Where do you see your job in five years? Will your skills be necessary? Are you handling monitors and mice? Are you deploying applications with SMS? Have you heard of the Cloud? It took a generation for the writing on the wall to reach autoworkers, and we may have but a few years. Are you prepared?

Years ago, while working my first IT job, I met a tech installing our DSL line. He said ten years earlier he'd decided to work in hardware rather than software because, he reasoned, there'd be more work installing all that infrastructure. As hardware became cheaper and easier to install, he came to regret his decision. There he was, installing DSL alongside guys with a fraction of his experience . 

Until that conversation I thought NT 3.51 would always be. (Give me a break. I was new) Although I then understood that obsolescence was built into IT, I still didn't heed the lesson. Just when Microsoft released Windows 2000 and 99.99999 was all the rage, I set out to become a certified Novell engineer.

I've been more lucky than insightful in my career. I got into IT as a copy guy who volunteered to reboot the NetWare server so attorneys could print again. After years of second- and third-tier help desk, I landed a position as an application engineer without really knowing the job description. It's been in this position that I came to see the future more clearly.  

I saw the end of touching or fixing the PC: no more memory upgrade, replacing the hard disk, or installing a printer driver. The desktop will be delivered from a central location via VMware or Xen. If there's a problem with a PC, - a virus, say, or a misbehaving macro, or Docs Open won't launch - just reboot and a fresh image will be delivered from the server. The day of the dumb terminal is returning and all those folks fixing the CPU, ghosting an image, or installing print drivers will go elsewhere.  And fewer problems on the desktop will mean a smaller help desk staff.

Sounds like my little corner of the IT world is safe, right? I provide your unbreakable virtual desktop anywhere you sit. While you work, I'm preparing the new image for tomorrow. Yes, it's safe until I consider where the server and the desktop will be hosted. If it's hosted on my side of the firewall, then I'm fine. But if my firm decides to have Legal Cloud or Amazon host our data - well, that's a different story. Currently the structure isn't in place to support hosted desktops, applications and profiles, but it's on it's way. And if the data is hosted externally, then there goes most of the in-house network engineers.

Of course there are so many variables, and obviously the further we try to project, the more blurred the future becomes.  For example, if the Internet breaks tomorrow for a certain segment due to ConfikerC or some other attack, outsourcing the data center is dead in the water. Or Congress may legislate no overseas outsourcing of American data because of a war or some other crisis. We can't begin to guess what may happen. Who would have thought that a steam pipe explosion in midtown Manhattan would cost businesses on that block five days of work? Offices and the data were ready, but no one could enter their buildings. The episode added a whole new wrinkle to disaster recovery. 

Now project that steam pipe explosion globally if the H1M1 pandemic keeps information workers home and we've got a whole new view of data delivery. Perhaps all critical apps will be delivered via your Blackberry or iPhone,

I'm not so presumptions as to say what's going to happen, but ever since the 80s we've heard the American auto industry was a dinosaur. The warnings gave the savvy autoworker time to retrain and move on. We don't often get such obvious flags, but change is coming to IT, and we all need to measure where we stand when it comes. The savvy among us will retrain and move on.

To answer my question: In five years I see myself administering in a cloud that provides data centers and secure desktops to law firms.

-- Dino Londis