Editor's Note: Does the Cloud Bring Opportunity or Obsolescence?
Cloud computing and virtualization are potential game-changers for your career. Adapting your skills to the new technical requirements could make all the difference and ultimately increase your visibility.
By Mitch Irsfeld
Depending on your current situation, those clouds on the horizon bring welcome relief or look like a swirling nor’easter ready to wreak havoc on your career.
As we begin to analyze the early cloud deployments, their impact is not greeted warmly by all IT staffs. Reports of upheavals in core process and systems sound plausible enough. After all, one possible outcome goes beyond moving applications to the cloud and attempts to provision IT itself as a service. Most organizations are a few years away from “IT as a service” but even if yours is just getting its feet wet by testing some private cloud solutions, there’s no escaping the fact that clouds are agents of transformation.
At a strategic level, the business drivers of this change are here to stay. As we learn in the interview with Microsoft CIO Tony Scott, companies emerging from the economic downturn are eager for the next wave of productivity and efficiency. And it’s not going to happen via traditional methods. “They’re going to do it through highly leveraged, highly automated, digitized business processes,” he says. “So, for those that have that kind of skill, there is great opportunity.”
In his IT Cloud Survival Skills article in RedmondMag.com, Brein Posey likens the classic IT function to the corner video store. The Internet has had a profound impact on retail video stores. It’s not that we no longer desire videos; the vendors just find it much more efficient and cheaper to provision online. And certain IT skills will likely find the same fate, according to Posey.
One thing is certain, the increasing availability of cloud compute cycles and storage will increase demand for people who understand how to implement and optimize successful business automation applications. The transition from country roads to freeways did wonders for the auto business, from Detroit down to the local mechanic’s shop.
With any transformation, the roles that once defined a job can change. While IT roles are forever evolving, technologies like virtualization and cloud computing look to accelerate that evolution. I read with interest a recent CRN article in which EMC’s CTO Chuck Hollis described how EMC’s migration to a private cloud architecture changed IT jobs and caused EMC to replace staff and management. Part of that is a result of IT goals changing, with more emphasis on business analysts, which places more value on IT and causes more interaction with business leaders, according to Hollis.
Risk and Opportunity
With such exposure comes opportunity and, yes, risk. When IT becomes more strategic to the business, the IT managers become more involved in visionary planning and end up managing relationships more than operations. As Hollis describes it, there’s more emphasis on "creating value and less keeping the lights on."
And when IT is viewed more as an agile, on-demand service, service management becomes a needed skill set. The underlying theme is more relationship management, which puts a premium on communication skills.
Consequently, there will be operational IT skills that become more needed over the next decade, according to Posey. He highlights three areas: network engineering, security, and compliance as areas of increased demand. Hosting providers will provide some of that, but organizations “can delegate authority, not responsibility,” Posey notes.
For a rundown of most in-demand job titles, see the Help Wanted article by Microsoft Services. They identify eight job roles that CIOs are most interested in filling to match skills with emerging technologies and provide the average salaries for those positions.
Have Virtualization Experience, Will Travel
Learning the new tools for deploying and managing new types of applications (services) is key advice. We hear from Microsoft’s Tony Scott that the work done moving applications to a virtualized environment helped prepare Microsoft IT for its own move to the cloud and, moreover, increased quality in production.
Which brings us to the tools featured in this TechNet ON: The Microsoft Virtualization Training Portal is great place to start with set of certification paths and training resources that cover the entire Microsoft virtualization solution.
Management and performance problems don’t completely go away with the cloud. The need for development, provisioning, testing and monitoring new services (applications) persists in the cloud. Services, like applications, still have lifecycles. Because cloud computing can speed the creation and production of new applications, new workflows will need to managed. Windows Azure is positioned to help IT pros and developers with all of the above. Check out the TechNet Edge video Real World Azure: The IT Professional’s Role and Windows Azure.
Then download the Windows Azure Platform Training Kit for complete set of labs, presentations and demos to help you learn the Windows Azure platform. If you are just dipping your toes into cloud development for the first time, get the new Microsoft Visual Studio LightSwitch Beta. Regardless of your development skills, LightSwitch enables the fast creation of custom business applications for the desktop and the cloud, with pre-built templates and application components that work with existing systems and data sources.
And Microsoft isn’t the only one delivering great cloud preparation resources, The Microsoft Partner Network’s Windows Azure Platform site offers a selection of training and resources to help build and deploy Windows Azure application and cloud services.
Success in IT has always been about overcoming challenges and making it easier for your users to do their jobs better. Cloud computing is a new platform but many of the requirements for the new job roles are skills that already exist and, in some cases, are recombined with new emphasis, such as “service integrator,” which demands sourcing, procurement and service competencies you probably have. Likewise, the emerging role of “cloud architect” has an emphasis on skills around enterprise networking, security and virtualization.
If cloud computing removes much of the burden of major development efforts, deployments, and integration projects, IT pros will continue to add value by focusing on business processes and providing innovation. So skills in project management, testing and analysis become more desired.
As Scott points out, cloud computing is learning to do systems in different way. “We’re used to a world where we procure hardware; we set it up; we configure it; we have a development, test, a pre-production and production environment; we’re used to managing a lot of physical assets. In a world where we’re moving to the cloud and the development environment could potentially be instant-on, when you need it, and you scale your production environments to the size you need, when you need it; it allows you to focus operationally on a different set of things than maybe you’ve been doing in the past.”
Mitch Irsfeld*, Editor of TechNet, is a veteran computer industry journalist and content developer who managed editorial staffs at several leading publications, including* InformationWeek, InternetWeek and CommunicationsWeek*. He is also an editor for* TechNet Magazineand managing editor of the TechNet Flash newsletter.