Will cloud adoption bring about a datacenter and IT job apocalypse?

Moderated by Larry Dignan | July 15, 2013 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

Summary: Jason Perlow and David Gewirtz look at clouds -- and IT jobs -- from both sides now.

Jason Perlow

Jason Perlow




David Gewirtz

David Gewirtz

Best Argument: Yes


Audience Favored: No (69%)

Closing Statements

Prepare for the worst

Jason Perlow

Just as I described a bleak future for retail in a previous Great Debate, with shopping malls becoming desolate wastelands due to the ever-increasing movement toward e-commerce, the majority of corporate datacenters are also going to be vacated due to an ever-increasing movement toward the cloud.

Only large-scale services providers, such as Amazon, Azure, Google, Rackspace, and Savvis, and the Tier-1 telcos like AT&T and Verizon are going to actually be able to afford large amounts of datacenter infrastructure, and will be able to provide the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that large corporations will expect in terms of resiliency, failover, and response time.

If IBM's recent acquisition of Softlayer and the forming of a new Cloud Services division means anything at all, it's likely a strong indication that seeing a slump in datacenter relocation/consolidation and business transformation efforts, it would be looking to bring customer virtualized servers in-house, using highly automated provisioning processes that would eliminate the need for a lot of datacenter staff.

I cannot claim to have a crystal ball. But the trends I am witnessing only point to a massive die-off in self-hosted infrastructure and corporate information technology jobs. Only the most highly skilled people are going to be able to adapt to this, much like the protagonists in our favorite zombie movies.

There will always be IT jobs

David Gewirtz

Information technology. When it works, it's great. When it doesn't work, it sucks. And there's your job security, right there. You know what I mean?

IT has always had its ups and downs, its innovation cycles, its chugging-along cycles, and its rip-and-replace cycles. IT pros have always been around to help design for the new innovation cycle, to keep things running during the chugging-along times, and to fix things when it all goes blue screen.

The cloud is no different. First, not everyone will cloud up. But even for those who do, there will be the design/migration phase which will require IT people. There might be a relatively calm operational phase where some corporations can try to avoid hiring a full IT staff, relying on the cloud vendor.

But there will come a time, as there always does, when the cloud vendor's interests and their corporate clients' interests are not aligned, and things begin to break down.

Add to the normal cycle of things the huge growth in health and security IT, the innovations and challenges that we're always engineering and engineering around, and you realize that the people who keep the computers working won't be replaced by computers any time soon.

But don't forget my cautionary advice: you have to keep trained up. Because while there will always be IT jobs, those jobs will go to those with the experience and training that's needed at the time.

A bitter pill

Larry Dignan

This debate was entertaining and informative -- and very close. In the end, I went against the crowd and for Jason Perlow. David Gewirtz made several solid points but in the end the cloud will destroy as many jobs as it creates. The cloud will ultimately be a bitter job pill for the industry.


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  • Dave, of course

    I vote with Dave and 'no'. Stop whining and belt up; learn new skills. The days of lifetime employment with one company ended quite a while back; so too are the 'do one thing for an entire career'. IT is a growing field; but you still have to do your homework and be flexible.
    beau parisi
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for No
  • New Skills, Jobs Move

    Overall, a move to the cloud will probably result in at a minimum the same number of jobs overall. The issues are the skills required and the job locations. On the skills, the problem will be what new skills and difficult will they be to obtain. The job location is probably a bigger issue since the server farms do not need to near the users will many of the jobs migrate to other countries or will they reamain in the country.
    Reply Vote I'm for No
  • Agreed with Dave here

    If anything, it'll required more higher skilled IT personnel then less. In the 'new data center', you'll need higher skillsets ppl. Outside of the data center, you'll need more IT 'sales consultants' that can explain to the prospective new customers. Same for both in house and outside people to help transition as well as maintain both the new and the old application stacks on the new+old infrastructure.
    Reply Vote I'm for No
  • Would've been a nice debate in 2006.

    Would've been a nice debate around 2006, when the term really took off.

    Not so interesting in 2013, when it's obvious that "the cloud" is creeping up slowly, rather than happening all at once. Jason can talk all he wants, but it only happens as fast as businesses are willing to adopt it. You can't really force it on them.

    And yes, there will be jobs. Users will still struggle with their devices, and businesses will still want tailored solutions. Not to mention you can't really "cloudify" everything. "The cloud" certainly has its benefits, but it also has its drawbacks.

    "and someone has to fix it when the programmers, who should have been paying better attention, instead got distracted for a week by a new release of Halo or a new Game of Thrones."


    Take that back!

    I'm looking forward to Star Citizen ;).
    Reply Vote I'm for No
  • No

    I have had to learn new programming languages every years since 1956. I don't expect this to change.
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for No
  • Fewer Locations

    There will undoubtedly be new jobs, but in addition to being more specialized, they will be consolidated at fewer locations, and farther from population centers AND from one another. This will restrict the mobility of their technical workers, locking them into areas with only ONE employer nearby that can use their skills. Unlike Silicon Valley where workers could switch companies and work next door to their old jobs, companies will force their existing workers to move to a small, rural town to keep their existing jobs, then force them to move again if they want to work for a competitor. This will bring technical wages and benefits down, since relocation can be so expensive.

    And this is assuming that the new locations are not in third world or emerging countries, where American citizens would be unable to follow their old job since the country holding the new work site will insist on reserving jobs in THEIR country for THEIR citizens.
    Reply 2 Votes I'm for Yes
    • As long as there are more jobs than skilled IT professionals, ...

      ... I'd expect salaried to continue to rise. You can learn a new programming language at the local junior college but learning how all the parts fit together takes years of experience. Many IT professionals are Baby Boomers and they are beginning to retire. As they are replaced, the demand for experienced IT professionals will only increase.
      M Wagner
      Reply 2 Votes I'm Undecided
    • Unlikely...

      Those small, rural towns don't have robust power infrastructure, fiber optic, etc.

      More importantly, they don't have universities. The knowledge workers aren't going to spring from the ground like weeds. Look at "Research Triangle" and lots of other areas that tried to steal Silicon Valley's thunder, and it's only Dallas that's made a big dent. And it's for the same reason, tech schools.
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • I agree with Rtechie above.

        In my corner of the US. Although I am on Comcast best consumer Cable Internet. I have to unplug modem and plug back in to reset the connection, up to 5 times a day in summer time and at least once a day in the dead of winter. I've replaced the modem three times. Our town never heard of Fiber (Fibre) Optic and DSL is delived over Copper. I can't even sign up for either MS cloud based Office 365. Nor Adobe Creative Cloud because I don't have a dependable enough Internet connection for those to Phone home. with the ability to Phone home the not dependable They would be expensive paperweight.

        Plus knowing the way Companies are today about shipping jobs overseas I predict when it gets fully up and running they will be moved to India, China, Mexico, South America and other parts of the world where they can pay semi-skilled workers 5¢ on the dollar.
        The big corporate is all about forking over as much money as possible to the eir Officers and BOD. And care nothing about customers. And will continue to bring our ecconomy down to where people can't afford the products then they will go out of business.
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
        • Data integrity - security - in the cloud worries me.

          (Can't touch wdlist's record, I've only been in IT for 45 years...)

          A problem I've seen in Cloud-based services, particularly those that keep your sensitive data, is that back-to-back contracts against non-disclosure sound really good when negotiating for services, but in practice are only as secure as the geography where the Cloud sits.

          In many countries, even with an excellent skills and infrastructure pool, your security may be still limited by a local culture that considers your data to be a resource they can mine and sell to others. Some are good, but some are unpardonably corrupt.

          I suspect local hosting firms may be the better option. After all, isn't that all the Cloud really is? A host provider over the net?

          The Cloud is a marketing invention to cover just another infrastructure pendulum-swing to centralized service providers. You still have to be careful where you hide your lunch.
          Reply Vote I'm Undecided