March 27, 2018

The Evolution of Systems Requires an Evolution of Systems Engineers

The systems we worked on when many of us first started out were the first generations of client-server applications. They were fundamentally different from the prior generation: terminals connecting to centralized apps running on mainframe or midrange systems. Engineers learned to care about the logic of their application client as well as the server powering it. Connectivity, the transmission of data, security, latency and performance, and the synchronization of state between the client and the server became issues that now had to be considered to manage those systems.

This increase in sophistication spawned commensurate changes to the complexity of the methodologies and skills required to manage those systems. New types of systems meant new skills, understanding new tools, frameworks, and programming languages. 

Since the first generation of client-server systems, we’ve seen significant evolution. ... Each iteration of this evolution has required the technology, systems, and skills we need to build and manage that technology to change. In almost every case, those changes have introduced more complexity. The skills and knowledge we once needed to manage our client-server systems versus these modern distributed systems with their requirements for resilience, low latency, and high availability are vastly different. So, what do we need to know now that we didn’t before?

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