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Study: IT pros struggle with increasingly complex infrastructure

A SolarWinds survey cites infrastructure complexity, lack of skill and increased participation as challenges IT professionals face today.

"Bring your own everything" (BYOX), mobility and cloud computing are the emerging technologies judged most disruptive to IT organizations, according to a survey of IT professionals released last month. Midsize companies were the most bedeviled by BYOX while small companies were the most affected by changes in mobility. Cloud computing was identified as most disruptive by larger enterprises.

Among other results, SolarWinds' New IT Survey found that more than nine out of 10 IT professionals agree that an increasingly complex infrastructure has affected their roles over the past three to five years. Of the total, 52% said technology changes "greatly affected" their responsibilities, with another 42% reporting that complex architectures and topologies have "somewhat affected" their role.

"We're hearing a lot of, 'My life is changing. I'm being asked questions that I don't have answers for, and I'm being asked to play a more strategic role than before,'" said Suaad Sait, SolarWinds' executive vice president of products and markets. "The complexity that it's creating is tremendous. IT pros are trying to chase a car moving 100 miles per hour, and they are on foot."

Sait said that since technology is becoming more and more important to business, IT pros have to keep up -- especially since there is no foreseeable plateau. "Is this tremendous velocity going to slow down where we can actually consume and inhale the change?" he said. "I really don't think so. The economics have changed so dramatically. It's making it easier for people to invent new things at a much faster pace than ever before. I don't think we are set up for any type of plateau in the near future."

Adding to the challenge is a worrisome skills shortage, Sait said. Cloud management is a good example.

Sait explained that organizations want to know how the cloud will impact the business and how to implement it in a way that is managed in its service-level agreements. Even questions like what to put or not put in the cloud are important. Yet, Sait said, there's no such thing as "the cloud."

"People say 'the cloud,' but there is no such thing as the cloud," Sait said. "There are about 10,000 units behind it to make decisions around and you have to be able to use it in an effective way. For IT professionals who are working in an increasingly complex and fast-paced environment, the skills are just not present today."

That's where training and testing comes in, Sait said. "What IT pros have to take upon themselves is their own curiosity to go learn. It's important to hang out in peer groups and talk to each other. Try out technology and test it. The important thing to note is that gone are the days where there is a command interface. You have to play with the products to understand them."

IT pros also said they wanted additional training and support to forge a better understanding of their employers' overall business objectives to provide the guidance and assistance they are increasingly being asked to provide. The study indicated that 99% of survey-takers contribute to discussions about corporate goals and objectives -- at least occasionally. But in order to provide the level of expertise they believe they must possess, more than half said they would like additional training in their area of responsibility, and 40% said they need a better understanding of corporate goals.

The SolarWinds survey, conducted last November, polled 298 IT practitioners, managers and directors in the United States and Canada from both public and private sector companies.

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What do you think about Sait's advice to engage in peer-to-peer learning? Effective solution? Why or why not?