IT Operations and the Cloud Skills Gap
There is a cloud hanging over IT these days -- pun intended -- with respect to automation in the enterprise. Specifically, it’s a cloud of chaos caused by disparate operational environments that force adoption of new paradigms, platforms, and languages.
While there are several valid reasons organizations continue to shy away from going whole hog on public cloud, it's the operational differences that should cause the most concern. Developers may be experts at using the cloud for development and testing, but they aren’t experts in delivery architecture. That skill set remains largely in the heads of network and security operations within IT, neither of which are adept at cloud computing, at least not yet.
They’ll need to be if business is going to do more than dip its toes in the public cloud. And they’ll need to be soon, as all the studies and surveys tell us business is already in the air, about to take the full-body plunge into the public cloud pool.
There are, of course, ways to fill the gap between current operational skill sets and those needed for public cloud. But one of them is unlikely to be hiring talent, because that talent is nowhere to be found. Or, as Ryan Holland, senior director of technology services at Alert Logic, recently pointed out during a panel on cloud native apps and migration, most organizations can’t afford IT pros with cloud talent. The law of supply and demand has driven their ability to command healthy salaries that just don’t fit every IT budget.
That’s not just hyperbole. Dice.com lists over 10,000 jobs mentioning cloud every day. Open cloud positions on the job listing site grew 7% from 2016 to 2017. An inability to fill – and retain – skilled professionals is a significant problem for the business if they are to rely on apps delivered from the cloud. Robert Half Technology, an IT staffing firm, recently noted that cloud is the second largest driver of skill sets at 24%. CompTIA found in a recent survey that 46% of respondents see the skills gap growing. Cloud infrastructure and applications ranked high on its list of the most in-demand skills, at 57%.
That means you’re going to have to rely on your existing staff to obtain the skills they need, or risk plunging into a pool that can’t be sustained. It’s not just the stark difference in operational paradigms. It’s the sudden wall that appears between cloud and on-premises in the increasingly automated world of operations.
Without the skills necessary to navigate cloud operations at the network and infrastructure layers, organizations risk running smack dab into a brick wall with their automation efforts. The chasm between on-premises and cloud becomes a transition from automated, self-service models that increasingly exist on-premises to a step-by-step, manually-driven process that introduces delays and the potential for mistakes.
That's pretty ironic given that public cloud introduced us to automated, self-service models for networking and infrastructure in the first place.
Avoiding that pitfall means investing in your people, in IT. Training and education is critical to ensure that IT operations gets the familiarity and expertise with public cloud models of deployment and management so they can include it in their automation efforts.
I live in the upper Midwest, where we have more cows and insurance companies per capita than the rest of the country. Many of those insurance companies started out with COBOL on mainframes before I was born and still maintain them today. Now colleges don’t, as a rule, offer courses in COBOL now. But there are those in the area that partner with business to instruct developers and operations in just those technologies – to ensure the business continues to maintain a pool of talent it needs to sustain those applications until they are (one day, hopefully) retired.
That investment pays off for them, and it’s that success others should take notice of when it comes to public cloud. It’s not just this one app today you need to worry about; it’s the hundred in the pipeline over the next five to ten years you need to consider. Every application puts an additional burden on IT to deploy and manage that is best met with automation. That means automation at home, on-premises, as well as into the public cloud.
Investing in your existing staff to arm them with the skills necessary to automate everywhere is a strategic step toward getting a handle on your multi-cloud future.
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