As with all technologies transforming the way organizations operate, it’s expected that roles will also evolve. Cloud computing already has and will continue to change traditional IT roles and functions for years to come.
Let’s begin our overview of the transformation of cloud job roles with a look at some of the top cloud computing roles and responsibilities for architects, engineers and developers. From there, we’ll examine how they’ve morphed and close out our examination with an analysis of the new skills required to achieve success and effectively perform in these roles. Keep in mind that each enterprise, depending on size and situation, may have different names for the roles described or blur the lines between the actual responsibilities.
A cloud architect is primarily responsible for overseeing an enterprise’s cloud computing approach. The role is about strategy-to plan, organize, or structure cloud delivery models. It will involve the design, implementation, service levels and migration components. Traditionally, this role could be referred to as the solutions architect or technical architect.
A key concern the cloud architect will consider is recognizing that cloud and only cloud is not always the optimal solution, which is where hybrid cloud or private clouds come in to play. But if the organization has a “cloud-first strategy,” they will more than likely choose multiple cloud solutions depending on the business challenge they need to overcome.
Understanding a multi-cloud environment is the first critical skill cloud architects need to know and extends beyond what it means for their organization. It goes into what each provider offers, how to best align that to meet business requirements and the impact it can have on their current state. If a multi-cloud environment is the approach chosen, vendor management will be imperative to maintaining successful relationships and clear communication lines with all providers.
What else? Well, let’s just say that the IT department may not be the only department choosing cloud-based IT solutions- (say what!?) How many architects have been put in a situation where [INSERT NAME] from [INSERT DEPT] comes over and says, “We just chose [INSERT PRODUCT] as a solution.” To which I’m sure you just responded with a big ol’ smile saying, “Yeah, sure, thanks. That will work seamlessly.” (And you held onto that smile until they walked away.)
But in all seriousness, architects will now need to figure out how this product will fit into the current solution set by going into full-on investigation mode and asking certain questions including:
- How does or will it integrate with our existing systems?
- What’s the application or system security?
- What’s the [cloud] cost structure?
This leads us to the next set of key considerations: integration plan(s), performing due diligence, security architecture, and cost plan.
Cost plan? Yes, one of the primary reasons organizations move to the cloud is for cost savings. However, we really know it’s the shift from CapEx funds to OpEx funds. Bringing in this financial model can be new or obscure to the traditional architect’s responsibilities, and being able to translate, predict and report back the cost impacts to the business will be critical to the success of a cloud architect’s role.
A cloud engineer is a multidisciplinary role responsible for mitigating and managing a company’s cloud capabilities. The role is mainly about implementation and management of cloud service delivery models (IaaS, PaaS and SaaS). You could often hear this position referred to as Cloud Operations Engineer or Systems Cloud Engineer. Traditionally, it could have been the network engineer, operations engineer or even the systems administrator role. This position is one of those where we previously mentioned “blurred lines,” so just prepare for cloudy with a chance of lightning. (Sorry for the cheese-as if you haven’t heard these jokes enough already).
In the traditional engineering role, designing and connecting networks for the company’s multiple units across different locations would be the norm. But, now this role needs to figure out:
- How to connect the data centers of outside providers back to your own network.
- What’s the network bandwidth?? What’s the guaranteed uptime percentage? And how fast will it be? Is the provider using a monthly or annual uptime guarantee?
- A new disaster recovery plan. How will you compensate if the cloud provider goes down? It’s not common that it will happen, but being prepared for it in case it does will help to eliminate any sense of panic.
Most of these considerations need to happen in the early stages of cloud implementation when either selecting a cloud provider to run with or defining the Service Level Agreements (SLAs). If your organization is already past this, getting ahold of the SLAs and having a deep understanding of the cloud providers products and services will make life easier.
Cloud Software Developer
The cloud software developer or engineer is what you would expect this role to be: responsible for designing and developing secure cloud applications, products and services. It may include aspects of back-end, front-end, full-stack, web application development, data and application integration, and cloud application deployment. These responsibilities are very similar to those of the traditional software developer yet with a different focus.
To get this party started, take into account these key considerations:
- Will you develop cloud-native applications or migrate legacy applications? (Spoiler alert: both will provide a unique set of skills and different requirements around interoperability or portability.)
- Better understanding and utilizing API’s effectively. How many calls will the API’s make that you decide to use?
- Is Python your go-to language for cloud development? If not, which one will be?
- How can you automate different aspects of development?
Now, not all of these skills are necessarily new but are growing in both popularity and demand. You may just need to switch gears and think about how applications could be developed and integrated when moving to cloud.
Commonalities across all, you say?
Yes, we’ve discussed the unique or different aspects to a few of the roles involved in cloud implementation, but now more than ever before, there will be common responsibilities and considerations that breakdown silos and stretch the IT department.
We’ll first talk about the business skills that have forced their way into these IT roles because of cloud. The need to be agile and collaborate cross-functionally will ultimately increase efficiencies and enable organizations to go-to-market faster, so they can maintain a competitive edge (hint: some organizations are choosing DevOps as the preferred method for achieving their goals). Cloud computing has also caused project management and vendor management to creep into the day-to-day responsibilities of these roles from a micro and macro level. Managing the development of applications to the overall implementation with one or multiple vendors simultaneously even sounds overwhelming, so having a basic and solid understanding of how to effectively keep the wheels moving effectively will be beneficial for you and the wider organization. And the last two “skills” (or traits) that hopefully you’ve inherited or learned along the way because they’re difficult to teach: patience and willingness to quickly adapt. They will definitely be a requirement throughout this journey to the cloud.
From a technical standpoint, there are still a couple of commonalities to consider. First and most obvious is understanding the different cloud deployment types and service models. The differences between them, which types or models will be most beneficial for the business objective at hand, and who [as in cloud provider] aligns to the business best.
The next skillset that affects all roles involved with cloud is security. Any surprises here? Probably not. From the beginning to completion of the cloud implementation, security should be top of mind each step of the way whether it be architectural or application security, data privacy, regulatory or compliance.
Architects need to be aware of the vendor/providers security protocols if what they decide on matches the business requirements and relies on data privacy to drive direction and decisions. Engineers or admins need to be confident about security when it comes to cloud since there are now distributed systems, and you no longer have full control in-house. Developers have their own issues to consider in order to continue to secure coding and build secure applications and APIs.
There’s a vital question driving organizations’ need to make decisions that will ultimately impact training and skills. The question is whether to hire new staff to fulfill the internal skills gap or take the time to train existing employees to learn the skills they may be missing. “The risk of hiring in new people to take on the digital initiatives is that they are unfamiliar with a company’s current systems. So although they may have the immediate solution to a skill you need now, they will ultimately have to take time to understand the current IT landscape they’re working within. There’s definitely a tradeoff that company’s need to evaluate before making the best decision,” said Global Knowledge CTO Satish Shetty.
Here’s the good news for you, your managers and the wider organization: Global Knowledge can help. We’ve created unique learning paths designed to bring different functions up to a baseline understanding, help select a provider and create a plan to migrate workloads before starting down a specific vendor learning path to implement, deploy and optimize the selected cloud solution. The learning paths will help alleviate the critical skills gap cloud computing created and provide one comprehensive solution to the overall business.