To put it simply, hardware connection is much like the brain and software the mind. Each requires unique components. For example, understanding malfunctions of the brain is a requirement for brain surgeons. At the same time if someone were to say a person is emotionally disturbed, the first source would be a non-surgeon such as a psychiatrist. Rarely would someone need a surgeon to fix this problem.
If we were to use this example as an analogy to hardware vs. software, there are different IT skills required for each. Hardware focuses on physical inputs and outputs. It is the silicon design and the environment that hosts software. Software focuses on more abstract factors such as reliability and ease of use. At the same time in broader terms general knowledge both areas must overlap.
In terms of training, both hardware and software training teach us how to measure reliability. Hardware reliability is measured by use and physical model differentiation. For example, hardware can fail when no one is using it. Measuring software reliability is based on entirely different bases. For instance, software does not fail when underutilized. Articulating the differences in a rather simple concept like reliability, imagine the skills required to teach more complex topics that come with Hardware and Software training.
So how does one know when they need the skills of a hardware engineer or software engineer? How does one choose the appropriate training program when beginning the search? Taking it back to the brain surgeon and psychiatrist, we want to think about big picture concepts and what each entails.
While this analogy does help simplify the difference keep in mind that the rapid growth in the IT world adds multiple layers and complexity to it. Virtualization, “The Cloud,” and “The Internet of Things” require one to understand and apply a new set of skills. The world of where one server (hardware) runs one computer unit (software) is becoming obsolete. For instance, today several virtual software environments can coexist in one main dedicated piece of hardware.
We can view this new coexistence and complexity as a roadblock or as an opportunity. In this rapidly evolving world of technology, new paradigms arise therefore new demands are set. At the same time these stem from baseline hardware and software knowledge and training. Today, IT professionals are in a world of limitless growth. It is just a matter of persistence in keeping knowledge up to date.