IT Job Security in a Cloud World

A question that is very often posed and discussed in the context of cloud computing is the question of job security. Yesterday I came across this article in PCWorld that argues that tech support tends to split into two main areas of expertise: helping the client and maintaining the infrastructure. A migration to cloud computing solutions would strongly affect the second area (no more server management, no more license related work, no more patching). The article also mentions some new opportunities of cloud computing that include the handling of a multiplicity of devices accessing data (mobiles, tables, desktops, laptops), the existential importance of having a powerful and robust Internet pipe, and new forms of data backups (from the cloud to local servers or across the cloud) – and finally recommends system admins to embrace the cloud instead ignoring it.

The article doesn’t make a difference between small and large organizations, which is missing in my opinion. Many small organizations (with core competence outside IT, but even small software companies) have already started several years ago to outsource IT Management to Managed Service Providers that maintain infrastructure and applications on behalf of their clients. For those small organizations, changing to cloud applications is no big shift anymore.
The big shift will happen within big organizations and the service providers and hosters themselves. But I rather expect the daily work life of an IT administrator more interesting and multi-fold than before. He needs to confront new domains of expertise, work with new tools, and thus acquire some new skills. Just to list a few examples:

  • He will need to work with different cloud models (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) and with solutions that integrate between different clouds
  • Single-Sign-On and key-management solutions across heterogeneous platforms are particularly important in cloud environments
  • Automation of work-flows and operations via Cloud APIs will leverage the power of cloud computing and drive the development and usage of new tools (like Rightscale, Puppet, or Chef)

Don’t forget that cloud computing doesn’t mean that the operating system will disappear. It is still a part of the cloud stack and maintaining IaaS deployments (like Amazon EC2) require strong Linux or Windows knowledge. IT administrators shouldn’t worry when they read about the rise of cloud computing – there will still be a lot of work to do for them and even more interesting and challenging tasks.

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