Cloud engineers must master a range of skills and technologies and understand how they relate.
Before the cloud boom, there were virtualization, storage, networking (WAN/LAN) and data center engineers. These folks were the pillars and pioneers of what we know as the modern cloud infrastructure. These are the people that helped build the foundation of the cloud in conjunction with application and software teams. Today, we still have these positions. However, new job titles have been created as well.
The growing demand for cloud services has similarly created a quickly growing need for cloud architects and engineers. A new IDC report sponsored by Microsoft and published by Forbes indicates that the demand for a cloud-ready IT force will grow by 26% through 2015. Furthermore over the next two to three years, more than 7 million new cloud-related industry positions will become available globally. Here’s the reality: although this industry is expected to grow rapidly in the future, there is a demand for cloud engineers now.
The IDC report shows that IT hiring managers said that there were about 1.7 million cloud-related positions that were available but went unfilled. What was the problem? Candidates were lacking cloud-related training and key certifications. Of the many other IT-related fields, cloud computing jobs are growing the fastest. With that in mind, what does the modern cloud engineer need to know?
- Learn the language of business. Today’s modern organization heavily relies on IT and the services that technology provides. With so many companies moving to the cloud, the cloud engineer must understand the language of business. This means improving communication skills, becoming more involved in business meetings and understanding where technology can resolve business issues. Business and technology are forever intertwined. If you only know technology, your job prospects may be limited. However, if you understand where your organization is going, where cloud can help, and how you can deploy it, you can make a directly positive business impact. Aside from better understanding your own organization, cloud architects must also evolve their project management skills. Because there are so many technologies involved, it’s important to understand where each piece fits and how the entire cloud deployment process can be properly controlled.
- Understand the logical and physical. Cloud engineers must understand a breadth of different technologies and platforms. Yes, there will still be experts within various areas, but the true architect has to understand many base technological theories. This includes storage, networking, compute, user management, open-source solutions, security, virtualization, optimization options, application/services delivery, and much more. Cloud computing is not one product. Rather, it is a combination of key technologies which all work together to bring data and resources down to the end user. And so, cloud engineers can have specific areas of expertise, but they should always retain the knowledge of how their world, interconnects with the rest of the cloud.
- Know about operations – DR, HA, Business Continuity. Because the cloud has become such an integral part of many organizations, cloud engineers must know how to create true infrastructure resiliency. This means creating an architecture where data can be replicated and good DR strategies are in place for critical workloads. Even today we see regular cloud outages. Well, what if you were hosting your entire data center from an Amazon cloud? What if that cloud went down? Did you create an availability zone? How is replication handled? Creating a resilient cloud infrastructure is a key knowledge component that many cloud-ready organizations require. Downtime results in lost dollars. So, knowing operations and how the cloud environment behaves will be critical to designing a solid DR plan.
- Begin to think way way outside the box. The cloud has created new industries and even sub-industries. We have new service models which strive to create the data center of everything. There are expanding areas around fog computing and big data. All of this is the result of an ever-expanding cloud environment. When working with cloud computing – it’s important to be creative in solving problems. It’s not always about throwing resources at the challenge. Virtualization, high-density computing, and various other technologies can dynamically optimize your cloud environment. The key is having knowledge around these solutions and understanding where they fit in. For example, instead of buying more disks, why not deploy a VM with Atlantis ILIO as a RAM-based storage repository for VDI or application virtualization? Or, instead of dishing out more cash for extra bandwidth, deploy virtual WANOP appliances from Silver Peak to great improve traffic. The point is that there are great technologies out there that cloud engineers must know about. These are the solutions that will save money, improve the infrastructure, and create a more resilient cloud.
- Applications, security, and the end-user. Because so much is being delivered via the cloud, there are more targets for security people to worry about. The end-user is now utilizing two or more devices to access their data and the application delivery process is becoming even more important. As a cloud engineer, you must have an understanding around applications, how they interconnect with the cloud, and how they impact the end-user. In between all of that, there must be understanding around security as well. There are new technologies revolving around next-generation security platforms which protect cloud-facing resources. For example, the NetScaler Application Firewall is a heuristic learning engine which understands and learns the normal behaviors of an application. Should there be an anomaly – a SQL injection for example – the operation is halted immediately. Finally, there needs to be an understanding around how these services and applications are affecting the end-user. Ultimately, cloud engineers must understand that the end-user experience is one of the most important criteria for a successful cloud deployment.
The cloud market will continue to grow and create new types of positions. Already we have engineers focusing on big data analytics, edge networking, and even creating the “Internet of Everything.” The consumer has driven a lot of demand around data and services being available on any device, anytime and anywhere. As more devices connect into the cloud – there will be more types of unified services created to facilitate more demand. This is where future cloud architect and engineer can translate direct user or business needs into direct technological solutions.