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Hone your cloud computing skills for 2016 and beyond

As cloud adoption continues to grow, many organizations are on the hunt for IT pros with cloud management, automation and architecture skills.

Moving to the cloud isn't as easy as plugging existing apps into a virtual instance; even moving simple enterprise apps to the cloud can introduce a number of issues -- which makes it critical to hone your cloud computing skills. A good cloud experience, for many organizations, requires an IT team to acquire new skills from scratch. These skills include writing apps for cloud auto scaling, building and managing app and operating system images and creating VPNs to connect all the pieces together.

Fine-tune those cloud automation, management skills

The cloud threatens traditional IT admin roles, but new opportunities have surfaced as a result. Cloud computing skills -- including those in cloud automation and management for public, private and hybrid clouds -- will advance many IT careers.

Because the cloud is never static, the only way to take full advantage of it is through automation -- and this opens up new opportunities for IT pros. Cloud automation leads to multi-tiered environments, where end users want the authority and tools to pull together their own sets of services, and where central IT provides a consistent operating environment with corporate governance and security.

In public cloud, the first crucial step is to know the image manipulation and scripting tools available from your cloud service. Newer tools go beyond simple scripting, with templates and built-in governance. App vendors are also changing the rules by offering apps with prequalified images to, for example, ease integration with containers.

Cloud computing skills -- including those in cloud automation and management for public, private and hybrid clouds -- will advance many IT careers.

To address some public cloud challenges, organizations often look for IT staff with cloud computing skills related to a specific vendor. Amazon Web Services (AWS) skills are in high demand, as are those for Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure. Specific skills related to these public cloud platforms include networking, configuration and operations.

Meanwhile, workload tuning is an emerging area in cloud management. The process of deciding on instance counts for a particular job and load level will ultimately be fully automated. But, to make that happen, organizations need to design apps for seamless and automatic scaling -- a software developer skill that is in high demand.

Building a private or hybrid cloud is also a challenge, especially since IT faces a range of decisions about which cloud services to choose. For instance, OpenStack -- a common choice for building a private cloud -- has around 30 different modules, each at different stage of maturity.

Experience with cloud architecture, containers also key

Cloud architecture skills are in short supply. Knowing how to navigate the range of products and vendors that are required to build a viable cloud is precious. And, being able to articulate a coherent technical strategy for cloud -- and how that strategy will provide financial and business benefits -- can help you obtain a cloud computing career.

The scope of a cloud architect's role is broad, and, for the next few years, will likely exceed what is being taught in formal classes. For the right individuals, this role will be the most fun, but it will require a good deal of reading and research to keep up. Special-interest programs and certifications for cloud architecture, such as the AWS Certified Solutions Architect or CompTIA Cloud+, are valuable resources.

In addition, containers are a hot topic in the cloud space, and knowing how to modify apps for containers is an important skill to have. Experience working with clusters in the container world -- especially with Docker Swarm and Google Kubernetes -- offers more long-term opportunities for IT pros looking for a cloud computing career, rather than just being able to move apps into hypervisor instances.

Getting the necessary cloud computing skills

There are a number of ways to build up your cloud skills. One, which has been very common in the adolescence of cloud, is to learn on the job and gain skills by trying things out. As cloud infrastructure matures, there are more cloud-specific versions of certification programs that IT pros have already taken, such as the IBM Certified Solution Architect for Cloud Computing or the Red Hat Certificate of Expertise for Infrastructure as a Service. These provide a solid base for a cloud computing career, as well as proof of capability.

With cloud, the central IT role is more complex. Whether operating with public cloud vendors or setting up private clouds, business, planning and organizational skills are useful, and can lead to roles such as IT project manager. The cloud is very volatile, so being well-versed on the challenges, and being quick on your feet, are important cloud computing skills.

Next Steps

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