When I got into the technical side of the IT industry back in the 1990s, there was a company just down the street that was starting to gain some traction – RedHat – and they were pushing this new variant of Unix that some of my more experienced colleagues thought was interesting. Most of them already had deep UNIX backgrounds, so they were excited about the idea of a free version that ran on x86 hardware. I was less interested at the time because I thought the things a Cisco IOS box could do were pretty interesting and gave me more than enough to study for my pending CCIE.
Flash forward 15+ years and all that LInux stuff is all over the place as more capabilities that used to be in dedicated devices has now moved out into various LInux-based products and open-source distributions. Whether it’s in the networking space (OpenDayLight, Open vSwitch, OpenStack Neutron, Cumulus Linux, Quagga) or the storage space (CEPH, OpenStack Swift/Cinder, RedHat Gluster, etc.) or the Cloud management space (CloudStack, OpenStack, Cloud Foundry, OpenShift, etc.) or the underpinnings of modern application development, Linux is behind the pace of change in Cloud Computing.
And learning about all this new technology has never been easier. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t simple stuff to learn. In many cases, it requires you to almost forget everything you knew from the past. But accessing the knowledge and finding ways to experiment has never been easier (or less expensive – often free).
- Let’s start with Linux. You can take free introductory classes here, online.
- Once you figure out this new OS, then maybe you want to network a few Linux machines together. You can just grab Open vSwitch (free), or OpenDayLight (free). Need help figuring it out, jump on their IRC channels and ask the experts. Or follow people like Jason Edelman or Scott Lowe or Brent Salisbury, who all share their lab experiences on their blogs (along with many others).
- If you get the boxes networked together, you might want to virtualize them to efficiently add applications. You could grab an open-source hypervisor (Xen or KVM – typically included in all major Linux distributions) or you could experiment with Docker, which is a new contain concept within Linux.
- Then let’s say you want to build a small cloud environment to see how to manage all these resources. You could take some free classes on Amazon Web Services (AWS), and setup various Linux environments.
- You could do something similar by going to the OpenStack DevStack or TryStack sites, and using their prebuilt online resource. Or follow smart people like Kenneth Hui to get an OpenStack environment running on your laptop.
- Want to automate some of this? Grab the free Puppet Learning VM, or try Ansible if you want a slightly easier syntax to learn.
- If you’re interested in learning programming, which might be a more advanced stage for some, don’t be afraid to start with the simplest sites, such as TryRuby, Code Academy or Code.org. Once you have a “Hello World” program and a few bells and whistles working, you might be ready to upload it to a free Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) trial on Pivotal Web Services (using Cloud Foundry) or OpenShift. Remember, Developers are the new KingMakers!
As we’ve been seeing for years, democratization of knowledge is taking shape in every domain, from open-source communities to the most prestigious universities (MIT, Stanford, OpenEdX. As these now expand to allow people to not only learn but also experiment with online resources (servers, software), the ability for anyone to learn and success has never been easier. It’s not easy, but sometimes you have to do a few things for free to get ahead. Make an investment in yourself for the long-term.