IT trends reshape the cloud computing job market

These days, the cloud computing job market evolves just as rapidly as the technology itself.

In 2018, businesses big and small will look to either on board new IT staff, or advance the skills of existing staff, around a number of key IT trends. Some of these trends spotlight technologies such as machine learning and serverless computing, while others involve more bread-and-butter cloud infrastructure management skills, especially those related to hybrid and multi-cloud.

Public cloud adoption is expected to climb significantly over the coming years, but enterprises still primarily choose the best execution venue for their workloads, whether that’s public cloud, private cloud or a combination of the two, said Jay Lyman, principal analyst at 451 Research.

“[Enterprises want] apps and workloads to run on the best infrastructure based on cost, performance, data sovereignty, geographic location and regulatory and compliance issues,” Lyman said.

This flexibility comes at a cost, however, as IT teams must tediously integrate and manage various cloud platforms. As a result, many enterprises will fill cloud computing jobs with architects or admins who can bridge disparate infrastructures, and effectively manage workloads as they move between them.

Meanwhile, more cutting-edge technologies such as machine learning, containerization, and cloud-native apps continue to reshape the cloud computing job market, and show no signs of slowing down.

To align with these technology shifts, many cloud-focused IT professionals must build or hone their skills around areas such as data science, AI and container orchestration — or risk being left behind.

Here are five in-demand cloud computing skills to advance your career in 2018:

Hone your data science skills as machine learning, AI rise

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are no longer just buzzwords — they’re increasingly at the heart of more IT initiatives.

Worldwide spending on cognitive and artificial intelligence (AI) technology will reach $57.6 billion in 2021, a compound annual growth rate of 50%, predicts analyst firm IDC. Enterprise applications for AI technology will run the gamut, ranging from automated customer service agents to medical diagnosis and treatment.

To nab a piece of that spend, major cloud providers such as AWS, Azure and Google continue to roll out new machine learning and AI services at a dizzying pace. And enterprises seek new cloud computing skills to effectively use them.

Many organizations will seek out IT professionals who not only have deep knowledge of popular cloud-native AI technologies, such as Google TensorFlow or Azure Machine Learning, but advanced data science skills as well, said Dave Bartoletti, principal analyst at Forrester.

“One of the major drivers of migrating applications from the data center to the public cloud is to [perform] artificial intelligence and data analytics on these gigantic data sets we are collecting,” he said. “Data science has been a hot job for the past five years — but it’s going to be even hotter as more enterprises move larger data sets to the public cloud.”

Data science skills will indeed be hot this year, if 2017 was any indication. The data scientist role ranked number one in job search and review site Glassdoor’s “Best Jobs in America” report last year. Scores were based on three factors: the number of open jobs, salary and overall job satisfaction rating.

Machine learning, which is considered a subset of AI, is increasingly common within the data science discipline. With machine learning tools, IT teams can apply algorithms to automate the processing of massive amounts of data, and more quickly analyze and gain insights.

Cloud admins and architects have numerous training options to get their feet wet with AI and machine learning, and expand their data science skills. Cloud providers directly offer courses and certifications; Microsoft, for instance, offers a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate in Machine Learning certification, while Google has a Data and Machine Learning training track intended for IT professionals who work with big data.

Serverless architectures reshape app dev and IT ops

Serverless architectures continue to generate buzz across the cloud industry. And the technology’s potential benefits make serverless skills an important addition to any cloud professional’s resume, whether an architect, developer or admin.

“[Serverless] is just starting to come on the radar, but seems to be coming on fast — the way that containers did,” said Jay Lyman, principal analyst at 451 Research. “It’s compelling to end users because there are economic benefits and a lack of complexity.”

Serverless architectures eliminate the need for developers to provision and manage underlying infrastructure when they want to build and run an application. Serverless applications are also event-driven, which means their components, or functions, only run when triggered and shut done once a task is complete. Cloud providers only charge users for compute resources when those functions run, so costs don’t pile up as an application sits idle.

While these cost-savings are a big lure, they aren’t a guarantee, and IT pros need the knowledge to dig further and know which types of applications are best for serverless computing. For example, applications that run constantly might cost an organization more on a serverless platform than on traditional cloud infrastructure.

IT pros can evolve their cloud computing skills for serverless in various ways. For starters, familiarize yourself with some of the popular serverless platforms — also known as functions as a service (FaaS) offerings — such as AWS Lambda, Azure Functions, Google Cloud Functions and IBM Cloud Functions.

In addition, prepare to manage serverless applications differently than more traditional apps. Serverless architectures break an application down into various individual functions, so admins must monitor performance, troubleshoot and track usage for each, and also rethink scaling and load balancing practices.

Since the technology is still in its early days, it’s difficult for companies to find candidates with serverless experience. But for IT pros, this talent gap represents a big opportunity in 2018.

“It’s going to be a little like machine learning, I would expect, where there’s high demand for some expertise on how to use these [serverless architectures], but not a lot of talent that’s out there,” Lyman said.

Multi-cloud deployments present unique management needs

Enterprises increasingly pursue multi-cloud deployments to have the flexibility to choose different hosting environments based on performance, cost and other factors. As a result, IT pros should expand their cloud computing skills across multiple infrastructure-as-a-service providers.

“What we’ll see in 2018 and 2019 is more companies using multiple public clouds for different things,” said Dave Bartoletti, principal analyst at Forrester. For example, a company might create a functions-based program with Google cloud storage for data backups, apply machine learning services on Azure and deploy Lambda in AWS.

Azure, AWS and Google continue to be the most popular choices for public cloud, and there are some overlaps in their portfolios, but also significant differences, particularly in their management tools.

To move forward with multi-cloud deployments, organizations in 2018 will seek IT pros who can speak the management languageof these various cloud providers.

“If you know AWS, great — but what is really important is what you understand about the other cloud providers as well, and how you might use multicomponents … to increase your high availability,” said Anthony James, CEO of Linux Academy, an online IT training company.

In addition to a strong grasp on different providers’ platforms and management tools, enterprises with multi-cloud deployments highly value networking skill sets. That’s also a must-have for hybrid cloud, where organizations need to move data between private and public clouds with high performance and reliability.

“The more you start moving pieces of your applications to the public cloud, [the more] you have to deal with things like latency, performance [and] data migration challenges,” Bartoletti said. “All of that requires a stable, extended network from your data center into the public cloud.”

To implement the secure, reliable network for a hybrid or multi-cloud architecture, IT pros should familiarize themselves with direct connection options from public cloud providers, such as AWS Direct Connect, Azure ExpressRoute and Google Cloud Dedicated Interconnect. These services enable an enterprise to bypass the public internet and connect on-premises environment to the cloud through a private, low-latency network.

Enterprises that plan hybrid or multi-cloud deployments will also be on the hunt for IT pros with container experience to help facilitate application portability across cloud environments. The most in-demand container skills involve Docker and Kubernetes.

“Kubernetes really empowers the ability to go across [multiple clouds] without vendor lock-in, but it also helps empower hybrid migration from on premises to the cloud,” James said.

Cloud-native apps demand microservices, container know-how

While some enterprises strive to refactor and migrate existing applications to the cloud, a growing number aims to build applications from the ground up that are optimized for cloud. These cloud-native apps are inherently designed to tap into the benefits of cloud, such as increased automation and scalability.

The push toward cloud-native applications is set to continue, and likely accelerate, in 2018. As it does, employers will seek IT professionals who are experienced with the technologies that often underpin these cloud-native initiatives: microservices, containers, and container orchestration engines such as Kubernetes, Apache Mesos and Docker Swarm.

“Developers are increasingly moving to cloud-native platforms — meaning they want to start from scratch using containers and Kubernetes orchestration to build their apps as highly distributed, microservices collections and components,” said Dave Bartoletti, principal analyst at Forrester.

Kubernetes experience, in particular, is especially in demand as organizations look to build, support and manage cloud-native apps, said Anthony James, CEO of Linux Academy, an online IT training company.

“You can take virtual machines and put them up [in the cloud], but all you’re really doing is moving your virtualization platform to the cloud — and that’s not really cloud-native,” James said. “What Kubernetes empowers is these kind of microservice applications that allow you to easily scale, and scale across multi-cloud [environments].”

Recognizing the momentum around Kubernetes, which was born out of Google, both AWS and Azure increased their support for the technology in 2017. Azure in October took a decidedly Kubernetes slant with its Azure Container Service, and AWS responded with its own managed Kubernetes service — Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) Container Service for Kubernetes (EKS) — at re:Invent in November.

As enterprises continue to adopt container technologies to build and support their cloud-native apps, IT professionals would be well-served to brush up on their cloud providers’ native container and Kubernetes services. In addition, cloud computing skills related to DevOps will continue to be in high demand among organizations that build these native apps.

“DevOps is not just a buzz term. It’s super real, and it’s impacting IT hugely,” said Anthony Sequeira, trainer at CBT Nuggets, an IT education firm. “That’s a definite area, from my perspective, of huge excitement and huge demand.”

Vendor-specific skills a boon to cloud security specialists

High-profile, headline-grabbing data breaches continue to make cloud security an utmost priority. Global spending on cloud security tools will reach $3.5 billion by 2021, a compound annual growth rate of 28% over the next five years, according to Forrester.

Cloud security investments aren’t exactly new in the enterprise. But in 2018, rather than recruit candidates with a wide swath of IT security knowledge, organizations will be on the lookout for cloud security specialists with deep knowledge of provider-native security tools. Employers increasingly want depth, not breadth.

“In terms of the most important skills, security was the top answer and then cloud platform expertise was next,” said Jay Lyman, principal analyst at 451 Research, referring to results from the firm’s recent Voice of the Enterprise survey. “[That’s] mostly public cloud … and that’s where a lot of the growth is.”

AWS, Azure and Google provide similar types of security services, such as monitoring, encryption and identity management. Still, these tools operate differently, in ways that are unique to each particular cloud platform — meaning knowledge of one doesn’t necessarily translate to another.

“Basically, somebody on your team needs to become an expert on the security approach that your cloud provider takes,” said Dave Bartoletti, principal analyst at Forrester.

To boost their resumes, cloud security specialists should fine-tune their platform-specific skills via training and certifications. If their company uses AWS, for example, they should hone their knowledge of built-in tools on that platform, such as AWS Config, a service that provides more granular control over cloud resources and sends automatic alerts to warn of potential risks.

“Today, it’s mostly about using those built-in security controls,” said Anthony James, CEO of Linux Academy, an online IT training company.

To ensure their cloud computing skills stay relevant, security managers must also keep pace with the latest trends, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, which some providers now incorporate to strengthen their offerings. For example, in August 2017, AWS introduced Amazon Macie, a managed security service that uses machine learning to automatically find, categorize and protect data stored in AWS.

DevOps integration is another trend for cloud security specialists to focus on, according to Lyman.

“Security will be increasingly a big part of DevOps deployments,” he said. “[Those are] pretty key skills to combine or have familiarity with, at least.”

Lastly, stay up to speed with the latest compliance and regulatory requirements, especially with the approval of General Data Protection Regulation in Europe.


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