3 new heroes in next generation IT Departments

I’ve already highlighted how IT departments are going to change over the next few years a few times and what some people in those departments are going to be doing as their roles inevitably change but there are going to be some new roles that appear too.  These roles will start to shape how the IT department works for the next few years and, just like all IT jobs are, they’re a response to the changes going on in the business and in the market.  As the industry chases the promised befits of cloud like reduced cost and increased agility these roles are going to be the new linchpins (as Seth would say) able to cross boundaries and pull leavers.

They won’t be the only people in the team, they will be new people or people who’ve stepped over from another discipline.

Cloud integration engineer

Linking everything together is going to be critical in the future.  I wouldn’t say we’re at cloud version 1.0 yet – we’re probably closer to 0.7 where people are working out how to do cool things, there’s lots of experimentation going on.  As we as an industry marches forward we’re turning over more rocks and identifying new bugs that need squashing.  Who is doing the squashing though depends upon the type of bug but it’s clear that, as with anything new, we’ve got technology blazing a trail and lawmakers and regulators playing catch up.  Add to that mix the fear of vendor lock in that some people have, the fear of giving up “control” and the worries that accompany anything new and you’ve got a mix complex mix of problems to overcome.

That’s where hero number one, the Cloud Integration Engineer comes to the rescue with his super power – connectivity.  Cloud integration engineers will be adept at connecting public clouds and private clouds to create the now much touted hybrid cloud, part in your sphere of granular control, part in the sphere of vendor management.  These guys will know the technology involved in Windows Azure to a deep enough level to understand how to connect an Azure and an on premises application together (hint they’ll be using Windows Azure Connect).  These guys will also know how to throw up an EC2 instance and have it pull data from a SQL Azure database and they’ll know how to connect Exchange 2010 to Office 365 in a coexistence scenario so that the 2000 guys in a field in Devon get fast internal email over their 256k internet connection whilst the field guys get rapid connections where ever they are around the world.

Some will be experts in plumbing finished services (SaaS) together using APIs and code to do magic, others will be PowerShell gurus that can provision 100 mailboxes with a single command, others still will make ninja like use of the tooling.  These guys will likely be capable of code but will understand the plumbing of enterprises well enough to make things seamless.  They’ll have a better understanding of security than most developers and IT pros but they’ll be connected to the business so they’ll work as guides to security not gate keepers to access.

Cloud operations manager

Operations in the cloud is far simpler than it is with traditional infrastructures, primarily because you don’t need to manage everything at the most granular level.  Managing IT Operations in the Data Centre is about managing servers, making sure they’re up, making sure the hardware is working, making sure they have enough memory and CPU for their highest load ( + 15% or so) , for some this will be the old days, but for most it’s today – even if they’re virtualised.  Virtual doesn’t make resource management go away – it just changes the economics.

With the cloud you still need to manage resource and ensure availability to some extent – but it is an easier job.  You don’t need to make sure that servers have enough memory any more, you need to make a choice about scaling up or out on demand.  Scaling up is adding more servers, scaling out is about adding more powerful servers.  It takes intelligence to make that call, it takes understanding of the business value of scaling, both the process of scaling and the decision can be automated though.  To crystallise that lets take the ever-so-much over used tap metaphor of cloud.

In the tap metaphor we equate supply to a tap, when you turn it on the tap runs and you get the resource you want – cool.  However you pay for what you use, so what happens if you’re not doing anything useful with your water, if it’s just running down the drain?  If you equate the tap to a cloud service and the water to compute resource you get the picture – especially when you consider that taps get broken, develop leaks or occasionally a rogue plumber installs them.  You need to ensure that the capacity you use is being used for business – that’s where the Cloud Operations Manager comes to the rescue with their power of insight.

These guys will be able to use their close business relationship to determine when it’s right to allow the tap to run free, and when it’s time to turn it down.  When you’re being DDOS attacked and when you’re seeing a sales boom, when you’re internal users are hammering your SharePoint because the company just announced pay rises or because Bob from accounts accidentally posted his personal photos to the whole company he looks funny.

Cloud Operations Managers will also be watching what’s happening to ensure it’s sensible and complies with policy (which is obviously boring and stifles innovation / agility) but who else is going to make sure that when Bob in accounts leaves he doesn’t take his Docs account with him and oh the company looses all that information – that knowledge, the business intelligence, the competitive edge – just because the employ left taking their personal documents with them in cloud storage.  They have the super-power of understanding.

IT Marketing and Communications Officer

Communication is why businesses succeed and fail, you can have a great plan, sound strategy, superb revenue streams but if your team can’t communicate they can’t succeed.  When IT is one of the resources in the mix that allows your organisation to get things done communication about it’s benefits is essential.  If you’re going to guide your organisation to make the most informed choices and to make the most of what they’ve paid for you need someone to be evangelising the options.

We’ve tried this as an industry before, numerous times over but a skill set that allows your IT department to market it’s wares it’s what’s needed.  You need your people to know that they will benefit from using cloud storage because it’s pervasive and lets them access their information anywhere.  Previously we as IT guys would probably have said that in terms of “to reduce the load on the file server so that we can save 2gb of storage” – terms that don’t matter to the end user.  Marketers are adept at making things relevant to the their market, internally this means translating, explaining and engaging a user community.  I’ve seen this done a few times, often under different banners with differing levels of success – however it’s worked best when a marketeer got involved.  Essentially these folks will breed cooperation.


So there we have it, three new roles, superpowers of connectivity, understanding and cooperation, which when you think of it don’t sound that super do they?  By the way all of these roles are available on job sites today.  Whilst researching I found a role paying £120k per anum doing Windows Azure integration with existing systems, Operations Manager roles that commonly reference SaaS/IaaS/PaaS and private cloud and for the IT Marketing roles are hidden away in specialist recruitment circles – which is always a good sign.

If you think that these new roles will add cost to IT then, sorry, you’re wrong and for two reasons.  The first being that they will possibly not be part of IT itself, IT will virtualise these roles into other areas of the organisation to provide deep integration with the day to day reality of what the organisation does.  Secondly they’ll be saving money or making it, IT Marketing Officer will be extracting every last penny from the move to cloud based email like Exchange Online, the Cloud Operations Manager will be ensuring things stay on track and costs don’t scale out of control and the Cloud Integration Engineer will be helping make money by doing new innovative stuff – day in, day out – creating competitive advantage.

As an IT Pro how do you get there?  Learn.  Learn about virtualisation, learn about cloud.  We have webcasts, jumpstarts, downloads, resources and you probably have free training hours if you have Software Assurance or an Enterprise Agreement.  Us it.