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IT Professional?

Way back when we were known as Administrators. Then the term IT Professional (often irritatingly shortened to IT Pro) appeared. We’re doing the same job but have a fancy new title.

Are System Administrators really professionals in the true sense of the word.

I would argue no.

- We don’t have universally recognised certification/qualification requirement

- We don’t have a professional body

- We don’t have an continuous learning requirement to maintain the title

- We don’t have a recognised body of knowledge that accurately defines how and what we should do

 

You may argue with these points and say for instance that you do keep learning – congratulations – you’re in the minority that does.

We have partial answers to my points for instance vendor certifications and best practice documentation but at the moment its all very piecemeal.

If IT wants to be treated as a profession its practitioners have to behave as professionals and at the moment I don’t think that happens in the vast majority of cases. There are exceptions and hopefully over time that behaviour will become the norm. Until then I’m going to stick with Administrators.

Abandoned technologies

Why do some technologies become widely adopted and others are seemingly abandoned – often without any real testing. What do I mean by abandoned technologies?

 

Things like Server Core for instance. And I suspect that nano server and even containers on windows will follow and become abandoned technologies.

 

Server Core first appeared in Windows Server 2008! In nearly 10 years of existence how many organisations are utilising Server core to its full potential. Very few in my experience. I suspect many, if not most organisations, don’t use it at all.

 

Nano server was introduced with Server 2016. Its totally headless and very small footprint. You can pack 100s of them onto a 64GB host. Nano server supports a limited number of roles but if you need a small footprint server to host a web site, host VMs or containers or act as a file server for instance its ideal.

 

The last thing I suspect may join my list of abandoned technologies is Windows Containers. Again, introduced with Server 2016 containers offer a lightweight route to running your applications. With the ability to easily move containers between machines deployments from development to testing and production become much simpler.

 

So, why do I think these are abandoned technologies or will become abandoned technologies.

 

The reason is that the majority of windows administrators don’t want to adopt these technologies. They either actively block them or passively ignore them.

 

Why does this happen? Look at the three technologies again – none of them have a GUI interface! Until Windows administrators fully embrace remote, automated administration techniques they will remain abandoned technologies.

 

The day of administrators who can’t, or won’t, automate is ending – slowly but surely the pressures to move to a more automated environment are growing. Maybe it’’ happen soon enough that server core, nano server and windows containers will stop being abandoned technologies.    

Is PowerShell just for administration?

Two related questions were left on my blog recently.

 

Is PowerShell just for administration?

Should I learn PowerShell, VBScript or cmd tools?

 

PowerShell was introduced as Microsoft’s automation engine for the Windows platform. It includes a scripting language, a shell and  the Integrated Scripting Environment (ISE). Other additions over the years have included Powershell workflows and Desired State Configuration.

The extension of PowerShell to Linux and Mac extends the administrative capabilities.

 

I would say that PowerShell  is primarily about the administration of Windows machines. This will be extended in time but at the moment its a Windows based administration tool.

 

Does that mean that its all you can do with it - Very definitely Not for example I recently wrote a script that would look at a large set of photos and move them into the correct folder based on the month they were created. Doing this by hand for a few photos is easy – for hundreds you need a script.

 

Over the years I’ve seen PowerShell code to do many non-administrator based things – for instance:

- manage and modify photos and videos

- play space invaders

- calculate the cooking time of a chicken given its weight

- work out the apparent temperature using air temperature, wind speed and altitude

- create web sites

 

PowerShell is .NET based which means you can work with just about the whole of the .NET framework in your PowerShell code. You can even write GUI applications in PowerShell if you want.

 

If you have a task that you perform on a Windows machine its very probable that a script could be written to perform that task. Creating the script may be very easy or very difficult but it should be possible.

 

If you want to do this sort of thing you need to:

- work out how to do the task manually

- break that down into a number of steps

- create the code to perform each step

- join it all together and test

 

If any one has suggestions for tasks they’d like to do leave a comment and I’ll see if I can suggest how you could do it

 

PowerShell or VBScript or cmd tools is fairly easy decision for me.  VBScript will receive no further development as far as I’m aware. The cmd tools are OK for specific jobs but don’t have the breadth that PowerShell does. CMD batch files are no where as caapble asa PowerShell script.

 

Learn PowerShell and use it as you want to make your computer use easier

Inertia rules

In this article https://powershell.org/2016/12/15/the-key-to-understanding-powershell-on-windows-or-linux/ Don Jones explains Windows administrators have difficulty explaining, and “selling” PowerShell to Linux admins.

 

I’ve known Don for quite a long time and He’ll be the first to tel we don’t agree on everything so It’ll be no surprise to learn that I disagree with parts of his argument.

 

I also think he’s missed one of the major factors – INERTIA!

 

Inertias can be defined, among other ways,  as a tendency to do nothing or remain unchanged. This is a property of a great many admins I’ve met usually wrapped around the phrase – “but we’ll always done it this way”

 

Inertia is a major governor in the Windows space with the majority of admins still not embracing PowerShell and automation – I’ve even heard “We’re too busy to automate” as an excuse.

 

People resist change. PowerShell represents change so its resisted. Inertia is being overcome in the Windows space and I suspect PowerShell will expand into the Linux space but not quickly. Linux admins have spent a long time learning to use their toolset and that inertia  isn’t going to be overcome quickly.

 

A few iterations of PowerShell through the open source and you might begin to see some traction. Until then inertia rules.

Easy and Expert

This is a very interesting article - https://powershell.org/2016/10/12/no-easy-button-for-configuration-management/.

The premise that there is no “easy” button in IT is spot on and fits with this quote from  Theodore Roosevelt:

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…”  

 

IT is constantly changing – new technologies, new techniques, and new ways of looking at the problems.

 

The only way to survive is to keep learning. If you don’t you become part of the problem.

 

One of the comments castigating the author of the for declaring themselves a “newbie” given the work they’d put into learning DSC also caught my eye. When does someone move from being a newbie to becoming competent or even an expert?

 

Its as much in the mind of your audience as anything. I’ve been using PowerShell since the days of the version 1 beta code and have written and spoken more about the subject than I care to remember. Does that make me an expert? Many people seem to think so but as far as I’m concerned I’m still learning. So is everyone else that I consider an expert. To misquote

“Expertise is in the eye of the beholder”

 

When things change or you move onto something new the newbie clock gets reset so we’re all really newbies. Another way to think about it is that an expert is a newbie that has been working with the technology just that little bit longer.

 

Be wary of self proclaimed experts. The true experts tend to just get on with it.

Too many Windows 10 releases????????

The last couple of days have seen some incredibly stupid headlines but one that caught my eye was someone from the “computer press” whining that there are too many releases of Windows 10.

 

Unbelievable

 

What part of the Windows Insider Preview program does this person not understand?

 

You have to sign up to get Windows Insider Previews!

 

You have a choice of the fast ring (all releases) or the slow ring (fewer releases).

 

if you don’t want new releases take your self off the program!

 

Bet we’d get whines that Microsoft wasn’t doing enough releases if they went back to 1 every three or more years.

 

Complain about technical problems by all means but something you signed up to do!

 

Needless to say I’ve dropped that feed

PowerShell certifications revisited

Years ago (seems like decades so much has happened) I published my view on PowerShell certification:

https://richardspowershellblog.wordpress.com/2008/11/17/powershell-certifications/

 

A recent comment on the post asked if I still felt the same way.

 

Its not a topic I’d thought about all that much to be honest but having reflected on the matter I still believe what I wrote back in 2008 – the world doesn’t need a PowerShell certification.

 

I’ve stated it many times and will keep stating it – PowerShell isn’t important. Its what you can do with it that matters.

 

Very few people are employed as full time creators of PowerShell code –even today. They are  employed as administrators of X (and often Y, Z, A and B etc etc).

 

PowerShell provides a tool to administer most of things in your Windows environment (and quite a few non-Windows items as well). Having a certification in the

 

PowerShell language won’t help you administer Windows, Active directory, Exchange, SQL Server, VMware or network switches. You need to know what you’re doing before you can automate it!!!

 

At recent PowerShell Summits we’ve run a VERIFIED EFFECTIVE exam. The pass rates have been abysmal – and that’s for people who attended a pre-conference workshop on the topic! See:

http://powershell.org/wp/2016/04/22/verified-effective-exam-results/

 

We won’t be offering the exam at the next Summit – the results don’t measure up to the effort put into it.

 

The world isn’t really ready for a PowerShell certification and I suspect that it never will be.

Everything is recycled

I was just thinking this morning about the DevOps phenomenon. When I started in IT it wasn’t unusual for people to do development work and operations – especially in smaller organisations.

 

Over the years this changed and specialisation became the name of the game – you were a C# developer or a java developer or a Windows admin or a network guy…

 

Now with DevOps being the flavour of the month the admin guy, or developer, who can at least have an intelligent conversation about the other guys issue’s is in big demand again.

 

The cynical side wonders how long before someone has the bright idea that separating developers to concentrate on development and ops staff to concentrate on admin stuff is more efficient Smile

The PowerShell year – 2013

This year has been a pretty good year for the PowerShell community. The highlights include:

  • PowerShell 4.0 becomes available
  • A very successful PowerShell Summit in April
  • A community hosted and judged Scripting Games – though as PowerShell is the only accepted language maybe a name change is needed?
  • PowerShell in Depth and PowerShell Deep Dives are published

The big ticket item in PowerShell 4.0 is Desired State Configuration. This functionality was extended at the end of the year with the publication of the  Desired State Configuration Resource Kit Wave 1 -  see the PowerShell team blog at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/powershell/archive/2013/12/26/holiday-gift-desired-state-configuration-dsc-resource-kit-wave-1.aspx

The most important part of the announcement is that it is wave 1 – meaning we should expect more DSC resources in the New Year.

Looking forward to 2014 what do we expect?

  • More DSC resources
  • 2014 Winter Scripting Games – this time we’re making them a team based event. Should be interesting
  • A PowerShell Summit in Seattle in April
  • A European PowerShell summit later in the year

Assuming you already know the PowerShell basics, or more, where should you be spending your PowerShell time in 2014?

If your work involves creating servers on a regular basis make sure you understand DSC

If you need to administer many servers – look to PowerShell workflow, PowerShell jobs and Scheduled jobs.  These options seem to have slipped out of the limelight lately.

Workflows are different – they use a PowerShell syntax but aren’t pure PowerShell. Some of the rules for using them are a bit strange and need some practice.

PowerShell jobs were introduced in PowerShell 2.0 but have always been overshadowed by remoting. The ability to run PowerShell jobs asynchronously and schedule them makes for a very powerful system for performing bulk tasks overnight.

The last recommendation for 2014 – learn more about CIM/WMI.  A significant fraction of the PowerShell functionality in Windows 8/2012 and later is built on WMI. If you don’t understand how it works you won’t get the best out of it. The OMI initiative is gaining traction which makes CIM an even more important technology to learn.

I’d also recommend experimenting with any of the areas of PowerShell you don’t know so well.

Finally, and most importantly, share what you learn with the rest of the PowerShell community - powershell.org is a very good place to start.

Future thoughts

I spent last night configuring a new Windows 8.1 device – finally retired my venerable HP laptop. One thing that struck me as I was working through the various installs was where my data was.  The last time I’d configured a new machine all of the data was held locally and I’d needed to copy the data onto the new machine. A cross over cable was used if I remember correctly.

This time the majority of my data is on my SkyDrive. Logging into Windows 8.1 with a Microsoft Live id means I get immediate access to SkyDrive content. SkyDrive is an integral part of Windows 8.1 rather than being an additional install.

The SkyDrive appeared. The configuration is good in that you can move the SkyDrive position on your local disk – open up the Location tab on the SkyDrive properties.

What did surprise me and start me thinking is that by default under Windows 8.1 SkyDrive data is not automatically downloaded to your local disk.  You get a stub file that when you click on it triggers the download of the contents. In previous versions as soon as you configured the SkyDrive app on your local machine it would start analysing your data and download.

Its easy enough to trigger a download for everything, or just some folders – right click the appropriate folder with your SkyDrive area on the local disk and select  Make available off-line.

 

This started me thinking – with SkyDrive defaulting to online content and Microsoft Office being able to save to SkyDrive – how long before all of our data is in the cloud. I wouldn’t be surprised to see future machines with much smaller disks than we assume are necessary today – enough to store the OS and applications. Though with web based Office applications available through Office 365 there could be a lot of people who only need a thin OS – sort of like a chrome book but that actually usable.

The only data you will store locally will be those files you are working on.

This change will require much better network support than we receive today. The broadband offerings in the UK are not up to supporting this approach and until there is consistent, fast broad band connectivity everywhere it will remain a pipe dream.