The need for cloud computing skills altering service provider IT jobs

Just as cloud computing is still evolving, so too are the careers of service provider IT pros who must develop cloud computing skills to stay ahead.

Editor's note: Whether you've spent your career designing networks or building applications, the cloud is profoundly altering service provider IT jobs. In part one of this two-part story on cloud jobs, we delve into how and why the need for cloud computing skills is affecting service provider IT pros.

Just as cloud computing is still evolving, so too are the careers of service provider IT professionals whose employers are focusing increasingly or even exclusively on cloud services.

The surge of interest and demand in cloud computing has created a new opportunity for service provider IT pros to establish themselves as cloud gurus. Spending on public and private IT cloud services is expected to generate nearly 14 million jobs worldwide by 2015, according to a study released in early 2012 by analyst firm IDC. 

This converged skillset is more required than ever in cloud. The ops guys and dev guys are on the same call these days, and they're literally cross-training each other.

Jared Wray, Founder and CEO of Tier 3

Cloud has not only altered the way providers operate, but it has also shaken up the traditional structure of the IT department and placed new demands on staff members who are faced with reinventing their own careers as a result of this ever-changing technology. 

Developing cloud computing skills isn't the only new requirement. For one thing, cloud providers also say that their traditionally isolated IT teams -- the operations folks and developers, for example -- must collaborate much more in cloud because of an overlap among the various technologies. This means that service provider IT pros need to broaden their overall skill sets and learn other functions of IT that they previously didn't need to worry about.

"This is a quantum shift, a very big change," said Pat O'Day, chief technology officer (CTO) of Bluelock, an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provider in Indianapolis, Ind. "It used to be you could spend 40 hours a week turning a wrench. That's not necessarily going to be the case anymore with cloud."

E-commerce was the first technology trend to bring IT departments closer together, and now cloud is fortifying that bond, said Margaret Dawson, vice president of product management and marketing at Symform, a cloud storage and backup provider in Seattle.

"It was really when everyone started purchasing online that we began to see the squishiness between different silos -- the development, operations and business teams," said Dawson, who is also an advisory council member for Cloud Network of Women (CloudNOW), a nonprofit consortium of women working in the cloud computing industry. "Cloud has taken things to a whole new level. Today, the IT teams that are successful are looking at their teams more holistically across the organization [and] with greater collaboration."

Jared Wray, founder and CEO of Tier 3, a multiservice cloud provider in Bellevue, Wash., said his company has recently combined its various IT teams, with special emphasis on getting the operations and development teams working more closely together to improve their cloud computing skills.

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"Even though they have different roles, they work on the same path, the same strategy," said Wray, who is also the company's CTO. "In cloud, we need to put them together or we're not going to get efficiencies. This converged skill set is more required than ever in cloud. The ops guys and dev guys are on the same call these days, and they're literally cross-training each other."

Cloud provider jobs: A buyer's market?

Good news for service provider IT pros: It's not too late to start building a career in cloud. The demand for cloud computing skills is so new that many people are in the same bind and need to expand their expertise, both in cloud and overall IT. In fact, cloud providers say they have trouble finding people with the best mix of skills to jump right into cloud computing.

"It's hard to find people who can do it all," Wray said. "We'll hire someone very operationally centric, and that person doesn't understand how to script. We'll put them through classes. We have a three- to six-month ramp-up every time we hire someone, no matter what side they're on."

IT workers who position themselves to work in cloud now will see their efforts pay off as demand for cloud grows in the next two to three years, said Tom Koulopoulos, author of Cloud Surfing as well as president and co-founder of Delphi Group, a technology research and consulting firm in Andover, Mass.

"A lot of IT folks think the boat has left the dock, but the window is still very much open," he said. "Now is the best time to get in."

Part two: Continue reading the second part of this story, "More than a trend: Learn cloud computing skills or get left behind"

About the author: Dina Gerdeman is a Boston-based freelance writer and editor covering business news and features.

This was first published in October 2012

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