A Cloud-Inspired Cultural Shift in IT: New Roles for Developers and Engineers (Dell IT Cloud Journey Series)

In a previous blog, I talked about the four key steps to delivering self-service IT infrastructure so users can consume what they need in your cloud environment without involving infrastructure engineers in the process. Which leads to next logical question—what then will infrastructure experts be doing with all that freed-up capacity?

The answer is plenty, but not without another kind of major shift. Transitioning infrastructure delivery to a software-defined, self-service process requires substantial cultural adjustment for infrastructure engineers and developers alike.

Traditional infrastructure experts must shift from taking user orders, implementing requested infrastructure and maintaining it to instead writing code to provide self-service infrastructure, while understanding supply chain and stocking concepts like a retail store. That means infrastructure engineers must become infrastructure developers, creating the software to deliver hardware services. They have to write professional software code instead of just writing scripts.

In today’s fast-changing IT world, their newly evolved skills and the innovation they can provide further up the stack are vital to delivering the experience users demand.

Traditional developers, in turn, need to take on the responsibility of managing their infrastructure use (see my previous blog) by analyzing integration performance, capacity and cost. They need to learn to put in perspective the normal fluctuation in infrastructure performance within committed service level expectations and focus on application performance regardless of infrastructure.

Parallel to getting our infrastructure ready for self-service, we have also been working to get developers to adopt the same set of tools, such as continuous integration and continuous delivery (CICD), and to move their source code to our unified source code repositories and CICD pipeline tools.

Shaping These New Roles

Dell Digital is providing both groups of professionals with education and discussion forums to address these cultural changes.

One successful approach for the Infrastructure Platform Engineering team has been to have a group of team members focused on the developer and their needs. They are ensuring a partnership with developers/application owners to help build that next-generation infrastructure experience.

We are also reinforcing the message that we are making a modern infrastructure that looks a lot like what public cloud operators offer, which is great for our users and for our infrastructure experts as well. Making the shift from the traditional infrastructure tasks to newer roles in that modern structure will make them more valuable in today’s IT world.

Moving to Bigger Challenges

A common concern is that traditional infrastructure experts are transforming themselves out of a job. That worry, however, just isn’t valid.

While the shift means the infrastructure engineers’ role is changing and they won’t be doing traditional implementation tasks, that transition will in fact free them up to use their expertise to solve far more important infrastructure challenges to bring value to the business. They will be able to advance automating processes and making it easier for users to access the latest versions of software technology, for instance.

Shifting to a software delivery methodology for infrastructure is unlikely to reduce demand for infrastructure engineering. On the contrary, it will enhance the value of that skill in today’s changing IT market.

Like much of our cloud journey at Dell Digital and across the industry, the transformation of IT service will continue to evolve as the needs of the business keep changing.

Find out more about how Dell is reimaging how IT does business at Dell Technologies: Our Digital Transformation.

About the Author: Kevin Herrin

As Vice President of Dell Digital’s (Dell’s IT organization) Infrastructure Platform & Engineering organization, Kevin Herrin is responsible for global data center, platform, database, public and private cloud, network, voice, and call center telephony infrastructures. He is also responsible for the financial management of those infrastructure platforms. Kevin is a strategic, multi-dimensional technology executive, with a proven track record of delivering profitable growth and organizational impact through large-scale, disruptive technology and its business applications. He is an energetic change agent and visionary respected for his skills in structuring and growing complex teams, operating in chaotic environments, and developing relationships with colleagues, clients and executives. Prior to joining Dell, Kevin was founder and CEO of Technology Pathfinders Consulting, a consulting firm offering client organizations DevOps, Cloud Engineering and Transformation, and Operational Optimization. He has also held a variety of engineering and leadership roles at Virtustream, EMC, VMware and AT&T.