"Right now, everyone is doing something as it relates to the cloud," says David Nichols, CIO Services leader for Ernst & Young. "They may have one or two applications in the cloud or are using it for storage. For just about everyone, what they're putting in the cloud is so small relative to the rest of their infrastructure that they don't have to worry about addressing this new business model separately."
The fact that most enterprises and IT departments are currently inching their way to the cloud, as Nichols describes, works to IT professionals' advantage: It takes some pressure off of them. They can learn at their own pace, as opposed to having to quickly come up to speed in the midst of a major cloud transformation. By starting their training now, they can get ahead of the technology curve.
"Cloud is here to stay. It is not a flash in the pan. It is a paradigm shift, and IT professionals need to recognize it," says Andy Knosp, vice president of professional services for Eucalyptus Software, a provider of a platform for private infrastructure-as-a-service clouds. "If they are going to increase their skills and their value in the [job] market, now is the time to get trained."
Here, cloud computing experts offer advice to IT professionals on how they can adapt their skillsets for the cloud, and they describe the impact cloud computing will have on application developers, architects, systems administrators, capacity planners and vendor managers.
Get Your Head in the Cloud
The first step in retooling your skillset for the cloud is to understand the basics: That is, the concept of cloud computing, the different deployment models (public, private and hybrid) and use cases for them, and how the model differs from traditional IT operations.
At its most basic level, cloud computing is a way of dynamically delivering customized IT resources (such as applications, storage and server capacity) over the Internet and "on demand." It relies on virtualization software, which pools available computing resources from many servers, to provide that seemingly instant access to applications, storage or servers.
The reason cloud computing represents such a radical paradigm shift for IT is because of this instant access to scalable IT capabilities that it facilitates. The classic example of this concept is the time it takes to provision a server for a new application. In a traditional corporate IT environment, this process can take weeks: A new server may need to be purchased. Once purchased it needs to be configured and software has to be deployed for it.