IT Skills: The Cloud Architect Role
By: Joanne Cleaver, author of The Career Lattice
Unlike clouds in the sky, computing clouds don't form on their own. Somebody has to build them -- specifically a cloud architect -- one of the fastest-growing and hardest-to-fill positions in IT staffing.
In fact, cloud technology is creating a host of new positions, says Wayne Adams, chair of the Storage Networking Industry Association and senior technologist with an international tech consulting firm.
As the association launches technical working groups to define standards, it also frames the qualifications for cloud jobs.
The Role of the Cloud Architect
The key requirement for a successful cloud architect isn't even a technical skill, says Adams. It's the ability to "manage the capacity, not the desks."
In other words, it's an aptitude for managing vendor relationships -- from defining computing load to negotiating licenses -- and understanding the dynamics of a virtual work environment.
Unlike traditional IT design, which sets up a system with defined parameters, the cloud is constantly changing. The cloud architect manages the constantly shifting relationship between the organization's technical demands and the capacity to be pulled from the cloud.
Why the Cloud is Growing
The strategic advantages to clouds are well-known, including unlimited flexibility, the ability to match resources and demands on a project-by-project basis and greater control over IT budgets, both operational and capital.
"Now you can manage your IT budget like you manage your utility bill. That's the high-level theory, anyway," says Adams.
That explains why companies can't move fast enough to reorganize their IT functions around the three types of clouds -- private, public and hybrid. To engineer the transition and ongoing cloud projects, organizations must hire cloud architects.
Finding the Right Candidate for Cloud Jobs
Currently, many cloud jobs are being filled by cloud-thinking professionals moving laterally from technical administration positions.
While organizations such as the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) scramble to define the positions and develop certifications, "knowledge is being acquired on the job, from peer sharing, and from vendors," says Adams.
The transition is smoother at organizations with private clouds. Their internal computing capacity enables all departments to tap the entire organization's computing power as needed. Managing internal clouds is a big but manageable step for IT tech staff accustomed to working with internal clients.
But the shift is more abrupt for organizations moving to public clouds -- typically those provided by external providers such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft.
Architects of these arrangements oversee contracts, ongoing vendor relationships, as well as advance their organizations' cloud strategy and monitor technical results.
'It gets complicated," says Adams. "When you are licensing virtual machines, you have to arrange the usage so that you are not overpaying or underpaying...It's about cost economics -- the complexity and scale can be mind-boggling."
Joanne Cleaver is author of The Career Lattice (McGraw Professional, 2012), which shows how lateral career moves help organizations and individuals grow. She is president of strategic communication boutique Wilson-Taylor Associates, Inc. Reach her here.
Read more about IT Skills: