Being an IT Pro is a bit different to other careers in that many of the job skills you have today will be outdated and maybe even irrelevant in ten years time. Today’s cutting edge is tomorrow’s assumed knowledge. Here are five technologies that Windows Server IT Pros should get familiar with as they are likely to become very important in the next five years in the way that virtualization came out of nowhere to become a core infrastructure technology in the last decade.
In some cases, these technologies have been around for a while, in other cases the technology is brand spanking new and getting understanding of how it works allows you to get in at the ground floor.
Desired State Configuration / Chef / Puppet
Configuration as code doesn’t necessarily make much sense until you’ve seen it work. Once you’ve seen it work, you’ll understand why it’s a technology that’s going to quickly dominate how we deploy and manage server configuration in the coming years. Desired State Configuration is the way you would do it with PowerShell once version 5 comes out. Chef and Puppet are third party offerings that allow you to do similar things in terms of Configuration as Code, but not just across Windows Server, but across Linux servers as well.
Docker / Hyper-V Containers / Windows Server Containers
Containerization is being built into Windows Server 2016. If that doesn’t give you an idea of how important Microsoft thinks it is, nothing will. Containerization allows you to run siloed workloads. Rather than running a virtualized OS and an application, you can just virtualize the application and run it with other virtualized applications either on Windows Server or on a straight Hyper-V instance. There are thematic similarities to the way that App-V works, but once you start digging into containerization, you’ll understand that isn’t the whole story.
Server 2016 / Nano Server
Currently in technical preview. You should be thinking about Server 2016 and the newest version of Windows Server, Nano Server, not because you will necessarily deploy them the day they come out, but that if you are a Windows Server Administrator, you’re going to get around to deploying them in production at some stage in the next few years. You should definitely be keeping an eye on Nano Server as even though the technology is in a very preliminary state, the changes that this technology will bring to the way you deploy Server workloads in the medium term are likely to be substantial.
For some, this is a no brainer. Office 365 has been around for a while and more and more organizations, especially those in the small and medium sized business category have or are planning to make the switch from traditional Small Business Server type deployments to Office 365. If you aren’t familiar with Office 365 and you are responsible for looking after Exchange or SharePoint and have let your skills drift, spin up an Enterprise E3 trial and see what it can do. You don’t need to shift to Office 365 from your current on-prem deployment, but you should know what it does.
Azure is another one of those things that seem quite obvious to those who have used it, but remains a bit of a mystery to those that haven’t. The key to dipping your toe into the cloud is understanding that it isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. There is some stuff that it makes perfect sense to run in Azure and other stuff that you want to keep on-prem. I’ve met many IT Pros that are only passingly familiar with Azure. You’ll only understand where it makes sense to keep workloads on-prem or whether it makes sense to migrate them to the cloud if you have a good working knowledge of what opportunities are available with each technology.