Uncategorized Technical

Why Every IT Admin Should Get Comfortable with Scripts and APIs

My foray into IT was more of a trial by fire than a chosen profession. Back in my college days, I worked as a project manager in a call center for a small startup. Due to our size, we all played multiple roles. As we onboarded new customer support reps every few weeks, yours truly was responsible for setting up their PCs—actually plugging in keyboards, mice, and monitors via PS/2 and VGA connectors. On several occasions, we cannibalized two mediocre PCs to create one that was one step above.   

Fast forward a few years, and I’m CompTia A+ and Network+ certified, working my way toward a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). Then fast forward a few more. Over the course of 15 years, I’ve seen many things change—from 3.5″ floppy discs to 64 GB microSD cards and from the Intel i486 processor to ARM Coretx-A72 processors found in Raspberry Pis. 

Takeaways from a long-timer in IT

As I’ve worked with enterprise and commercial customers, I’ve learned that the best way to further your IT career is to be curious. And that staying relevant and valuable within your organization requires you to rapidly expand your skill sets—especially if you’re a VI or system administrator. 

With that in mind, here are a couple of skills that have been tremendously valuable for me—and are well worth your time to grow.   

First, get comfortable with scripts

Let’s get one thing clear: I’m not a developer. But as I grew more comfortable with system administration via Windows, I became curious about how I could automate more of my daily tasks via scripts…enter the login.bat file for Windows user profiles! 

While it wasn’t exactly complex, it still gave me an entry point for learning how to automate small processes—which has saved me a lot of time. Hopefully most of us rely heavily on scripts and use tools such as PowerShell. If you aren’t already, you should be. 

Initially, CLI-based operating systems such as Linux and IOS scared me to death. I had no idea how to start, and the closest thing I could compare it to was MS-DOS back in my early gaming days when the original King’s Quest was released. It wasn’t until working with ESX, Cisco, and OpenBSD for customer projects where I started facing my insecurities around CLI and discovered it wasn’t as intimidating as I thought. 

While I may never be a developer or coder, I can unequivocally state that getting comfortable with CLIs within ESXi and NSX is a MUST for any VI admin. My first recommendation is to head over to VMware {code} and get started with PowerCLI. Once you become more familiar with PowerCLI, don’t spend all of your time writing your own scripts. PowerCLI guru Alan Renouf has a litany of scripts that may be of benefit, with scripts for VMs, storage, hosts, reporting and more. 

Next, build your API skillset

Application Programming Interface (API) is quickly becoming a necessary skillset for any administrator or engineer. Being able make API calls (requests) to applications and services takes the ability to programmatically administer environments to another level. Over the past several years, VMware has worked hard to create REST (REpresentational State Transfer) APIs to allow developers and VI admins alike to better automate on several levels. 

In addition, there are some features with VMware services that can only be accessed via API or are released as APIs first and then the GUI follows. (Check out this full list of VMware APIs.) If you come from an operations background like me, you may prefer a GUI tool to assist while you’re getting started with APIs. I’ve found Postman to be beneficial. 

Two videos to help you get started with APIs 

  1. vBrownBag session from Kyle Ruddy who walks through vSphere APIs with Postman 
  2. An introduction to VMware Cloud on AWS 

But wait—there’s more!

If you’re a VMware Cloud on AWS customer, take time to dig into the Developer Center and start playing with the API explorer and Code Samples. Two more great resources for leveraging VMware APIs are Patrick Kremer and William Lam. Truth be told, if there is an API question that I can’t answer, William always seems to have it! 

I’m still new-ish to this way of life, but really enjoy learning new skills. If you’re in tech, you’ve essentially signed up for a lifetime of learning—and the possibilities are really exciting. 

Let me know what you’re learning about these days! 

A version of this appeared here: Embrace the New Normal .