

Digital transformation may be the latest in a long line of buzzwords, but behind this buzzword is a broad rethinking of what technology can do for a business. In a word, it’s all about abstraction, enabled by the power of cloud computing. Modern infrastructure is designed around this concept. For example, container pioneer Docker abstracts the OS, not just the hardware (as with server virtualization), so your focus can be on the application.  

Abstraction has moved into the database realm as well, as managed services replace clunkier on-prem databases (often slower and requiring a lot of maintenance). Patches, licensing, and capacity management all become part of the broader abstracted cloud service—and off your plate. 

Your focus going forward will likely be on workloads and services, instead of hardware (though that’s not going away entirely—more on that later). 

2. Explore cloud-native tech for your next career step. 

Along with gaining a broader sense of how the cloud operating model works, there are some key new technologies that likely will be around for many years, no matter which or how many clouds your business is using.  

If you’re a VMware admin, containers (likely Kubernetes) will be important to know, as will how cloud providers, particularly AWS, work to bridge the on-prem to cloud gap. The path to cloud will vary by organization, which is important to remember as you’re learning about these technologies. Your business’s needs are unique, so the way you deploy new technologies will be unique, too. That includes choosing which cloud you’ll use when, and where and how you use containers, for example. There’s a lot to learn about each public cloud provider, but starting with the concept of multi-cloud is a good beginning.  

3. Don’t discount your on-prem knowledge and experience.  

News headlines might indicate that data centers are the latest IT dinosaur, but research shows that most businesses will maintain some on-premises workloads long into the future, whether in the data center, for edge computing purposes, or more. Our recent research found that by a 2 to 1 margin, respondents want to extend data center tools and processes to the public cloud, rather than bring cloud operations tools to the data center. And on average, respondents plan to leave 52 percent of applications in their data centers. 

Your institutional knowledge and understanding of workloads and business needs can come in handy as your business starts designing for a cloudier future. You’ll likely be best able to help solve problems as teams within your organization are considering different approaches. 

Though your job title might have a vendor name in it, or you’ve been managing the same application for many years, you don’t have to start over. Think of yourself as a guide, one who knows where problems have arisen in the past, like which team always needs more capacity or which one is ready first for a self-service portal.  

Check out more specifics in our Virtualization Professional’s Career Guide on potential career paths, whether that’s data center modernization, full-stack domain management, IT architecture, DevOps, or many more. 

4. Rely on your community. 

Your IT community may have been entirely virtual this past year or so, and many members are likely exploring new topics and technologies, but you can depend on your fellow sys admins for tips on what conferences to attend, what to explore, and, as always, help solving tricky systems problems. Join VMUG if you haven’t already and make sure you know the other admins in your organization.  

It’s also essential to know what your developer counterparts are working on, and what business units are asking for, so that you can understand their challenges and needs. Having the choice to be involved in purchasing decisions, or recommending when to build internally, is a much better position to be in than trying to help troubleshoot a cloud issue after a team has already signed up. 

5. Put your curiosity to work.

What do you want to learn about? What’s been on your to-do list that always gets derailed by outages or other high-priority tasks? The broad world of enterprise technology offers lots of opportunities to learn about machine learning, artificial intelligence, analytics and public datasets, and many more. Your new knowledge may come in handy at work sooner than you think—and in the meantime, there’s a pretty high coolness factor to these new trends. 

Ultimately, increasing levels of abstraction and automation will clear the way for sys admins to work on more interesting, more impactful projects. What would you like to work on if patches are no longer part of your daily life at work? The time has never been better than to daydream. 

What are your favorite tips and tricks? Share your knowledge with others—consider joining the vExpert program this year as your own next step.