There has been a small wave of panic lately to the end that cloud computing signals the death knell for traditional IT workers. The perception is that enterprise job openings such as server administrators, database administrators and infrastructure and network people are likely to become far fewer given that the cloud provides these services in cost-effective and flexible ways.
But before any IT worker reading this is gripped with terror, I need to point out that it’s not likely to happen any time soon, as ubiquitous clouds are probably about five to ten years away. And more fundamentally it’s not as if IT roles will disappear into a vacuum. The cloud will require new technology skills, and I see cloud computing providing a basis for IT’s more strategic contribution. Which means IT workers will spend less time on that old phrase ‘keeping the lights on’ and more on innovation.
In fact, a relatively recent report released by industry analysts IDC, predicts that IT cloud services will generate nearly 14 million jobs worldwide between 2011 and 2015. The research was commissioned by Microsoft and it also concluded that up to $1.1 trillion in new business revenues could be generated.
Let’s not forget the cloud is a transformative technology and as such it’s going to shake the industry up. It’s driving down costs and enabling innovation. It’s going to require a shift in skills from the traditional roles required for client server models to new ways of working. But IT roles have always evolved, and this is clearly the next big step.
I read recently of a US company, involved in scientific product development, moved its in-house communication systems to a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering. It did this because it wanted a simpler way of deploying communications systems without adding infrastructure, when it acquired a company.
It might be supposed that this almost 10,000 strong company would no longer need IT staff to manage its communication platforms and could therefore make significant operational costs savings. It did make savings but rather than reduce its headcount, IT staff simply switched their focus to helping the company’s customers integrate into its cloud platform. Rather than emailing scientific documents between the company and its customers, documents are now stored in the cloud so they can be accessed directly. IT staff are hence involved in product development lifecycles at a much earlier stage. At a wider level, the company has gained greater kudos within the industry because of its closer interaction with customers.
Clearly, this is only one example of how IT roles can expand as cloud technologies become more pervasive. But that said it’s indicative of a wider trend that will see IT roles evolve to meet new cloud requirements, particularly as clouds become the preferred delivery methods for new IT investments, whether it’s SaaS, online backup or data protection.
Currently, the trend for cloud-experienced IT workers is driven by service providers hiring software engineers to help implement SaaS solutions such as email, customer relationship management, ERP or other applications.
On the in-house or enterprise side (organisations which are using cloud services) I’d anticipate demand for IT people who can manage relationships with service providers. As cloud technologies become more pervasive supplier relationship management coordination is going to become increasingly important. At the same time there will also be a need for people who can understand and manage those elements of cloud technologies that are kept inside the company.
The key for IT workers is to build on existing skills and develop expertise in high-end technologies that are central to the cloud such as virtualisation and storage area networking. These skills will be needed. In short, the cloud isn’t going to make IT workers redundant; it’s likely to create lots more jobs and free up existing IT staff for more mission-critical roles.