How Cloud is Redefining IT Job Roles


Cloud is changing business and IT operating models. That means core IT job roles must change too.

A couple of obvious roles emerging are cloud architect and cloud security specialist.

Cloud architects must understand enterprise architecture and service-oriented architecture (SOA) as well as the new directions that cloud computing can take both. Cloud architects must also have detailed knowledge of Platform, Infrastructure, and Software as a Service (PaaS, IaaS, and SaaS), including the players and solutions that are available on the market. This means working with developers and existing IT leadership to progress toward the use of cloud computing, making the right decisions along the way.

Cloud security specialist is perhaps the most important role and skillset in moving to the cloud. Cloud security specialists must understand the new security models and how to enable the security technology required to keep business processes effective and efficient and data moving to and between private, public, or hybrid clouds.

The role of network engineer is changing into cloud engineer. Classic network engineers implement, maintain, optimize, and provide operational support for network hardware, software, and communication links of the cloud infrastructure. These IT staff managers and members have deep, CCNA-level expertise in networking hardware and protocols. Cloud migration is less product-specific and requires more analytical skills coupled with that deep technology knowledge. Today’s network engineers—make that cloud engineers—need a broad understanding of technology and systems, along with increased abilities in capacity management, planning, demand forecasting, and trending analysis. Cloud and virtualization essentials, virtualized infrastructure, and hosted solutions are key new areas of focus.

The other side of IT—application development—is changing too. New applications and development systems are what drive cloud computing. Those who design and develop application software now focus on mobile applications and development for cloud, or SaaS. Development in and on the cloud—PaaS—means entirely new mandates for developers: creating self-provisioning and self-monitoring applications.

Perl, PHP, Python, Java, C programming languages, Oracle, SQL, MySQL, and all the existing tools and techniques are shifting. Cloud development is AJAX, HTML, XML, REST, cloud networking, and operating system APIs. New knowledge, skills, and abilities here span DevOps, cloud essentials, virtualization essentials, virtual machines, cloud system management tools, orchestration tools, heightened security, and distributed architecture of platforms. Software developers are now cloud developers.

Let us not forget the front line of IT: those in customer-facing support roles. Foundational help desk and service support skills and methods are shifting as well. These critical IT members must support remote workers, BYOD at a variety of locations, and cloud-based applications with limited control and visibility. Now they need to integrate social media support models, and they must have additional skills required to support multiple technologies in multiple configurations in multiple environments, including virtual. Enhanced communications, troubleshooting, and relationship skills are core to support success. Support analysts are now cloud support analysts.

It doesn’t stop there. All IT roles are affected:

  • Systems administrators and/or database administrators become cloud administrators
  •  Service managers (aka ITIL people) become cloud service managers
  • Project managers become cloud project managers

Because of cloud, IT leaders have not only technology issues, but also managerial issues. Consider onboarding, career development, and advancement at your organization. Have all your job descriptions been updated and regraded accordingly? As managers ask employees to move to new ways of working and refine what and how they work, are the compensation and supervisory support systems keeping pace? Have managers been working with HR to ensure they’re hiring and promoting the right skills?

And, what about the manager’s skills? Are IT leaders ready and able to lead a team through this transformation? Perhaps one last new cloud computing role is in order: cloud transformation specialist.

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  1. Vic Winkler Reply

    We saw these changes coming as early as 2004 when at Sun we started building utility computing solutions. Everything about SunGrid, and later the Sun Public Cloud revolved around evolving traditional technologies and engineer skill sets to design, build and operate on-the-Internet utilities. If you want a statistic, at one point we had thousands of servers in three data centers targeted at serving a hundred thousand or more users — all of the infrastructure was designed, built and operated by a team of less than 20 engineers — none of whom looked like your typical IT person. The key traits were deep and broad experience, an abiding dedication to getting things done against insane schedules and true creative talent.

    Two years ago, I met with the Amazon Federal AWS team — they had those exact same traits.

    On the consuming side, if cloud Iaas and PaaS adopters are going to succeed, they will need to have similar traits. I still believe that (I first wrote about this in my book “Securing the Cloud”) it is probably going to be more effective for an IT organization to use cloud security consulting services than to attempt to stay on top of that dynamic domain. I almost feel the same about enterprise cloud architects, except there is a good deal of innovation going on across enterprises that benefits from having this grand experiment being dispersed as it is…

  2. Hank Reply

    Hi Vic, thanks for that perspective. Without a doubt, we are moving through a disruption equivalent to that caused by distributed computing. Only this time, we’re doing it in a couple years vs. decades.



  3. Darcy Reply

    Unless you work for a Telecommunications company that is Tier 1.. In that way the network engineer role hasn’t changed at all…

  4. Hank Reply

    You’re exactly right Darcy! That’s where the job growth in these skills will be… and these providers already know or are learning the new skills SDN and automation require.


  5. Rob Reply

    cloud is a fad, nothing more…do you really want to send your companies data to ,say, Amazon’s cloud, where it is subject to inspection by US Law ( Patriot Act)? Amazon is building a $600mil cloud for the CIA.think they won’t spy on your data? think again.
    if Target can’t be trusted to keep your credit card info secure, why should we trust Amazon , MS, Google or any other provider to keep your companies’ data secure?
    read these 12 reasons why you shouldn’t use the cloud.

    I work for a company that builds financial software.sometimes we need to have client’s data in-house,so that we can test it.but this particular client had us sign all kinds of legal docs stating that we’d follow certain best practices in securing data, which we’ve complied think you’d get that from Amazon? would you want to tell your clients that you’re going to put their data on google servers ? hell no.
    beware of the spying that these companies do, you’re better served keeing everything in-house..just look at the outsourcing support center trends of the 90s..nearly every compnay has brought those call centers back in-house..why ? of data.

  6. Hank Reply

    Rob I agree that if your data is too sensitive then it doesn’t belong in a public cloud! You’re right in that the cloud isn’t for every application, nor is it for every firm. As I always tell clients, and as taught in our classes, security of your data is the #1 consideration for public cloud computing.

    Where it makes sense public cloud is obviously superior to legacy IT, and where it doesn’t make sense traditional IT will always be the answer. And there, private cloud is already taking over the enterprise.

    Thanks for the link and thoughtful comments around this important aspect of cloud computing!

  7. Gary Reply

    Great vision but as a retired educator, what role(s) can our non-research teaching institutions play? And to get these people trained where can that be done?

  8. Hank Reply

    Great questions Gary. Right now these are very specialized skills. In future perhaps schools could offer programs like the old “shop” classes we had when I went to school. Instead of “shop”, consider “cloud administration.” For the short term, I think the employers must really bear the burden of moving their people into the skills they require.

  9. Gary Reply

    Thanks Hank and I agree, right now employers can assist and possible invite educators to participate, learn, and start ‘shop’ centers at universities where both professionals and students can interact as well as faculty and employers co-mingle. It just appears there is such a growing gap between the two communities and I’m concerned about how to ‘reestablish’ that once tight bond.