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United States IT

Half of U.S. I.T. Operations Jobs to Vanish 625

Posted by samzenpus
from the learn-a-trade dept.
Ant writes "A MacCentral article says Gartner, Inc. researchers believe that as many as 50 percent of the IT operational jobs in the U.S. could disappear over the next two decades because of improvements in data center technologies. Donna Scott, a Gartner analyst, said IT workers face a situation similar to that in the manufacturing field, which has lost jobs over the past several decades as automation has improved. Similarly, standardization of IT infrastructure, applications and processes will lead to productivity improvements and a major shift in skill needs, she said."
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Half of U.S. I.T. Operations Jobs to Vanish

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  • by Nine Tenths of The W (829559) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:01PM (#10969621)
    Is that a new way of saying outsourced to India?
    • by Fiz Ocelot (642698) <baelzharon@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:05PM (#10969666)
      No actually the goal would be to eliminate the need to even outsource at all, as you don't need that many people. It will eventually be achieved, just look at how farming and manufacturing has moved. Always towards higher efficiancy. Simply outsourcing isn't exactly efficient.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:13PM (#10969757)
        This happens in other industries as well. Your manufacturing example is a great one. Interestingly, China lost more manufacturing jobs during the past 5 years than the US did. Where did they go? Not to India. They jobs simply went away thanks to improved automation.

        This is pretty scary; since it's likely that in our lifetimes computers+robots will be better than Humans in _most_ jobs including

        • all military jobs (fighter pilot, tank driver, battlefiled strategy
        • most construction jobs (welding on bridges & highrises; home building, etc)
        • all manufacturing jobs (cars, chips, etc)
        • most desk-based service jobs (phone answering, 1st level customer support via voice recognition & support lookup tables)
        • many retail jobs (self service checkouts are becommingn common; we have gas stations with zero attendants here, etc)
        • drug design and testing -- computers can match gene databases, simulate protien folding, run stastics, analyze samples, etc better than we
        and as soon as a computer becomes a better programmer than a person, the gap will speed up very quickly

        I wouldn't be surprised if there are simply no jobs to go around.

        • by Eskarel (565631) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:29PM (#10969939)
          1) Military jobs, if you think that AI is going to be good enough to have computers acting as soldiers any time soon then you either have a really unrealistic view of AI develop or you have an incredibly disrespect for what it takes to be a soldier. Added to that no one is going to trust intelligent robots with guns for a very long time. The military will probably end up using machines more rather than less(possibly to their detriment but that's another topic), but they'll still have to be controlled by someone.

          2, 3) Construction and Manufacturing. Possibly though again AI is a long way off. I think this may eventually happen though.

          4, 5) Service jobs are a bad idea for automation. It could be done, but won't be in anything but the cheapest of places. People want to buy from other people, get support from other people(preferably ones who speak their native language). I think it will be tried in a few places, but eventually companies will work out that people hate it and only places which would have paid you minimum wage will use it.

          6) Drug testing. Unless you know something I don't this isn't even close to ready yet either. Drugs still need to be tested on people to see what actually happens as opposed to what is supposed to happen, and that requires a doctor, there is no script for doctor which works 100% of the time, if there were anyone could do it. As for research, as c omputers are not particularly good at innovation(seeing something other than what they're specifically testing for) it wouldn't be a very efficient process.

          The jobs which get replaced are jobs which require repetetive manual labor(robots), or which can be predicted entirely and do not deal with people(scripts).

          In general it is a fallacy to believe technology is the solution to every problem, or that it ever will be or should be. There is value in having a person do a job, even a job which you think is pointless and stupid, because people want to deal with other people.

          • I agree, in that it's actually going to create more jobs, and those jobs will be better-paying.

            ... or would anybody rather have Mabel manually switching your phone calls? Sure, she's been replaced by a computer, but this was a good thing.

            Oh, and I won't stand in line to scan my own groceries.

            The computer, far from killing off jobs as was once predicted, has created jobs. Just look at its' side-effects in the book-publishing industry. Or the reams and reams of paper used in what was supposed to be the "pa

        • by Amiga Trombone (592952) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @11:18PM (#10970748)
          I wouldn't be surprised if there are simply no jobs to go around.

          I don't know that jobs will be eliminated, but they may change. When I first got into IT in the late 1970s, you needed a shift of about 20 people just to run a mainframe. People to monitor the console, people to mount the tapes, people to run the printers, etc. Eventually most of those jobs were eliminated, i.e. automated tape libraries replaced tape handlers, online archival systems largely replaced the need to print massive reports, and automation software determined what jobs to run when and checked for error conditions. Everybody thought that was the end of having a career in IT.

          But that was back in the '80s, before the tech boom of the '90s. True, there weren't as many jobs running mainframes, but plenty of new jobs opened up such as LAN and Unix admins, network techs, security specialists, etc. Instead of jobs being eliminated, suddenly there were more jobs than there were people to fill them.

          If you're just going to sit on your ass and expect make a career out of what you're doing now, then you'll probably be out of a job eventually (ask any COBOL programmer or tape handler from the '80s). But if you keep learning new skills as technology evolves, you'll probably always have a job. When I first moved from mainframes to Unix in the early '90s, Unix systems were fairly primitive and required a lot of massaging. Now that they've evolved to the point where they've acquired nearly mainframe like reliability, they need less admins to support, but on the other hand you have new ancillary technologies like SAN's that also require specialized knowledge to manage. These days, I spend more time on SAN management than I do on Unix administration proper.

          I've been through this before. Remember, even if they replace the administrator with management automation, someone has to admin the management automation too. Make sure that someone is you.
      • by AKnightCowboy (608632) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @10:57PM (#10970582)
        No actually the goal would be to eliminate the need to even outsource at all, as you don't need that many people. It will eventually be achieved, just look at how farming and manufacturing has moved. Always towards higher efficiancy. Simply outsourcing isn't exactly efficient.

        Besides, this is a GOOD thing. This will free up more of our time to devote to entertainment and learning. Granted, we will need a major cultural and economic shift towards a system where the state provides equal access to resources for all whether you are employed or not, but that is not a big deal. Imagine a world where the only people that have to work are those that WANT to work and the rest of us can sit and play games or read books or watch TV all day and not worry about where the food will come from or the housing will come from. It will be provided by the government.

        • This is the spector of "obsolesence" to be held
          over those countries that now have the USA's
          outsourced IT jobs -- in 15 - 20 years, they, too,
          will be looking for new employment (if they don't
          keep their pricing structure competitive with
          what the market will be "willing" to pay.)

          I would be very happy for the (parent) to tell
          me exactly how "entertainment and learning" will
          be "gainful employment". The last time I checked,
          the USA was making a decidedly right wing turn
          away from the public social safety net, popu
        • And that reminds me of one of my favorite dilbert cartoons...

          "Today Asok the intern learns that life is not like 'Star Trek'."

          I would like this sort of world myself, but unfortunately I think Paramount got it right... it's gonna take a couple hundred years.

        • Sounds like the UK and the dole. I know they arn't as easy going now, but I knew an english family about 10 years back, who lived here in South Africa while recieving the dole from the UK goverment. What with the low cost of living, and the strength of the pound, they lived quite well, and never worked.

          Unfortunately, it turns out that isn't a good thing. In England, the people on the dole more often than not spend it at the local pub rather than studying and improving themselves. As it turns out, in a syst
    • by Anonymous Coward
      In twenty years time, India will be considered too expensive. Maybe Afghanistan will be the hot new outsourcing destination by then...
  • Ummm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jav1231 (539129) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:01PM (#10969628)
    Gartner, whose wrong on so many other fronts, is going to get this right?
  • Helpdesk (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fembots (753724) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:02PM (#10969634) Homepage
    Outsourcing aside, helpdesk is probably a IT-related job that can never be automated, no?
    • Re:Helpdesk (Score:5, Funny)

      by Phleg (523632) <stephen@touset. o r g> on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:15PM (#10969771)
      Of course it can be automated. We just need to automate users first. Possibly with a small shell script.
    • Re:Helpdesk (Score:2, Insightful)

      by JanneM (7445)
      It is starting to be automated already, in several ways.

      First, recognize that most work is at the first tier - people reading scripts, mostly ("Is it plugged in? Is the switch in the 'ON' position? Have you actually checked? Please check again now, sir."). We are seeing the start of real synthetic telehpone operation in other areas (seems every train and airline company has such a system for booking today). It's likely a matter of not too many years before it is used - and used fairly well - in preference
  • 10 to 20 years (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrRTFM (740877) * on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:03PM (#10969640) Journal
    Don't panic - this in 10-20 years time. If we are still fucking around reinventing the wheel (scripts, repeated processes, crappy hardware, patching CRAP software, etc.. then I will be amazed, and dissappointed.

    It just means we will be doing other IT related stuff.

    • It just means we will be doing other IT related stuff.

      Right on. People always affraid of jobs disappearing and often forget that there is always new jobs being created. It is called progress. Every major labor saving invention puts people out of job. But it frees them up to do something new.

      -Em
      • Re:10 to 20 years (Score:5, Interesting)

        by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld.gmail@com> on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:22PM (#10969856) Homepage
        Right on. People always affraid of jobs disappearing and often forget that there is always new jobs being created. It is called progress. Every major labor saving invention puts people out of job. But it frees them up to do something new.

        Tell that to people in the rust belt who lost their manufacturing jobs in the 70s and haven't found a replacement in 30 years. A lot of people just struggle on through multiple low-paying, benefit-less job, service industry jobs, putting spouses and family members to work, government assistance, and just plain adopting a significantly lower standard of living. You all want that? Judging by the comments I see on slashdot, it looks like it.

        Wake up. Jobs don't magically appear when needed. A large number of you are gonna be screwed when automation and outsourcing leaves you in your 40s and 50s without a job. You'd better pray social security's still around then, but that's kind of a slim hope.

        Of course, it doesn't matter to me, I moved out of the IT field into something that can't be outsourced so easily. But I just don't like what's going to happen to all my old friends and coworkers when the industry bottoms out.

        Oh no, you're saying, if you're smart you'll find a way to adapt. Not necessarily. When 100,000 jobs become 10,000, maybe 10,000 people are going to manage to get by, but what about the other 90,000? "Finding a niche" doesn't always work, and a lot of very smart people can lose out just through chance.

        Don't believe me? Prior to the 90s intelligence and technical brilliance more often got you a job at Radio Shack than at IBM. There are generations of people with your natural talents who were unable to find their "niche" just because it didn't really exist.
        • Tell that to people in the rust belt who lost their manufacturing jobs in the 70s and haven't found a replacement in 30 years.

          Screw that! What about all the people who lost their jobs when the buggy whip industry when belly up? They still haven't found a replacement in 100 years.
        • Re:10 to 20 years (Score:4, Insightful)

          by bnenning (58349) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @10:54PM (#10970564)
          Tell that to people in the rust belt who lost their manufacturing jobs in the 70s and haven't found a replacement in 30 years.

          That's unfortunate, but what do you want to do about it, forbid technological advancement so they can keep their jobs at the expense of everyone else? Economic progress hurts some people, but society as a whole benefits.

          A large number of you are gonna be screwed when automation and outsourcing leaves you in your 40s and 50s without a job. You'd better pray social security's still around then, but that's kind of a slim hope.

          If I actually need a job by the time I'm in my 50s, I'll have screwed up royally somewhere. Compound interest and dollar cost averaging are your friends. You really can take responsibility for your own life.

          Of course, it doesn't matter to me, I moved out of the IT field into something that can't be outsourced so easily. But I just don't like what's going to happen to all my old friends and coworkers when the industry bottoms out.

          If your doomsday scenario occurs, they can do the same thing you did. This is not the first time the job market has shifted. Most Americans were farmers not that many generations ago. Millions and millions "lost" those jobs due to industrialization, and we're far better off for it.
          • Re:10 to 20 years (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Gannoc (210256) on Thursday December 02, 2004 @12:14AM (#10971155)
            If I actually need a job by the time I'm in my 50s, I'll have screwed up royally somewhere. Compound interest and dollar cost averaging are your friends. You really can take responsibility for your own life.

            That was such an outrageous thing to say, I decided to actually do the math.
            Assuming that:

            1) You started to save at 25. (Most people don't)
            2) You expect to live until 85.
            3) You want to retire at 55
            4) A real growth rate of 5%, which is generous. (Real growth is growth after inflation. See http://www.internet2.edu/~shalunov/stock-market/ for historical examples)

            You'd have to save and invest 26% of your income to retire and maintain your existing lifestyle. With a 4% real growth rate, which is very possible if our economy loses several high paying jobs, you're looking at needing to save 36% of your income.

    • Re:10 to 20 years (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cubicledrone (681598) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:11PM (#10969742)
      Don't panic - this in 10-20 years time.

      About the time current graduates start applying for home loans.
    • And even if they fix it all, don't worry! The jokes on them. If they fire everyone whose going to buy all of there stuff?
      • People in other countries. The way it's shaping up now 40 years from now you're going to see a globally oriented class system. Every country, 1st world or 3rd world will have 60% poor-lower class, 30% middle class, 9% upper class, and 1% ultrarich.

        Those managers doing the automating and outsourcing will do just fine.
    • by eclectro (227083) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:23PM (#10969870)
      It just means we will be doing other IT related stuff.

      Like operating the point-of-sale terminal at the local Piggly Wiggly [pigglywiggly.com]???
    • I'm not even sure you will be doing other stuff. I remember, when I was starting to earn a living as a programmer, how everybody was predicting the end of the profession due to CASE tools.

      Many years later I still program for a living. Not much has changed expect that the IDEs have gotten better (or rather been invented - and now I'm dating myself). So I guess you might be right about having moved past scripting and continual patching, but I wouldn't even bet on that.

    • Re:10 to 20 years (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Usquebaugh (230216) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:31PM (#10969956)
      Why should the next 20 be different from the last 20?

      Having almost got 20 years as a developer I can see no change in mind set amongst IT workers or Senior executives that would allow for any improvement in efficiency.

      So in 20 years :-
      I'll be using some new and improved language that is still no better than Smalltalk or C.
      I'll be working on some hardware that can process everything faster but still get's nothing done.
      My customers will still be customising rather than configuring software.
  • by Turn-X Alphonse (789240) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:04PM (#10969650) Journal
    If it's anything like the systems the UK government use then we'll be fine. We'll all become tech support staff!
  • by Skyshadow (508) * on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:06PM (#10969669) Homepage
    Okay, seriously, how the heck do you make *any* predictions about what's going to be happening in the computing industry 20 years from now? This seems like a definate "in other news, 84% of statistics are made up on the spot" item.

    Think about trying to predict 2004 back in '84. PCs were just starting to take off, Al Gore was just starting to bury the first fiber connections that would become the internet, IBM was going to be the big power in personal computing...

    Nobody could have foreseen that we'd all be selling the shit out of our basements on eBay, listening to huge music libraries on devices the size of a deck of cards and spending our work days trolling Slashdot?

    C'mon, Garner, who are we trying to fool here?

  • Bugs (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:06PM (#10969670)
    Don't worry ... I'm busy adding countless bugs and security flaws....send more beer and I'll try harder.
  • by oliveaddict (784716) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:07PM (#10969685) Homepage
    Damn, I am going to be replaced by my own shell script.
  • Wait.... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Stupidhead (834364)
    You mean to tell me that the .COM boom is finished?
  • ... in its past predictions.

    [laughing out loud]

    In July 2003, Gartner predicted 10% of all IT jobs (at vendors) and 5% in enterprises would disappear by December 2004 [internetnews.com]. When they show the data on how accurate THAT prediction was, I'll consider being worried about the new results from their dart board.

    • Obviously you don't think that the IT jobs have left, but Sykes closed down its relatively large IT call center in Manhattan, KS. Thankfully someone else bought it, but for a short while it looked as though there was yet another wage depressing factor in Small Town America. But the possibility is certainly there!

      How do you think the job market will look if oracle or Ellison simply bought Peoplesoft and closed shop? Certainly in the short term, there'd be some demand for transitional consultants. But I have
  • by Gadzinka (256729) <rrw@hell.pl> on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:08PM (#10969696) Journal
    There's nothing (short of AI) that can make infrastructure set up and maintain itself, so I'll believe it when I see it. Or perhaps they have Windows Longhorn in mind, in which case I'd say they are rather optimistic predicting that it will be ready in 20 years.

    Robert
  • by whatthef*ck (215929) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:08PM (#10969706) Homepage
    "I want to choose my words carefully here, so I'm not misunderstood," he said. [64.233.161.104] "They're a bunch of fucking idiots."

  • No (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cubicledrone (681598) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:08PM (#10969708)
    because of improvements in data center technologies.

    No. It's because business finds it much more convenient to unfairly require employees to compete constantly for their own jobs. The workplace is now a sour, hostile, toxic environment for everyone except management and shareholders.

    Everyone else: customers, employees, vendors, neighborhoods, the community and government, have to pay double and triple in the form of higher prices, constant irritating advertising, shitty quality, poor service, dirty stores, empty shelves, lost tax revenue and rude employees.

    Employers have responsibilities beyond their earnings. Few are meeting them.
  • Although performance improvements will reduce the need for staff on a per computer basis, but the demand for computing resources will continue to increase resulting in what will probably be a net loss of zero.

    It always interesting how a report can look at 1 contributing factor and ignore all the others when drawing a conclusion.
  • by Rogue Leader (786192) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:11PM (#10969736)
    As a Data Center Operator (OS/390 mainframe), I have to chime in on this one. That big, black monolith always needs someone baby-sitting it. Major problems are rare, but there's enough little stuff happening around the clock to warrant attention. And if your organization is anything like mine, they are brainwashed by vendors *cough(Siemens)cough* and are migrating from those rock solid boxes from Big Blue to an array of Win2k servers running MS SQL. yes, it scares me too. But it's only for the main Clinical system for the region's leading hospital; what could go wrong. Anyone in the know, can tell you that will be more support-intensive.
    • I myself feel that a decent part of the implosion in the amount of IT jobs available is a direct result of too many fresh-faced kids putting "system administrator" on their resumes when really they only qualify as operators. And operators of fairly unsophisticated systems, at that -- sure, z/OS systems "run themselves" most of the time, but let's see you put a 21-year-old Linux geek in charge of a mainframe.
  • Unless they plan on running that Datacenter with advanced AI, they have another thing coming. Not only can the servers and software screw up, but so can the machines running them.

    An assembly line is one thing. But a datacenter is another thing altogether. Isn't heat and airflow an issue at datacenters? Wouldn't making things automated result in more heat because of all the machinery invovled?
  • to anyone here in the IT biz. Maybe it's something the IT people here have buried their heads in the sand about it, but anyone who sits on their laurels (knowledge) in the IT industry is bound to be finding their position slowly eroded away by the improvements in tech.

    One upside to the new/improving tech eroding the need for IT jobs that springs to mind is the opportunity for someone to start a 'Personal Technologist' business. Anyone who can master Blackberrys, PDAs, iPods/mp3 players, etc would be in b
  • by Nova Express (100383) <lawrenceperson.gmail@com> on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:15PM (#10969783) Homepage Journal
    Remember the glorious days of manual switchboards? Roughly 98% of those jobs disappared. Oddly enough, however, the telephone industry didn't reduce its overall workforce by 98%. As technology elimiates old jobs, new ones are created for new technologies. By 2024, major jobs for Slashdot readers might include immersive holographic engineer and "wranglers" for self-evolving computer code.

    And as for the Gartner Group predicting the future of IT two decades from now, who died and made them Hari Seldon? Predicting 2004 in 1984 probably sounded a whole lot like "IBM and AT&T dominate the personal computer market, PCs have reached almost 30% of people's homes, most PCs come with a 500 MHz RISC chip or higher, with over a megabyte of memory and a blazing fast 16K modem! The sales of software giants Borland, Ashton-Tate and Lotus exceed $2 billion annually." Etc. You just can't predict the future of technology with anything remotely like accuracy that far out.

    • by upsidedown_duck (788782) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:34PM (#10969976)
      You just can't predict the future of technology with anything remotely like accuracy that far out.

      If we could predict technology that far out, it also implies we could predict the stock market that far out. Given that no one can generally predict a stock even for today, just one day, means this Gartner report exists only to make themselves feel important.

      I hate to pee on analysts, but I don't listen to you at all. I look at stock estimates and think, "what do they know that I don't?" Generally, not much. It seems a person can be more successful simply following supply and demand trends than any other method. Doing better requires intimate insider knowledge, which no one has on any appreciable scale.

      So, I conclude, Gartner are a bunch of analyst weenies.
  • Not on my watch. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bug-Y2K (126658) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:16PM (#10969784) Homepage


    I actually manage a small datacenter [forest.net]. One thing I have learned after 10 years in the Internet Server hosting and colocation game is SERVICE is what sets you apart from competitors. The big .com era hosting superstars (exodus, colo.com, etc) all built their datacenters with the concept of "lights out" and "reboot button monkeys" for (skeleton) staff. Where are they now?


    So long as software is wriiten by flawed [microsoft.com] humans and small business clients need to have smart people on-call to assist them when they delete files, or bork their server again... datacenters will require support staff.


    If you ever call our support number and get some guy in Bangalore answering the phone, you will know that I'm dead... 'cause until then, I'm hiring geeks - right here. Thank you.

  • Give me a break (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SamMichaels (213605) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:16PM (#10969786)
    Data center automation is removing the need for people.....I'll buy that.

    However, the number of computer users in the country is drastically increasing each year. Jobs vanishing? I don't think so.

    Instead of making $30/hr sitting in a NOC, go out and make $50/hr removing spyware. Duh.
  • by rewt66 (738525) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:17PM (#10969793)
    If we have as many systems as I think we're going to have in 20 years, and one person can still only effectively manage the same number of systems as they can now, we're going to have big problems.

    Really, even if they are 100% right, this is not a bad thing. The less-capable half of sysadmins will have to find something more useful to do. I say "more useful" because, from the larger view, the view of the economy as a whole, IT people are mostly wasted. They don't produce anything (well, they do design and roll out networks, but most of their work is to keep our incredibly brittle systems from falling apart. It would be less wasteful to make less brittle systems.)

  • by MrWa (144753) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:17PM (#10969798) Homepage
    So...where are the comparisons to buggy whip makers and obosoleted or inefficient workers when it comes to IT workers?

    If the technology or cheaper labor exists, shouldn't businesses make use of them - just as the music industry should make use of new technology and not depend on legislation to save a dying business model?

  • 1984 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Snorklefish (639711)
    From the article:
    ...as many as 50 percent of the IT operational jobs in the U.S. could disappear over the next two decades because of improvements in data center technologies.
    To put this in perspective, imagine someone predicting the rise of the commercial internet, the dotcom bubble and its bust... all in 1984.
  • by zorkmid (115464) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:18PM (#10969807)
    and the ever elusive "they" were saying this way back then.

    About coding (Joe user would just describe what he wanted done to the computer and wah-lah. It would program itself).

    About Databases.

    And about sys admin.

    Eventually, if they keep yammering out this prediction, they'll may be right.

    I'm not holding my breath though.
  • .. but all the same.. don't you ever wonder.. with all the productivity benefits the new technology brings why is it that we seem to be working harder for longer for less benefits, less pay and less holidays than we ever did before..

    It's really about time we started to seriously question what it's all for people..

  • Outsourcing may be a major reason for the loss of IT jobs, but I think there are other major factors. As laymen get more technologically aware BOFH type abuses by IT are becoming harder to get away with, and, as a result, IT staffing is shrinking to more reasonable levels. I'm not trying to troll here, but IT in many ways is a solution that creates its own problem in order to create job security, some examples:

    Windows vs. Linux or Mac on the desktop:

    Don't use Window's and massively decrease workload a

  • by nwbvt (768631) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:21PM (#10969850)
    The headline says "Half of US IT Operations Jobs to Vanish". What does that sound like? Some event is about to happen that will wipe out 50% of IT operations jobs.

    The summary reveals this is a prediction by someone about what types of jobs will be available decades from now. To put this in context, consider what types of jobs were available 20 years ago.

    Read the article and you learn these numbers are disputed by other experts.

    What would be so wrong with this more realistic headline:
    "Controversial Study Predicts Decline in US IT Operations by 50%"?

    Sigh...

  • by zymurgy_cat (627260) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:22PM (#10969857) Homepage
    I've got the impression that Donna Scott has never worked in a factory or in manufacturing. Yes, automation has eliminated jobs, but that's not the reason manufacturing has been hit so hard over the years. It's cheaper labor overseas and being crushed in the quality game by other countries.

    While automation can improve productivity, it's never the magic bullet or "paradigm-shifting" force people claim it to be. At best, it's good for dangerous or incredibly routine tasks. It's also good for high tolerance applications (ie, laser cutting sheet steel to within 0.0001").

    But when it comes to assembling complex parts or performing tasks which can vary from product to product, you still need a human brain to do the work. I fail to see how the analogy holds for IT.
  • In many of the data centers that I visit, people are working on the floor with the sole purpose of doing mundane tasks such as rebooting computers and reloading operating systems.

    This can be automated. Items such as remote management hardware are only getting cheaper. Technologies such as IPMI will replace the need to even have secondary remote management networks.

    As technology improves and gets less expensive, less people will be required to do these mundane tasks.

    This makes complete sense that there wi
  • Historically.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LordOfYourPants (145342) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:25PM (#10969892)
    Just out of curiosity, is this the first time in our history that a group of workers have put themselves out of business by collectively creating tools to put themselves out of business?

    It seems like a fine line in definition between 1) being supplanted by new technology to automate things you were doing before and 2) putting yourself out of work by doing your job well.

    This isn't like a loom being created by someone else to put knitters out of business, this is like a knitter knitting a loom that could, in turn, knit other sweaters or auto-generate looms or something along those lines.
    • Re:Historically.. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mochan_s (536939)
      Well, in that regard doctors shouldn't cure their patients. If they are cured then the doctor's services are no longer needed! I think the workers have created tools so that they don't have to repeatedly do tedious processes over and over again.
  • by Magickcat (768797) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:31PM (#10969954)
    The IT market in Australia is dying already, and never recovered after 9/11 and the dot.com crash. My faculty [monash.edu.au] at Monash university, are downsizing and may even sack senior staff.

    So 50% of nothing ain't so bad. I can't even manage to get a job at a help desk. Wages here are dropping too - it looks like we'll be worse off than shop assisants and waiters soon.

    I know graduates here with High Distinction averages who can't even get an interview for entry level positions. I don't know about America, but our government couldn't give a flying fuck about Science and Technology.
  • Seriously, this is not a troll - can someone explain to me how open source software doesn't undermine programmers being able to earn a crust. I could be way off, but doesn't it undermine our industry?

    I've heard people suggest donations and selling support etc, but are these really viable and warranted? Should someone have to plead for money when they have worked hard on a project? Seems to me like we're doing ourselves out of a job. Please someone, convince me that I'm wrong.
    • With the exception of M$, most companies in business today make their money on support, not software licenses. For those companies, open source only changes a minor detail. No Fortune 500 company would say "gee, OS/400 is now opensource, we don't need IBM anymore". Moreso, opensource makes customization a concievable option even for small businesses... thereby opening up even more opportunity for people and companies to sell support. Practically all fud to the contrary traces back to a single, Redmond-based
  • by gelfling (6534) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:54PM (#10970137) Homepage Journal
    In IT about 75% of the lifecycle costs of a unit of 'something' is labor. Automation will pushed harder and harder into these environments until that number comes down. WAY DOWN. WAY WAY DOWN.

    In autmotive, only about 8-9% of the total vehicle cost is labor. What IS enormously expensive though is pension costs. Pension costs cost about $1400/unit, more than the cost of steel.

    In Defense labor costs are plummeting and pension overhang is enormous. Take a look at the stock performance of Lockheed Martin. In this war economy LMT should be printing money, but it's not because of it's huge pension overhang liability.

    You dudes are not unionized and with the stroke of a pen your pensions can be eliminated. So companies have zero incentive to worry about retaining you and every reason to slash headcount by any means necessary. Couple this with the FACT, not the impression that most server infrastructures are used, at best, 30-40% on a rolling average basis and you start to see an enormous rationale for companies to reaggregate all their servers into big mega clusters that look like th mainframes of yore. Today if your support ratio is 40 servers per headcount you can expect that to increase by a factor of 10 as more and more server farms are collapsed into larger and larger servers with a large number of LPARs on each.

    And those jobs will be sent overseas to Bangalore, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and eventually China bolstered by yet more automation.

    I think 50% reduction in operations staff is a conservative estimate. I think it will be more like 90% in two decades.
  • Red Herring (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Baldrson (78598) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @10:21PM (#10970339) Homepage Journal
    Over the last four years 50% of the jobs of programmers over the age of 40 disappeared due to a combination of events.

    Since 20 years in the future is basically what 20 year olds of today are looking at as the time period over which they are going to lose half of their jobs -- it doesn't seem significant compared to what just happened. In fact such worries about a long-term reduction seem like a red herring to distract from what just happened to career programmers who actually built the software industry from the origins of "C" and Unix to today.

  • by zerofoo (262795) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @10:24PM (#10970368)
    Thanks to automation, my clients can do a heck of a lot more on their own without my help. Repetitive tasks like patching, virus definition updating, and user maintenance can be performed without my assistance.

    So, I must be out of a job right? Wrong - new technologies don't install themselves. Take, for example, wireless networks - when the technologies became available, I got a call from every single client to install some sort of wireless network. Then I got calls to move from WEP to WPA.

    One of my clients was deploying so many new technologies that they decided they needed to hire me full time.

    Sure, repetitve stuff will get easer - everyone here should be thankful this is true.

    -ted
  • I'm guilty (Score:3, Informative)

    by pavera (320634) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @11:03PM (#10970617) Homepage Journal
    Well, this trend is well under way. I work for a FTTH provider, we initially estimated that we would need between 5 and 10 engineers for every 1000 customers we add to our network to perform adds moves changes for customers. I replaced those 35-70 engineers with a perl program and 5 engineers (our network has 7000 customers). All of our provisioning is completely automated, adding a new customer takes less than 2 minutes of engineer time as opposed to 30-45 minutes previously. changing or adding services generally requires no engineer time, as our customers can self provision over the web.
  • by ajs (35943) <<moc.sja> <ta> <sja>> on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @11:08PM (#10970658) Homepage Journal
    10-20 years from now, it will take 50% or less of the operations staff that it takes today to manage machines... I can buy that. I look at the history.

    In the 50s-60s we had entire departments of large corporations supporting one machine (mainframe).

    In the 70s-80s we had entire departments of large corporations supporting several machines (minis).

    In the 90s-00s we have entire departments of large corporations supporting hundreds of machines (micros).

    So, if we project forward, I certainly see what they're saying, but what happens when I can support 1000 machines at a time on my own the way I do about 1/10th of the support work for those thousand today, but my company needs 10s or even 100s of thousands of machines? Answer: the more things change, the more they stay the same.
  • missing the point... (Score:3, Informative)

    by nxs212 (303580) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @11:12PM (#10970689)
    A lot of you are missing the point - by operations they mean people who don't know anything about the business side of things. They only know how to build a server and install vendor's or in-house software. Thanks to automation (scripted and imaged installed), companies don't need to have droves of installers, troubleshooters, tape swappers and hardware builders)
    Need a server built? Pop a card into a blade system (HP) that can hold more than a dozen of them, plug into the network, image it and you are done. One of them is not behaving right because of corrupt software? Re-image it in 20 mins. HW problems? Send card back to manufacturer or throw it out.
    Majority of IT people 20 years from now will need to understand company's processes, business logic and dataflow. Knowing what will be affected by the latest software upgrade will be more important than knowing how to install it. Does the new patch modify the database? Was its schema or stored procedured and functions affected? What's the bottom line? Are calculations now incorrect and will it impact your company's billing or payment cycle? Will you lose clients', patients' or customer's history records by changing the system? Future admins, (today's architects) will need to know all of this.
    The best and most recent catastrophic example of failure that resulted (or helped) in a sale of the company is the Local Number Portability upgrade at AT&T Wireless. If you have time, look it up.
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @11:18PM (#10970747) Homepage
    Once upon a time, around 1900 or so, "stationary engineering" was a hot high-tech field. Somebody had to run the big steam engines [virginia.edu] running. Or you could become a millwright, and help set up machinery in factories.

    There are still stationary engineers. [local39.org] There are still millwrights. [unionmillwright.com] Not a lot of them, though. It's an skilled blue-collar job, often unionized, with a formal apprenticeship. There are exams and certificates.

    Being a system administrator is, fundamentally, the same kind of thing, with technology a century newer.

  • by melted (227442) on Thursday December 02, 2004 @01:23AM (#10971641) Homepage
    They call themselves "researchers". I doubt they know the meaning of this word. :0) One of those Gartner "researches" once came over presenting his "research". The slices on his pie charts showing market share distribution summed up to 108%, at which point he was laughed at and folks started leaving the conference room. I sometimes envy these fellas. They pull numbers out of their asses and sell them for big bucks to large corporations without even a trace of responsibility or accountability. They don't even specify the margin of error of their predictions. I guess that would be too much of a liability.
  • by HuguesT (84078) on Thursday December 02, 2004 @05:15AM (#10972459)
    Many people comment how these things are good in the long run and for the economy are correct from a global perspective but not at the level of the individual.

    It is the privilege of the young to be able to adapt. They start from scratch, have a high ability to learn and expect little at the beginning but to be able to leverage their skills in the middle to long term.

    Few people realize that adapting often means starting from scratch again. When you have a home loan and a family this may not be an option *at all* or at least a very damaging one.

    The vast majority of older but still active people have adapted to a new situation when they were younger and are now at the phase when they expect the leveraging to occur. If it doesn't it truly sucks because they are by nature slighly less able to learn than younger people and also far more commited down the path of life.

    The only way to avoid this is to choose a path/career where adaptation to a new situation is the norm, but it is difficult to maintain as it is quite tiring, or to choose a career that is by nature pretty much unchanging irrespective of the field of application such as management or accountancy. Not everyone can be a manager though, especially a good one.

  • by bug (8519) on Thursday December 02, 2004 @05:34AM (#10972526)
    Because there will always be Bob, that guy who works down the hall in marketing. You know, the one who always opens up all of the attachments even if you just told him 30 seconds ago not to, the guy who somehow manages to infect a box with dozens of viruses and spyware programs just by being in the same room as his computer, the guy who lets his kids stick crayons and brussel sprouts into every open slot and port in his computer. We hate him, and his legion of similarly-skilled friends, but he'll keep us gainfully employed for life.
  • by crazyphilman (609923) on Thursday December 02, 2004 @07:45AM (#10972906) Journal
    Item: continuing advancement in technology eventually tends to make all jobs obsolete, with the actual work being focused on a smaller and smaller technological priesthood. Manufacturing, for example, is largely being automated with the remaining staff being caretakers for robotic production lines. Now, IT is gradually becoming more streamlined with the majority of work being able to be done by smaller and smaller teams.

    WHY THIS IS BAD:

    It's a social catastrophe. As we move towards a society in which only a few people are needed to work, those few people aren't going to want to support all the rest with their taxes. The result isn't going to be a techno-utopia in which everyone enjoys lives of education and leisure -- it'll be a hell in which the vast majority of people are dirt-poor and a few are very rich.

    The result of this is predictable, because it's happened before, in France a couple of hundred years ago (though for different reasons, the overall effect was the same). If you recall, people like Marie Antoinette said (of her starving countrymen) "let them eat cake" -- and they cut off her head. Every situation in which all the wealth is in the hands of a few and the majority is unhappy results in rebellion and the removal of the few.

    At some point in this (and every other) country, we're going to reach a point where we're going to have to make a choice. We will either deliberately introduce some inefficiency into the system to let everybody get a job and be happy, or we'll continue our current path and a violent, bloody revolution will do it for us.

    Believe it.
  • by Fudge.Org (7036) on Thursday December 02, 2004 @10:41AM (#10973923) Homepage Journal
    In my experience, if you had a group of 30 operations people 10 years ago, you can do well over three times the "load" of 10 years ago with 1/3 the people today.

    That said, you need new people to do new things in addition to the things you were expected to be doing 10 year ago.

    What the analysts cannot account for (name a model) is how many new services and applications will need to be cared for in the future.

    Did anyone 10 years ago see instant messaging as something that might be a corporate requirement today? Blogs? Web services? NAS? VoIP? BGP? DR/BC? IDS? Firewalls? etc...

    Eventually, these applications might make it to the point where you can treat them like an appliance you plug in, configure and forget. Yeah, right. If only...

    What this analyst assumes for the future of losing all these IT workers to improvements in technology is that there won't be new applications and services that require painful hand holding... until the market forces (if large enough) warrant a new appliance approach.

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