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How to make enterprise IT hire you in a cloud career

From keeping up with the cloud's evolution to quelling security concerns, cloud admins have their work cut out for them -- but if you can master these skills, you'll be a desirable candidate for the job.

Cloud computing is rapidly growing in importance, so a quest to rule the cloud is a good career goal. As a group, cloud admins cover a lot more territory than their earth-bound compatriots. Although the cloud opens up new ways to do business, challenges exist in a number of areas. And that's where a skilled admin can shine in a cloud career.

The difficulties facing cloud aren't just technology issues. While a technology base is essential for a cloud career, it often finishes in second place to a combination of business skills. The pace of agility is increasing in the cloud. Cross-vendor clouds, software as a service (SaaS) mashups and the evaluation of cost models are all important future evolutions, and they will need admins to drive them forward. In order to handle this agile cloud environment, IT pros must figure out which cloud opportunities make sense and how to mix and match cloud services and continuously measure cloud successes and failures.

In sync with figuring financial issues related to the cloud, being able to negotiate provider service-level agreements (SLAs) is a crucial skill. Being able to be hardnosed when problems occur or the supplier falls down on SLAs is useful, too, because it develops the professional respect admins need to handle these issues.

The technical skills of a cloud computing pro

More advanced cloud skills focus on the promise and mystery of the fastest area of IT growth -- big data.

Despite all of this emphasis on nontechnical skills, a cloud admin role is fundamentally technical, especially in areas of security, integration and big data analysis. If you can reach expert level in all or some of these crucial areas, you'll find yourself in a solid cloud computing career.

Cloud security. Many people believe that public clouds are inherently insecure, but the evidence proves otherwise. In fact major cloud providers do a better job securing data than private data centers do. The modern cloud admin is up to speed on security best practices. Issues like the recent Target, Home Depot and JP Morgan hacks force the security table to the top of the list, so being prepared is important.

In addition, the cloud is growing in concert with the mobile market. Bring your own device, or BYOD, policies and the explosion of mobile apps bring their own security challenges. Cloud pros who learn to create a stable, secure environment for company activities on any mobile device are valuable, especially if you can articulate the approaches you espouse.

Integration. It's becoming commonplace to see mashups of in-house legacy apps and SaaS or COTS-based services in the cloud. Therefore, the ability to talk the talk and be a subject matter expert in integration is a solid career path. It's important to understand the range of data integration tools to reduce risk and implementation times dramatically.

Big data. More advanced cloud skills focus on the promise and mystery of the fastest area of IT growth --big data. Big data is tied to the also-growing Internet of Things, which describes an explosion of data sources, analytics and business intelligence that surpasses everything we've achieved with data thus far.

Big data is a completely different worldview -- there's Hadoop and GPUs, object storage, HPC clusters running MapReduce-type parallel operations, and so many more skills to be mastered. Being facile with big data is what sets admins apart. This is especially vital with strong financial pressures to move part of the processing onto cloud infrastructure, as well as rent SaaS apps rather than buy apps or write in-house code.

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