Winter is over but, depending where you live, there are still plenty of clouds in the sky. Clouds may be a bad thing when it comes to your weekend plans, but they're a welcome sight when talking about careers in technology. The advantages of cloud services are significant, and the cloud is impacting consumers, small businesses and enterprise companies in many ways most people aren't even aware of.

May 9, 2014

6 Min Read
Cloud Careers: Bright Skies in a Cloudy Future

By David Darrough 1

Winter is over but, depending where you live, there are still plenty of clouds in the sky. Clouds may be a bad thing when it comes to your weekend plans, but they’re a welcome sight when talking about careers in technology. The advantages of cloud services are significant, and the cloud is impacting consumers, small businesses and enterprise companies in many ways most people aren’t even aware of.

The Numbers, Up and to the Right
According to Cisco Systems’ Global Cloud Index, data center IP traffic will nearly triple over the next five years. Overall, data center IP traffic will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25 percent from 2012 to 2017. The cloud traffic growth by the main six regions of the world is expected to have CAGR between 28 percent and 57 percent from 2012-2017.

Companies leveraging cloud technologies are able to focus more on their core competencies and less on IT services. Think about it: Can you imagine today a business would even consider producing an electric power plant in its back lot for its own use, as companies did years ago? Of course not. Today you simply would make a phone call to the utility company and start the service. And you would use the service as you need and pay for what you use.

The Clouds are Expanding, New Skills are Needed
With all of the advantages of cloud automation software and virtualization come new skill sets that are far more complex than can be explained in this article. One of the services my company offers is technical training courses for designing, building and managing data centers using technologies from Cisco UCS/Nexus, NetApp and VMware. A few years ago I noticed some customers were deciding not to use a traditional hardware solution — they saw an advantage in using a public cloud service from companies such as Amazon Web Services or Rackspace.

I wanted to learn more about how these growing cloud services could be beneficial to companies, so I decided to educate myself about this new and growing “cloud model” by obtaining two of the top cloud computing certifications, CloudU from Rackspace and CompTIA Cloud Essentials. I learned there are a ton of different cloud services available, and not all companies will be able to fully take advantage of the benefits. Most likely, no company will ever be 100 percent cloud-dependant.

Cloud Taxonomy: Your Roadmap

Anyone who wants to migrate to a technical area of the cloud will need to understand the taxonomy of this ever-changing, revolving, evolving, dynamic and rather confusing territory. The cloud taxonomy is divided into four main areas:

  • Infrastructure as a service (Iaas)

  • Software as a service (Saas)

  • Platform as a service (Paas)

  • Cloud software

Within each of the four areas there are subcategories and the final products or services (example: software services > CRM > As of April 2014, there were 336 products/services within the four main areas. A company that competes with another company today could be a partner tomorrow. What’s more, funding for some of these companies is all over the map; one might see a company as an investor, but it actually is somewhat a competitor.

If you are interested in expanding your career in one of the many areas of the cloud, it’s worth looking into the OpenStack open source operating system and security, since both have been receiving a lot of attention lately for very good reasons.

OpenStack (Cloud Software)
OpenStack is an open source cloud operation system that has been growing significantly since its formation in 2011. It is basically an IaaS tool used to deploy large-scale deployments in automation of on-demand data center usage. The OpenStack approach is a free cloud OS, reducing or even eliminating dependency of a single type of hardware—the key to the OpenStack success. As a result, Dell, IBM and HP have embraced OpenStack and Cisco recently announced a $1 billion investment in its “Cisco Cloud Services,” based on OpenStack.

What does this mean? In a nutshell, OpenStack is creating thousands of jobs.

Nicholas Chase, technical marketing manager at Mirantis, which provides integration, training and support for Openstack, noted a huge demand for OpenStack engineers:

“It used to be that there was a certain amount of job security in being the one who keeps things running. But these days, companies are beginning to see those people not as essential pieces of their infrastructure but as “human middleware” that can be replaced with more efficient systems. Most often, that means cloud. Within the cloud realm, if you look at employer demand, roughly 79 percent of open source cloud-related jobs are OpenStack-related, almost four times the demand for both CloudStack and Eucalyptus combined.

“If I were offering someone advice, I would say that if you’re an operator, your best bet is to combine those skills with developer skills and join the world of DevOps, making you valuable in setting up and managing those cloud computing systems. If you’re an architect, get familiar with the requirements of cloud applications. It’s not just distributed applications, it’s also the notion of pets-vs.-cattle and programming for a world where your server can fail at any moment and your app shouldn’t care. Because cloud in general and OpenStack in particular is so relatively new, the supply of experienced hands is still low, so it’s a great time to get in and get trained.”

Cloud security is still a concern for just about all companies that want to move in the cloud. With that, security professionals are in demand. Security products and services are listed in all four areas of the cloud taxonomy, and the number increases each month. The expected growth rate for 2010 to 2014 is $241 million to $963 million, a 41.4 percent CAGR. Mark Logie, the founder of security vendor Eyon, which is currently in stealth mode, said cloud security is vastly underserved yet growing market:

“The allure of cloud-based networks is irresistible given today’s requirements to manage vast amounts data on a 24/7 basis for any company to remain relevant. However, most universities have yet to develop comprehensive curriculums to address the many associated security concerns. The resulting shortage of security professionals in the United States is expected grow in outpacing the available market until at least until 2024.”

Your Path to the Right Company
There are a number of resources to help you find the perfect job in cloud computing. When doing your research, don’t forget about startups; new companies arrive on the scene almost daily in every category of the taxonomy.

Patti Wilson, owner of the Career Company, an executive coaching and business strategy firm, sees big things for the cloud industry. “Cloud is the underlying foundation for the Internet of Everything for everybody globally,” she said. “OpenStack is playing an integral role in building this foundation and the unfolding of the cloud. Where will the jobs be in engineering? In the cloud.”

Having a good understanding of the cloud taxonomy will help you better navigate the various companies. Some might appear to be similar to each other, so it will be important to understand how they differ when trying to find your next new career in the cloud industry.

David Darrough is an account manager-Data Center Education/Professional Services for Skyline-ATS, a Cisco Certified Learning Solutions Partner and Cisco Gold Hardware partner headquartered in Campbell, Calif.

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