Session: Knowledge Glaciers in the Age of Automation and Cloud Native

TL:DR – The commoditization of innovation significantly reduces the learning curve to use each new capability & technology product brought to market. The corpus of knowledge that allows each generation to continue innovating is slowly eroding institutional concepts that leads to each innovation’s success. We are atrophying the basis by which modern technology upheavals are born.

Competition amongst technology monopolies and the hacking subculture of the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s pushed an emerging technology community to amass deep knowledge and expertise for research, education, revenue, and defense. Individuals would spend months exploring the vast complexities of these revolutionary computers and networks, learning how they operate, interact, and how they can be exploited. Retaining, sharing, and publishing any details learned enabled collaboration and breakthroughs only accomplished by building on decades of knowledge. This corpus of knowledge, a glacier if you will, is the basis by which modern technology upheavals were born from. The commoditization of innovation – the building of more complex, higher order systems – significantly reduces the learning curve to use each new capability. While this brings many benefits to the bottom line and ease of use, the foundational knowledge of how everything actually works, is slowly eroding away. The birth of utility computing (“as-a-Service”) in the early 2000’s shifted industry away from self-management of hardware (power, space, cooling, racking, stacking, and cable management). Companies adopting as-a-Service to reduce their IT costs, ended up decreasing local demand for hardware engineers and administrators. This shifted labor needs to service providers, ultimately consolidating infrastructure management knowledge. Fast-forward roughly a decade. as-a-Service is now a commodity and containers have made a comeback (everything old is new again). Cloud service providers themselves have felt the IT costs burden and are in the midst of increasing automation to lower overhead costs and increase revenue. Automation of orchestration consolidates more knowledge and further dilutes the skills, history, and expertise from which its manual antecedent was created. With each technology upheaval and adoption, the glacier becomes smaller, more murky, and harder to recall. These glaciers can be saved. It won’t cost us any technology revolutions. We don’t need to compromise on the use or continued creation of automation or cloud products to retain and grow the knowledge we want to preserve.