Can you land a cloud computing job?

Cloud computing is the future of IT delivery. Cloud-computing skills are in demand. Cloud-computing jobs are where you should direct you career. Really?
Written by John Hazard, Contributor

Cloud computing is the future of IT delivery. Cloud-computing skills are in demand. Cloud-computing jobs are where you should direct you career.

Is it? What is a cloud-computing job anyway? How do you get the cloud-computing skills to land a job.

In a report -- The Cloud Dividend Report -- EMC and the Centre for Economics and Business Research, claimed cloud roll outs would produce 446,000 jobs every year through 2015 in the EMEA zone, "from a mix of accelerated business creation, business development and cost savings," according to CRN.

The distribution, retail and hotel sector will benefit the most, with [$320 billion] in value set to be created, the report found. Seventy-seven per cent of that value will be derived from private and hybrid cloud solutions, it added.

However, the public sector will be the biggest gainer in terms of job creation, with 801,000 positions expected to be created over the next five years.

Meanwhile, cloud computing will see the creation of 207,000 jobs and [$252 billion] in value in the banking, financial and business services vertical, the report found.

The cloud promises to reshape the delivery of IT resources and that could set  the conditions to create opportunity and yes, jobs. But for now, the talk about cloud-computing skills and jobs feels like the story of Green-IT jobs -- same jobs, different name.

Drue Reeves, vice president and distinguished analyst of cloud computing at Gartner, calls it "cloud washing."

"We saw the same thing with green technology. You give a quick coat of green and a new feature and all of sudden it's a Green technology. The same thing is happening with a lot of cloud technologies and especially for cloud jobs," he said.

The "cloud lead"

The earliest cloud jobs Reeves has seen are the "cloud leads popping up at various companies.

"Most of the initiative around cloud computing at most companies starts in an ad hoc way in the server or infrastructure teams. Someone on that teams takes it upon themselves to learn enough about cloud offerings to make some vendor decisions until someone in management takes a notice and plucks them out and says ‘there, your the Cloud Lead or Cloud Czar,'" said Reeves.

Those calling themselves cloud leads don't necessarily master a new skill set, but their role moves from tactical to strategic. Instead of provisioning or updating ROM, they're managing a cloud provider and working within the organization to make the transition to cloud delivery.

The cloud skill set is largely managerial.

The overall effects of cloud computing on IT jobs will likely resemble those of other trends such as outsourcing, automation, and utility computing: a gradual movement of the IT profession away from the nuts and bolts of technology toward the business end of the organization. "We call the shift the movement from blue-collar IT to white-collar IT," says Ted Schadler, a Forrester analyst. "The cloud is accelerating that movement of technology into the business, with business-process-level expertise becoming more important than ever." Formerly technology-centric jobs will require a lot more nontechnical, business-oriented capabilities, he says, and IT staffers will increasingly come from the business end of the organization.

According to Reeves, tasks in the cloud leads domain would include:

  • Guiding the company's cloud strategy
  • Evaluating provider offerings
  • Negotiating contracts and service
  • Determining which applications or data are safe or appropriate for the cloud
  • Collaborating with the company's procurement and legal departments

Jack-of-all-clouds For those in operations, the cloud is knocking down silos between roles, turning career storage and network administrators into jacks-of-all-trades, Reeves said.

"Before the cloud, you might have been able to say you planned to be a storage guy forever, provisioning the storage arrays, managing software updates, replacing hardware, cabling. In the cloud, the provider is going to do all of that," he said. "You are going to have to configure the network firewall and determine how much storage you will need and communicate with the vendor, but that will be the same guy. No more separation to roles by IT function"

The transition to the cloud will be easier at SMBs, where small IT staffs already operate a jack-of-all-trades operation and the risk-management around whether or not to move to the cloud is an easy call. "Those guys can't build a $500 million data center. Of course they will opt for the cloud."

Too soon to see cloud jobs

Some argue that the move to the cloud could actually reduce the headcount in IT as businesses replace staff positions and choose hosted solutions and providers apply economies of scale to maintain a lean staff.

"Some percentage of the jobs actually performing infrastructure services, monitoring, and datacenter operations in-house will shift to cloud service providers like Google, Amazon, and the telcos," says Mark McDonald, Gartner's group vice president of executive programs. But there won't be much growth in these infrastructure jobs at the cloud providers, he notes, due to the economies of scale that come from massive, highly automated and virtualized service-based infrastructures. "There will likely be fewer people needed per thousand transactions," he says.

But such an assessment may pay too little attention to the growing business reliance on cloud services. Managed Hosting News:

EMC Consulting's vice-president for the EMEA region, Sandra Hamilton, told channelweb.co.uk that the introduction of cloud is very important to the future of companies.

"A critical element in businesses achieving the competitive advantage presented by cloud computing lies in the successful virtualization of mission-critical and revenue-generating applications," she said.

Reeves said that gives him reason to take a wait and see approach.

"It is certainly too early to tell if there will be an increase in cloud jobs. For one things, the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't even track it as a function or job description. But there is a case to be made that a move to the cloud will help stimulate jobs. More automated functions means more reliance on IT, which means more assets to manage and more IT services and more people needed to manage them."

Related Content:

Editorial standards