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Cloud computing jobs hold rich potential

There are many cloud computing job opportunities, but to reap the biggest rewards, IT pros must hone certain skills, experts say.

Cloud computing brings new career opportunities for IT pros, especially if they hone skills in Amazon Web Services, business strategy and data analytics, experts said.

Being able to work with Amazon Web Services (AWS) is so sought-after it's almost table stakes for IT pros now, according to Howard Lee, chief architect of the technology used in tech job board's Open Web, which aggregates the social media profiles of IT job seekers along with Web searches by IT recruiters.

"We are seeing a large increase in the number of searches in terms of recruiters searching for cloud-related skills," Lee said. "Amazon Web Services and skills associated with [AWS] was the most sought-after skill set."

Cloud computing employers agreed.

"We look for folks with direct Amazon experience on production workloads versus just tinkering or lab-type setups," said Jim O'Neill, chief information officer at HubSpot Inc., a cloud-based marketing software firm in Cambridge, Mass. "We will consider folks who have Rackspace cloud experience, but we don't focus on folks with VMware skills today."

IT pros who can marry business strategy with cloud-based service delivery models are in high demand.

The OpenStack Foundation issued a report last month suggesting OpenStack skills provided richer returns for software engineers than other clouds. However, Lee said that according to's Open Web analysis, other than AWS, there aren't any statistically significant results for any specific cloud platforms.

More generally, recruiters said, IT pros who can marry business strategy with cloud-based service delivery models are in high demand.

"For firms that would normally deploy their software, application or product on the client site, the cloud has enabled everybody to offer their product as Software as a Service hosted in the cloud," said David Belanger, founder of The Ceres Group, an IT recruitment firm based in Boston.

"The challenge is not just people who can do the nuts and bolts of it, but [those] who can do the strategy around it; those people can go pretty much wherever they want at this point."

The increased emphasis on software development skills and the DevOps trend also affect how cloud companies look at hiring managers, according to Tony Campbell, director of training for OpenStack at San Antonio-based Rackspace.

"This world of rapid development and rapid deployment … takes managers who are comfortable with that speed and that agility," Campbell said.

An especially hot space within cloud computing applications is data analytics, otherwise known as big data.

Previously, firms focused on how to aggregate massive amounts of data for analysis and then perform historical analysis on that data, Belanger said. Now, big data calls for real-time analytics, and the skill sets for building such applications are in high demand and short supply.

"If you can do that, you can almost name your price right now," Belanger said.

Traditional systems administrators: Help still wanted

A common reason for resistance to cloud computing is the fear that it will put traditional IT pros out of a job. But experts said despite the changes brought through cloud computing, there are still roles for systems administrators.  

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in September that in the month of July, 3,600 jobs were created in data processing, hosting and related services -- the single best month of job growth in this category since June 1998. connected this with a surge in hiring by cloud service providers, but it's unclear whether these jobs were net-new or simply moved to a different category, Belanger said.

"Some of the numbers I've seen out there are overblown," he said. "There's some overstated demand because you're really cannibalizing some skill sets."

However classified, these numbers suggest traditional systems administration jobs remain in demand.

Here again, cloud employers say their experience reflects what the numbers suggest, particularly when it comes to administering networks and databases.

"We're looking at the guys who are running the cloud 24/7, making sure it's up and debugging problems," said Robert Jenkins, CEO of CloudSigma, a cloud service provider based in Las Vegas. "Most of them come out of backgrounds where they've been running either large corporate networks or [Internet service providers]."

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for Write to her at or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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