Editor's Note: Cloud Skills Move You to the Front of the Demand Curve

It’s becoming clear that a move to cloud solutions opens up new opportunities for IT professionals if they are open to adapting their current skills and building new skillsets around managing IT services.

By Mitch Irsfeld

There’s an oft-quoted French proverb that serves to define the life and times of the IT worker: “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” more recently updated by Gilda Radner’s Saturday Night Live character Roseanne Rosannadanna: “It just goes to show you, it’s always something…”

At the end of most days, you’re still recognized more for what went wrong, or what broke, than for all the innovation and productivity you’ve delivered. But if one trait has defined IT as a profession over the decades, it is adaptability; and it’s a valuable quality, because staying current remains a top priority as expectations shift to models where information assets travel around on mobile devices and the information infrastructure is parceled out among on-premises, off-premises or various hybrid combinations of systems.

Yes, I know some of you still scoff at the notions of the consumerization of IT and the cloud as the infrastructure of the future. But we’re witnessing first-hand the invasion of employee-purchased smart phones and tablets. CRN recently reported Cloud Computing Skills Demand Skyrocketing, citing a study by talent research firm Wanted Analytics showing a 61-percent increase in demand year over year for cloud computing expertise. And guess what? The talent today is not there to fill that demand.

So how do IT people go from being the misunderstood heroes to being the champions of innovation? Part of it requires a culture change, according to Romi Mahajan in his TechNet Magazine article IT Hybridity - The Benefits of Diversity. In it he states that homogeneity is actually the anathema of any thinking CIO or IT professional and dynamism and agility should be the goals. In other words, you can complain about never having enough cycles left to learn the new paradigms when you’re constantly putting out fires in your existing environment, or you can start a few fires yourself.

If you’re still from Missouri regarding the whole cloud computing movement, the Cloud Computing Journal does a fairly concise job of lining up the reasons why cloud computing will prevail and some adoption advice in Eleven Tips for Successful Cloud Computing Adoption.

To peel back that onion even more, read the Microsoft Learning white paper Cloud Computing: What IT Professionals Need to Know to see the delta skill sets IT pros will want to acquire. It describes what the cloud offers and how it applies to and impacts existing infrastructure, including such issues as cost, security, data control, and integrity.

In this TechNet feature package, we look the skills needed to lead the way into the cloud and offer key Microsoft resources to gain those skills.

Adapting the Toolbox

As Microsoft and other vendors have been explaining ever since the initial outcry that a cloud services model would be the death of the IT professional, your existing skills are actually very useful in the cloud. You may have to adapt those skills and possibly gain new skills, but the cloud will make your IT experience more valuable. CIO’s How to Retool Your IT Skills for the Cloud urges IT professionals to select areas specialization, especially around the management of IT services and the infrastructures they exist in. It also recommends obtaining certifications, since employers often call for vendor-specific certification.

Speaking of certification, Microsoft offers several paths to certification, depending on whether you develop for the cloud, manage applications in the cloud, manage the IT infrastructure or manage data. Get started with cloud certification at Microsoft Learning. The folks there recommend that you start by building skills that apply to both on-premise computing and cloud computing.

If you already have on-premise skills, you can enhance your skill set to include cloud computing, and then validate your abilities with Microsoft certification programs, like the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE). The MCSE has been reinvented for the cloud and there are often special offers like the current two-for-one deal where you take an exam between now and June 30, 2012, and get a voucher for the next exam at no cost.

And the timing is great. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Microsoft Certification and the company is celebrating with 20 years | 20 Ways, a year-long program that lets you help seed opportunity for the next generation of IT pros while you grow your own career.

We also can help you prepare for your exam. The Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) offers a Private Cloud program with a set of free courses to help you optimize and deploy the private cloud starting at the infrastructure layer. You’ll also be introduced to advanced virtualization management features and the concept and implementation of the System Center’s private cloud application service model.

Going forward, download the ICT Curriculum Roadmap to see which path is right for your continuing career with Microsoft technology.

The bottom line for your career is that most of your skills remain relevant in a cloud environment. The change comes with moving from building and supporting local IT infrastructure to managing IT services in the cloud, which requires an extension of current skills and capabilities. And when you have those skills, you are not only relevant, you become essential.

Thanks for reading,


Mitch Irsfeld

Mitch Irsfeld*, Editor of TechNet, is a veteran computer industry journalist and content developer who managed editorial staffs at several leading publications, includingInformationWeek, InternetWeek and CommunicationsWeek. He is also an editor for* TechNet Magazine and managing editor of the TechNet Flash newsletter.