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The People Behind the Cloud

August 21, 2012 No Comments

By Sharon Florentine

As more and more businesses move operations into the cloud, it’s becoming clear that not just the tech of cloud computing is changing, but the people involved in the setting up a cloud, from start to finish.

Trevor Williamson, director of solutions architecture at Green Pages Technology sat down with Ben Stephenson from for a short video chat to discuss the current state of data center personnel and processes and the paradigm shifts necessary as enterprises move to cloud infrastructure.

Williamson explained that in a ‘traditional’ data center, it can take anywhere from 18 to 26 weeks for conceptualization, design, purchasing, procurement, approvals, QA, testing and, finally, the production phase. With the cloud, however, that time frame can be cut to days, or even hours, especially as self-service portal use increases.

IT is no longer tasked just with delivering a product, a piece of software, an application, Williamson said, but with delivering a service to users. But delivering a service requires and entirely different skillset than traditional IT, he said. Now, IT personnel deliver a service and need to know how to do it well not just once, but perpetually while improving speed and quality over time.

“So many businesses are moving to providers like Rackspace, Amazon and other large cloud providers outside their own IT department because those services can be delivered faster, more efficiently, the services are optimized much better,” Williamson said. “These folks are thinking that if IT stands in the way of that, I will go around them.”

How can you address these issues? Make sure that your personnel have a clear understanding of what the services are that you (and they) deliver, and how to consistently and constantly deliver those in a way that customers are willing to pay for.

There’s a lot of room for current IT personnel to brush up on these skills, and there may even be a new job title in it for them if they’re able to adapt, said David S. Linthicum, the Founder and CTO of Blue Mountain Labs. In an article for Enterprise Services, Linthicum said a few key positions will become mission-critical as cloud computing continues to infiltrate every aspect of the data center.

One is the Enterprise Cloud Architect. You may already have enterprise architects working for you, but an IT needs an enterprise architect who understands how cloud computing fits with your architecture, existing and future. Moreover, the architect must understand the role of SOA and have deep knowledge of private and public cloud computing technology and providers.

As Linthicum said, “If this sounds like a tall order, it is. Not many of these people roam the hallways of larger companies, which is why good cloud computing consulting firms are having a feeding frenzy right now. You’ll have to get this skill in-house one way or another.”

There’s also an increasing need for a Cloud Security Specialist, even though Linthicum dismisses the current conventional wisdom that the cloud is less secure than a comparable on-premise solution. He believes that most cloud-based systems are more secure, but still require some very savvy and smart security experts who can operate under both traditional enterprise and cloud-based systems.

The skills required are obvious: there’s the ability to deal with security using identity-based approaches, dealing with and planing for data encryption both at rest and in flight and assessing risks.

Finally, Linthicum said, a cloud administration specialist position is necessary. These folks take over after the enterprise cloud architect and cloud security specialist have done their jobs, dealing with everything from service-level agreements (SLAs), outages, and data integration, among other important issues.

One of the issues with cloud computing technology is that while it’s easy to obtain, personnel with the right skills mix is far more difficult to uncover, Linthicum said. If you have personnel that currently have these skills or are willing to learn them, do whatever it takes to hold on to them.

Sharon_FlorentineSharon Florentine is a freelance writer who covers everything from data center technology to holistic veterinary care and occasionally blogs forRackspace Hosting.

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