In a cloud environment, the server capacity is already in place, and it's virtual. Instead of weeks, it can take minutes to get a server running. The process of provisioning a server to run an app is almost entirely automated, and users only pay for the computing capacity they use, as opposed to paying for all of the capacity that an entire physical server provides.
Cloud computing differs from traditional IT in several other ways. It presents new problems and therefore requires new approaches to solving those problems. For example, when Rackspace began to develop monitoring services for its cloud customers, it looked to traditional IT management and monitoring tools from several major vendors. Fafel says Rackspace quickly realized that those tools, which are designed for enterprises in which there's a known set of users and are managed in a centralized fashion, didn't work in a multitenant cloud environment. Rackspace ultimately decided to use monitoring software from a small cloud company, CloudKick, which it later acquired.
"As you're evaluating solutions to build within the cloud and work within the cloud, you have to be open to looking at startup companies that are just getting off the ground," says Fafel. "That's a hard pill to swallow for many IT leaders."
Select Areas of Specialization and Certifications
IT professionals who understand the concept of cloud computing, its different deployment models and use cases will be able to speak confidently about how their organizations might take advantage of the cloud and the benefits they might derive from it. Talking about cloud computing inside their IT organizations will distinguish them as knowledgeable and can help get them moved onto cloud computing projects, says Golden.
He recommends IT professionals learn about cloud computing's hot areas, such as platform-as-a-service (and Cloud Foundry in particular) and non-relational database management systems such as NoSQL, Apache's CouchDB and Cassandra databases, and Mongo. He also urges IT professionals to learn how to manage cloud infrastructure services environments and the management frameworks that sit around them, whether BMC or RightScale, for example.
All of these recommendations may seem overwhelming. The good news is that resources for you to educate yourself abound.
"It's dead easy to learn those things," says Golden, "because they all have online versions that are dirt cheap."
Indeed, many vendors in the vast cloud computing ecosystem, including Rackspace, Eucalyptus, RightScale, enStratus and Opscode, offer in-person or online training courses, documentation, white papers, demos, webinars and other resources on their Websites. These resources are often free for customers and partners. Sometimes they're free to the public or available for a low cost.