The Windows guy has been around in companies for quite a while and their role has more or less been the same ever since, which is to manage the servers (either maintaining it or provisioning new ones), manage user accounts and groups, manage permissions on file servers, patching and doing other day-to-day administrative stuff.
Windows admins can be better at networking and storage tasks. Whenever it came to creating new subnets or any other network related tasks, that fell on the laps of the networking team in the organization. Anything to do with storage, that is a job for the storage team. Hence, the focus of Windows admins is rather limited in the IT department but this is about to change with Windows Server 2016.
Software is Eating the World
Remember the scepticism surrounding virtualizing servers when they were first became mainstream around the late 90s to early 2000s. Admins thought it was a crazy idea; it was hard enough to make an app or service run correctly on a single physical Windows Server machine, you want to run multiple Windows Server operating systems on a single physical machine and share hardware resources? They must be insane!
Fast forward to today, virtualizing servers are the norm, everybody is doing it. Turns out, it was fine having multiple OSes running one a single physical machine; in fact we are getting more out of our hardware resources than ever before and saving money doing it. Another big plus point is that the virtualized servers are now more agile and flexible than ever before. How did this come about? Clever bit of code from some really clever people.
Now that admins trust the software (I.e., Hyper-V) to run their virtual machines, it’s time to embrace software-defined networking and software-defined storage and trust that these new (relatively) technologies can and will run datacenters and SME’s in the future, whilst utilising commodity based hardware, making it cheaper to run and maintain a datacenter.
- Software-Defined Storage (SDS)
In the past, if you were doing storage, and let’s say you deployed a very high end storage array that you bought from one of the big companies, like Dell EMC, you had to learn how to use it and it was a complex task, there’s a lot of work to it and it’s very specialized because essentially a SAN has its own operating system in which you must learn how to configure it. You can now take all that knowledge and let Windows do it for you. So, the skills you use to create a file share, are now the skills you use to deploy a SAN.
- Software-Defined Networking (SDN)
Same thing with networking. Say you bought a high-end Cisco switch or router, you would have to first get certified and master the operating system running in those Cisco boxes which takes a lot of time and work to do. Windows Server just makes it so easy to configure a software-defined network via tools like Network Controller where you can add multiple switches and routers onto a central console.
Software is eating the world, said Marc Andressen (Netscape co-founder), and it is eating up more real estate for itself in server rooms all over the world, well, a world where Windows Server runs the datacenters.
The Fabric Administrator
Complex networking and storage tasks are becoming accessible to the mainstream Windows administrator, and the result is that it is now simpler and easier to manage tasks that were previously very complex and took a lot of time to configure. IT admins are now expected to do virtualization, networking and storage; if the Windows guy has limited or no knowledge in networking and storage, they better learn it up quickly to become an indispensable asset to the company or risk being pushed out. Yes, it will take a lot of work and toil to gain the skills and knowledge needed to be the fabric administrator, but it will be worth it in the end.
Stay tuned for future updates as I will be covering in more detail about the new features of Windows Server 2016 in the coming weeks and months.
Me, A. Reza (Windows guy since 2001)