Despite predictions that systems administrators job is becoming obsolete, studies show that the employment growth for this IT vertical will increase by 8% from 2014 to 2024. However, there’s a catch. The rapidly evolving nature of the IT ecosystem and changing business requirements means that the roles and responsibilities of sysadmins will also change.
It’s no longer news that the rise and massive adoption of cloud computing decreased the need for in-house on-premise server skills. Organizations that migrated to the cloud had little or no need for systems administrators since the task of maintaining systems and managing server operations were handled by the provider or automated in the cloud environment.
While the traditional role of sysadmins (on-prem maintenance) is largely becoming obsolete, there’s still a business need for performance monitoring and assuring the cost-effectiveness of cloud services, and overall infrastructure management - some functions may be automated within the cloud, but that’s still your architecture, your applications and your databases.
To avoid obsolescence, sysadmins must evolve with changing IT landscape and business environment in mind. This means understanding the new cloud-based resources and tools and applying their skills accordingly.
How Sysadmins Can Evolve
There are several opportunities that savvy sysadmins can leverage to expand their influence, deliver more value, and remain relevant to their organizations. Essentially, today’s system administrators must evolve into cloud/hybrid administrators.
As a matter of fact, there may be higher demand for hybrid administrators since most companies are not comfortable putting everything on the cloud. Such companies prefer to use a mix of on-premise and cloud deployments and will need sysadmins who are versatile and proficient at managing hybrid environments.
Further reading Local, Cloud and Hybrid Network: Which One Should You Opt to?
Cloud systems administrators are responsible for managing multiple cloud servers and instances of cloud infrastructure services. They have to develop, implement, and configure the various systems and services that make up the underlying cloud platform.
They also implement their organization’s system security policies, procedures, and strategies while troubleshooting problematic scenarios and handling patch management. All this requires in-depth technical knowledge of SaaS, PaaS and IaaS and working knowledge of their organization’s cloud platform.
While there are debates about the value of IT certifications over experience, cloud certifications can help validate the cloud management skills of sysadmins. Furthermore, it has become essential at scoring new roles, especially in situations where sysadmins have little or no hands-on experience in managing cloud or hybrid environments.
While there are tons of cloud certifications out there, sysadmins should be strategic and focus on those provided by the biggest cloud platforms: AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud.
Amazon Web Services
AWS has a robust cloud computing certification program that’s divided into three main tiers: professional, associate, and foundational. Each tier also comes with role-based categories such as application deployment, cloud architecture, and development.
Becoming AWS certified is critical for sysadmins looking to work for organizations that use AWS infrastructure. It tells employers that you have the knowledge and skills to build AWS solutions and manage applications on Amazon Web Services. What applications? Frankly speaking - you can build just about anything inside AWS only, host it and analyze it. Applications, serverless solutions, databases, messaging and notifications, storage. The list goes on and on.
Furthermore, AWS specialty certifications in cloud security and big data can also be beneficial for sysadmins who work in cloud environments other than AWS.
AWS certifications include
- Certified Developer – Associate
- Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate
- Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional
- Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
- Certified Solutions Architect – Professional
Azure's cloud certification program has three tiers: fundamentals, associate and expert. They include the following
- Azure Security Engineer Associate
- Azure DevOps Engineer Expert
- Azure Solution Architect Expert
- Azure Developer Associate
- Azure Administrator Associate
- Azure Fundamentals
These certifications validate the expertise of candidates in cloud technologies, networking, storage, virtualization, systems, and identity management. Sysadmins who attain this certification are considered experts in modern data center environments, especially the Azure cloud platform and its underlying infrastructure.
Currently, Google offers five professional level certifications and one associate-level credential. They are
- Professional Cloud Security Engineer
- Professional Cloud Network Engineer
- Professional Cloud Developer
- Professional Data Engineer
- Professional Cloud Architect
- Associate Cloud Engineer
Since the Associate Cloud Engineer is regarded as the entry-level credential to the platform, it’s a good place for sysadmins to start.
Further reading Cloud Certifications Complete Guide: AWS vs Azure and More
As technology moves forward, the role of the system administrator will actually become more important. Sysadmins are the backbone of sound IT infrastructure; they engage with technology vendors, implement policies and help protect the integrity and security of the (hybrid) IT environment.
Doing this effectively will mean that today’s sysadmins must take a different approach to learning and skill acquisition. In previous years, system administrators could get by with an MCSA certification. In today’s complex IT ecosystem, sysadmins must remain agile and adept at learning new technology.
Despite the massive adoption of cloud computing and other emerging technology, system administrators are not becoming obsolete any time soon. However, they must evolve their skills to keep pace with the tools, resources, and challenges of the new technology stack.
The traditional role of sysadmins is devolving and is currently skewed towards infrastructure engineering, performance engineering, cloud engineering, and system programming. Growing their skills and knowledge is the only true way to remain relevant in today’s fast-paced IT ecosystem.