The Stack Archive

VMworld 2014 debrief: Beware of the legacy human

Thu 16 Oct 2014

I’m writing this on the plane back from VMWorld 2014 in Barcelona where I have spent the last two days. When I arrived on Monday evening it was fairly clear what VMWare’s message was going to be (see picture) although after San Francisco most wouldn’t be surprised. Data storage is undergoing a paradigm shift and as virtualisation and the software defined data centre become the norm my experiences would surprise few of you.

Data storage is going to get cheaper. Gartner know it. Customers know it. The vendors are preaching it from the rooftops. The IT press are writing all about it – so I don’t need to.

As such I want to step back from all of this and look at a conversation I had in the taxi on the way to the airport about three hours ago. Ever since I went bald I have been spared the awful conversations I used to have at the barber, where I inevitably ended up talking about football, in some weird homophobic defence mechanism designed to ignore that a man was caressing my head. Since then taxi driver conversations have taken over from this as my most feared awkward conversations.

This chap however, it transpires lived in East London down the road from where I lived a few years ago, and so I decided to be less socially defunct than usual. He had finished his Masters in IT in London in 2004. He moved to Spain in 2010 and remained unemployed for two years until he eventually became a taxi driver having been unable to get a job as a systems engineer.

I asked him if he wanted to get back into IT and he replied ‘I’d love to but I’ve been out for too long. Even if I went back to the UK no one would hire me’.

This made me think back to all the times I had heard the phrase ‘legacy systems’ from people over the previous 48 hours. The pain and hassle of migrating to a virtual server, implementing a new DR and back-up system or constantly updating your ‘mobile working’ solutions and strategies can be huge. But to not do so, or at least not to understand the options available, is not only a risk to the company but to professional progression.

If human error is at fault for most IT failings, then it is potentially not the lack of training that is the issue, but the inability to remain flexible and open minded, when everything you have previously known changes. Keeping training up to date is one thing but embracing new technologies with an open but pragmatic mind, would appear to be one of the most important and challenging aspects of this industry.

In the case of my taxi driver he had left IT without any choice and found himself behind the curve. However in many ways the case of the IT professional unable to adapt to change and new technologies is even more tragic. And I imagine many of you reading this have seen this in action.

Events like VMWorld offer the chance to meet others who have been through the challenges you are going through. You get the chance to see case studies of how a new technology has been integrated into similar businesses and you get to ask questions.

If there was one thing I took from the show it was that every opportunity like this to learn more about emerging technologies should be grabbed with both hands. In the short term staying with the status quo may be easier and it may even save money for a time. But eventually you run the risk of becoming a ‘legacy system’ yourself.

Head of TheStack.com & Data Centre Management Magazine


feature software-defined data centre (SDDC) storage virtualisation
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