If you have built your career in the world of IT infrastructure, you know that our world has been going through a digital transformation for several years. It started with virtualization. Did you know in the early days of VMware, many people believed that hosting many virtual machines on one physical host was an insane idea?

VMware was even accused of peddling snake oil, and many people said that virtualization was only for developers, not for production data.

Sound familiar?

People are saying the same things about delivering production workloads from a public cloud. I’m sure you’ve heard things like:

  • “The public cloud is only good for developers” (and this argument comes from the dev side just as much as it comes from the ops side).
  • “The cloud isn’t secure“.
  • “The building blocks (e.g. containers) still aren’t ready for production“.

History has proven the naysayers wrong about virtualization. The question now becomes: can you navigate the current pace of digital transformation and separate the hype from reality?

Navigate digital transformation with a Learning GPS

We’re engineers, and we are trained to recognize patterns. It is obvious that we’re in the midst of a massive technological shift. Vendors are struggling to capture mind share so they’ll have an advantage when cloud technologies become as ubiquitous to IT infrastructure as virtualization is now. But we know when the dust settles, we are the ones who will be responsible for users, the applications they use to do their work, and the data that is created by that process. And in order to do that, we need to get up to speed on new technologies. But where should we focus our efforts?

I wrote about the Learning GPS seven years ago, when virtualization was starting to take off. It’s time to brush of this concept for learning about cloud technologies. A Learning GPS helps you navigate the best path to take when you need to learn a new topic.

  • The Direct Route: You need 101 basic training. A class is the most direct route.
  • Emergency situations/roadblocks: You need info immediately but there aren’t any classes. Hands-on labs or 1-on-1 training from a vendor representative may be what you need.
  • The Meandering Scenic Route: You know the basics of a topic. In this case reading blog posts, following people who work out loud on Twitter and other social sites, or even installing software in your own lab for hands-on experience makes sense.

Shortcuts to Understanding New Concepts 

If you have experience architecting and managing data centers, you probably don’t need the direct route. However, you may need help understanding some of the new concepts. Vocabulary is a good way to start making mental bridges that help us understand new things. For instance, many of the public cloud concepts are cemented in data center operations:

Cloud concept Existing concepts
GitHub Have you ever managed subversion or CVS servers and repositories? GitHub is a public version control repository; there are lots of comparison articles out there.
Containers This technology grew from the concept of chroot. If you’ve put your sftp users in a chroot jail, you’ve already got the basics of this concept.
Automation Have you ever configured Kickstart to automate server installations? You have the concepts down for what’s involved in automation in a cloud.

Add Interop as a destionation on your Learning GPS

One last thing about snake oil: it actually worked if it was used in the correct dosage for specific ailments. New technologies are the same; they will work the best when used in the situations for which they were designed, not as a panacea to solve all of your organization’s problems. So when you hear a technology being described as “snake oil”, you may want to get out your personal Learning GPS to navigate if this is a technology you need to learn.

Tying the reality of our current experiences to what we’ll need to know for the future is the topic sessions I’m presenting at Interop.

If you’ll be at the show, I hope you stop by and join the conversation!

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