Cloud wrangling in the digital age: How to get the right skill set

Cloud wrangling in the digital age: How to get the right skill set
Antonella Corno has 20+ years of experience in the IT industry, as part of a career spanning two continents (Europe and North America), in several leading IT companies, most recently at Cisco. While she has been in technology R&D for most of her career, her interest has recently shifted to the training and certifications that are supporting and enabling the workforce of the future, and is she now responsible for the Application, Software and Cloud Team within the Product Strategy group in Learning@Cisco. Antonella is a CCIE Emeritus, has been a speaker at several international conferences, and holds a number of international patents.


The forecast for the digital era is cloudy all over. According to a recent IDC FutureScape on cloud market predictions, 50% of IT spending and 60% of IT infrastructure spending will be cloud based by 2018. Between 60% and 70% of all software, services and technology spending will be on the cloud by 2020. 

IDC also forecast that 65% of organisations’ IT assets will be offsite, in co-located, hosting and cloud data centers by 2018. One-third of IT staff will be working at third-party service providers.

All of this leads to an industrywide shortage of cloud skills. Global Knowledge in 2015 found that one out of five decision-makers was having difficulty finding talent with the skills for cloud initiatives, while cloud computing jobs were one of the highest paying, with a mean salary of $102,000.

In its 2016 IT industry outlook, CompTIA noted the IDC prediction that the cloud would create 7 million jobs between 2013 and 2015. The trade group noted that many of these jobs most likely already existed but were reengineered with a greater cloud focus.

In short, there is a real opportunity for career advancement and success for network and data centre professionals with the right training and certifications. For those weighing a career in IT, cloud skills are in high demand and worth pursuing.

Cloud versus cloud

There are public clouds, private clouds, and hybrid clouds; and there is also no agreement on which type of cloud is best. That depends entirely on each organisation along with the type of data it generates and uses.

Organisations using the public cloud rely on the resources of third-party service providers for cloud storage or online accounting software. The biggest argument in its favour is cost. Organisations can rent public cloud services for monthly or annual fees and it’s up to the provider to keep them running, accessible and updated.

This is known as software as a service (SaaS). Some providers are going further to offer platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). PaaS enables an application to run one different infrastructures. IaaS makes an entire infrastructure available as a rentable service.

The public cloud has issues, however. One of them is security and another is accessibility. Data on the public cloud may not be as secure as it should be, especially if it is sensitive financial or health information that is regulated. Also, if the internet is down, then the data and the application may not be available when the organisation needs them.

For these reasons, many organisations are setting up and maintaining their own private clouds. Organisations use private clouds to make their data more secure and to arrange them the way they prefer. They are not interested in selling SaaS but want the benefits of the cloud. The downside is the expense, which can be very big, and the need to hire scarce IT professionals with cloud expertise.

The hybrid cloud blends both approaches. Organisations keep sensitive data more secure on an internally managed private cloud. They then use the public cloud when needed, like in peak demand periods, when individual applications can be sent to the public cloud. Hybrids are also helpful during rough weather, scheduled maintenance or rolling brownouts or blackouts. IDC predicts that 80% of enterprise IT organisations will commit to the hybrid cloud by 2017.

High-demand cloud skills

No matter what type of cloud organisations ultimately choose, they will need IT professionals with certain cloud skills. Some of the fundamental skills are cloud migration and cloud security.

Cloud skills training and certification courses should combine learning conceptual knowledge with developing hands-on skills. Among the topics covered should be:

  • Private and hybrid cloud design
  • Cloud security design
  • Cloud infrastructure launch
  • ACI and APIC automation
  • Private and hybrid IaaS provisioning
  • Application provisioning and lifecycle management
  • Cloud systems management

Although many companies have already moved to the cloud, many more are not there yet. They need IT professionals who have a solid grounding in the varying models for clouds. They also need to know how to map the organisation’s current IT infrastructure, including its applications and workloads on existing servers, and how to send all of what they have mapped to a cloud equivalent. The larger the organisation, the more complicated this becomes.

Cloud security is another major skill for IT professionals. Almost every day brings news of yet more data breaches. How to keep data secure, how to build and maintain secure platforms, and securing cloud infrastructure are all high-demand skills.

Additional top cloud skills cover SaaS, PaaS and IaaS. Organizations need IT professionals with knowhow to develop and work with cloud applications. The same applies to cloud platforms and infrastructures. This means they should be fluent cloud programming languages like Python, Perl and Ruby along with traditional languages like .NET, Java and PHP. Linux skills are also in high demand.

So is cloud database expertise. The hyper-connected Internet of Things generates quintillions of bytes of data daily. Organisations want most to uncover insights and new markets from this tsunami of data, and they need IT professionals with cloud database querying skills. SQL along with open source languages like MySQL, Hadoop or Mongo DB are worth learning.

Looking ahead

With cloud skills and the certifications, IT professionals can demonstrate that they can help an IT department drive cloud deployments in a consistent and centralised manner. They become more valuable to any organisations because they know how to help to bring about desired business outcomes, such as greater business agility and lower IT architecture spending.

Read more: The top five in-demand cloud skills for 2016 and beyond

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