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Cloud vs. DevOps: What to know for your next career move

Cloud and DevOps can go hand in hand, but they don't have to. Learn the differences so you can see which path is best for your future IT role.

Many people combine DevOps and cloud as one and the same. Yes, they're related, but they're actually two different job roles and areas within IT. Even though it's not ideal, it's entirely possible for one to exist without the other.

Part of the confusion stems from the close relationship between the two. For example, DevOps software doesn't have to be placed in the cloud, but it often is. And DevOps and CloudOps are both tied to parts of IT that rapidly change and often overlap.

That rate of change -- plus the hype and fluidity surrounding these types of roles -- creates a moving target for the career-minded person, making it hard to zero in on the necessary skills and training for cloud vs. DevOps roles. What's talked about at one shop can be completely different from the next, with little rhyme or reason as to why. This can be maddening for someone trying to get a foot in the door.

Still, these are highly sought after, well-paying positions. For those looking to take the next step in their career, it's important to understand where these roles fit in an IT organization and how they can shape your career.

DevOps

DevOps combines the terms development and operations and reflects a set of practices that focuses on collaboration. The goal is to streamline the process of getting software from the programming stage to the deployment stage, with a quicker pace and a higher quality than more traditional software deployment stages.

You might think a DevOps role is entirely new and wholly different from a programmer or operational role, but that's not the case. DevOps personnel need to know how to do both, plus a little bit of automation and orchestration.

Average DevOps career salaries

A person with a developer foundation will need to add operational experience and abilities -- including learning about automation -- but it's doable with some training. A purely operational person, on the other hand, will need coding and automation training to land an ideal DevOps role.

And remember, DevOps isn't simply a combination of different tasks; it's merging two distinct roles. It takes serious effort to transition, though it favors those with existing programming skills. That's not to say it's impossible if you're from a more traditional admin background, but you'll have to be realistic about the time and effort needed to get up to speed.

Cloud

On the other hand, a cloud admin is just that: a cloud administrator. IT professionals in this role might know how to write code, but they use those skills in the automation and orchestration stage; they don't write raw source code. So, while a cloud admin needs to understand developers and the needs of DevOps, it's largely in the context of how it relates to core cloud services.

A cloud administrator also needs to pay close attention to costs. Each decision a cloud admin makes has a true effect on the monthly bills, which can quickly generate attention if your company wants to control its spending. This adds an element of accounting or business management to the cloud administrator's role -- a job function that does not exist in the DevOps positions.

Average cloud computing career salaries

DevOps vs. CloudOps: Key differences

It's impossible to know everything about either role, given the flexibility of each one, so a new person coming in might want to focus on that flexibility.

For a DevOps role, an employee may use a small, but consistent, set of tools. Because of the fluidity in how a project moves from start to finish, the daily tasks are flexible. A DevOps engineer could be coding before lunch and supporting that application shortly after lunch.

DevOps and cloud administration are grounded in the use of automation and orchestration to get things done.

For a cloud admin, that fluidity pertains to the clouds themselves, where new features and services are constantly added. This is complicated further when organizations use multiple platforms. An admin's morning might be spent on AWS, while their afternoon is spent on Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud.

Regardless of which path you choose, you must understand that IT silos no longer exist. Not only do you have to wear multiple hats, but you have to be able to change them quickly.

Still, there is one thing that can be your anchor in these fluid roles: DevOps and cloud administration are grounded in the use of automation and orchestration to get things done. Learn about tools like Kubernetes and Terraform and how they're used to scale and accelerate IT operations.

Sometimes it's the simple things that get the ball rolling and have a small, but growing, impact. Start automating common tasks with tools like Ansible for reboots or common maintenance and expand on that effort as you learn. Even learning simple PowerShell or Python scripts will help dip your toe into the water. Don't expect everything in your data center to be automated at once. Start with automation and orchestration at the basic level that will have a low impact if you do make a mistake.

It might not be the biggest part of each role, but it is a common piece that each one needs. This can be an ideal place to start for someone looking to get into a DevOps or cloud admin role, but unsure of which one fits best.

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