Companies of all sizes are competing to hire the limited number of professionals trained in cloud computing, according to a recent article in The New York Times. Those with the right skills can earn up to US $1 million per year.
Cloud-computing services have become popular and affordable ways for companies to maintain their data, apps, and websites on off-site servers. There are shortages of cloud-computing experts around the world, particularly in China, India, South Africa, and the United States. Companies on the prowl for cloud-computing professionals include Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Oracle.
To find out what’s behind the shortage of qualified professionals and where to get training, The Institute interviewed San Murugesan, an IEEE senior member and editor in chief of IEEE IT Professional magazine. He is also one of the editors of the Encyclopedia of Cloud Computing, coming out in June from Wiley and the IEEE Computer Society. Murugesan has developed certificate courses on cloud computing for IT professionals.
Q: Why is the cloud computing business growing so quickly?
There are several reasons. Cloud technology and cloud offerings have matured in the last few years so there’s greater awareness about the cloud and its benefits, as well as concerns like availability, and security and privacy of data.
Businesses, individuals, and even governments have embraced the cloud because they pay for only what they use. Costs are low, a large number of applications can be supported, and fewer IT staff members are required. The technology also gives startups and budding companies the flexibility they need to grow quickly, with minimal investment and low overhead.
Q: Why is it so difficult to find cloud-computing professionals?
Because employers are looking for “cloud-ready” professionals having different cloud computing experience and skills set. And companies don’t want to train people.
There’s no one-size-fits-all cloud training, because the field is so vast, so one needs niche skills. And because the field and requirements have grown so fast, current skills are not matching demand. At the same time, there aren’t many people who possess specific skills. And until recently professionals weren’t sure whether the technology would take off. There was a bit of skepticism, so many IT professionals didn’t bother to update their skills.
Q: What skills are needed?
A broad understanding of principles and operations of the cloud, its benefits, limitations, and risks are just some. These professionals also need to know the available types of services, software, and tools, and who offers them. In other words: the big-picture view of technologies and their providers. Also, one should focus on a specific area to gain deeper knowledge and competence. For example, cloud architecture, virtualization, monitoring and management, administration, security, and application migration.
Q: What training is available, and who offers it?
An inexpensive way to become familiar with the field is to read information that’s available online for free on a variety of topics from different sources, including the IEEE Cloud Computing Initiative and IEEE Cloud Computing magazine. Also, get some hands-on experience by making use of free trial cloud services and tools offered by providers like Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and VMware. That’s what I did. These companies also offer vendor specific hands-on training on different aspects of cloud computing.
There are also free, online courses and webinars that IEEE offers. These can be found on the IEEE Cloud Computing portal [under the Education & Careers tab].
Training providers such as the Cloud School cover concepts and specific aspects, like administration, architecture, governance, and security. There are also government initiatives that help IT professionals upgrade their skills in cloud computing and other emerging areas.
Q. Do you have any lingering concerns about cloud computing’s future?
No. Its popularity will only grow, particularly among small- and medium-size enterprises, micro and family-owned businesses, and nonprofits. Efforts by IEEE, the Cloud Security Alliance, industry consortiums, regulators, and researchers to address concerns over data security and privacy, loss of control, and performance and reliability will help realize the full potential of the cloud and accelerate its adoption. Within the next few years, we could see cloud computing as the dominant form of IT infrastructure.