Editor’s Note: Think Outside the IT Box to Expand Your Cloud Opportunities

One way to find that pot of gold at the end of rainbow is to build the clouds that produced the rainbow. Developing cloud expertise now means job security and career growth in the future.

By Mitch Irsfeld

In this edition of TechNet ON, we talk about the need to align IT with the business and the new sets of IT skills required in a world where technology plays an ever-increasing role in a successful business. Perhaps nothing speaks to this changing role more than an organization’s migration to the cloud and the value that a well-conceived cloud strategy can deliver.

At first regarded as an apocalyptic shift by IT pros concerned that cloud services would eventually obviate the need for their skills, the cloud computing movement is, in some ways, actually increasing the need for those IT skills. But the newer, emerging skills are evolving as fast as the market and to remain relevant and competitive, IT pros are being challenged to keep their skills current. Microsoft can help you keep up with the pace of change. Check out TechNet’s newly-launched Microsoft Cloud Hub, featuring five new videos with Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Management and Security Brad Anderson discussing Microsoft’s comprehensive cloud offerings. And if you are coming up to speed on cloud computing, there is great introductory article, Going to the Cloud with Microsoft.

One area in particular, information security, seems to be experiencing a skills gap when it comes to the changes required when protecting organizations that are using the new technologies around social media and cloud computing. According to Frost & Sullivan’s 2001 (ISC)2 Global Information Security Workforce Study, “Information security professionals are a key part of the migration to the cloud and have serious concerns about cloud computing.” Those concerns arise from the cloud computing model where security pros see “no clear solution to issues such as compliance, data security, and access once the data leaves the host organization.”

In its survey of 10,413 information security pros from around the globe, Frost & Sullivan found that 92 percent of respondents indicated that a detailed understanding of cloud computing and its associated technologies is highly desired and 82 percent felt that enhanced technical knowledge was required for cloud computing. Unfortunately, the same survey showed that researching new technologies was the most time-consuming activity for respondents. Half of the respondents also noted that specialized skills in contract negotiation were required for cloud computing.

Other specialized skills called out in this article on Mashable:  How Cloud Computing & Web Services Are Changing the IT Job Market, include data mining, web analytics and business intelligence.

Developing cloud expertise on the IT staff can help solve two important problems, according to Oliver Rist, product manager in Windows Server & Cloud Product Marketing. In his Cloud Conversations blog post. It will go a long way toward allying fears that the cloud will make IT workers obsolete when they realize that that the “building blocks of private cloud infrastructures are similar to the platforms they're already managing in the datacenter,” according to Rist. And with skilled private cloud implementers on staff, “you'll be able to get an accurate idea of how much work and new infrastructure a private cloud project might require.”

Business Alignment

As history shows, when IT departments develop the skills to manage new technologies which can profoundly change the capabilities of their organization, that’s when the tug-of-war begins. Where do you draw the line between a business decision and a technology decision? Does IT drive business or does the business drive IT? In his new TechNet Magazine article Breaking down the IT/Business Divide, Josh Hoffman reframes the debate. If IT is seen as delivering financial value rather than as a cost center, IT professionals can play larger, more collaborative role within their organizations. But here again, IT needs to learn different skills around relationship building, communication and internal marketing in order to be at the table for strategic discussions.

This becomes critical for organizations slow to explore the benefits of cloud computing. In order to capitalize on the cloud-enabled opportunities for cost savings and greater agility, someone has to lead the charge in way that conveys and understanding of both the technology and the business needs. The Logic 20/20 white paper, Cloud Optimization –Expanding Capabilities while Aligning Computing and Business Needs, notes the importance of arriving at accurate return on investment figures when pointing out the reduced costs, but also the need to select the applications best suited for a cloud migration to demonstrate capabilities and achieve goals.

Skills Development

So where to start? Microsoft has several great training resources, but a brand new training site just went online with a focus on the IT skills to help grow you career into the future. The Microsoft Virtual Academy provides a free training portal with learn-at-your-own-pace courses on technologies such as private cloud, Windows Azure and SQL Azure.

Another new resource, the Microsoft Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track Program is a joint reference architecture for building private clouds that combines Microsoft software, consolidated guidance, and validated configurations with OEM partner technology—including computing power, network and storage architectures, and value-added software components. It provides a turnkey approach for delivering preconfigured and validated implementations of the private cloud to enable faster deployment, reduced risk, and lower cost of ownership.

Microsoft has other resources to boost your skills and your career, including:

Early to the Game

According to the technology job search site Dice.com, the number of ads for jobs focused on cloud computing grew by more than 300 percent last year. And according to CIO’s Virtualization and Cloud Computing Hiring Outlook for 2011, virtualization and cloud computing are near the top of the list of the most hotly pursued skills. But what are those skills?

It turns out that many of the skills, such as server migration, security, application development, storage management, and business process management come into play, according to CIO. And that means cross-training. Data Center managers will adapt and develop new skills such as lifecycle management and services management.

And it pays to be early to the game. In its IT Career Guide, CIO notes that IT pros who view their profession as a dead end cite the usual litany of problems, from offshoring to the lack of appreciation and absence of work life balance, while those who are optimistic about their IT careers see the need for IT pros to be more well-rounded to respond to cloud computing, which also makes it easier to find positions in other business units.

As IT transforms, the time is now to begin your own transformation. Use the resources in this edition of TechNet ON to get you started or complete your journey.

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, including* InformationWeek, InternetWeek and CommunicationsWeek*. He is also an editor for* TechNet Magazine and managing editor of the TechNet Flash newsletter.