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Cloud computing promises job flow

Published on Friday, 11 May 2012
Victor Wong (left), Ashford Pritchard and Martin Cerullo.
Photo: Dickson Lee

The steady growth in enterprise the adoption by companies of cloud computing is reshaping the information technology (IT) workforce. Traditional IT workers are naturally afraid that demand for their services will weaken – instead, however, industry experts detect predict greater opportunities.

Many enterprise clients already see the value of cloud computing, especially private clouds. “Our recent survey of over 16,000 business leaders worldwide suggested that globally, 39 per cent of companies see cloud computing as the best way business can save on costs while still enabling growth,” says Ashford Pritchard, public relations and communications manager for Asia-Pacific at Regus.

Regus is the world’s leading provider of workspace, with over one million customers worldwide using its network of locations. “We see a huge potential for an uptake in cloud computing, as more companies look to work flexibly over location,” says Pritchard.

Samson Tai, chief technologist at IBM Hong Kong, says “most enterprises have taken the first step towards private cloud implementation, which is virtualisation. A few have begun the automation journey too, while some are also planning to standardise IT services. Regarding public cloud services, as analyst firm IDC estimates, the Hong Kong public cloud market is growing at 40 per cent (CAGR 2011-15) to US$295 million in 2015. It should create more new job opportunities in the market, as the cloud business model – pay-as-you-go– will accelerate IT adoption in both enterprises and SMEs.”
IBM is one of the major IT companies promoting cloud adoption by businesses. It offers a comprehensive portfolio of cloud computing solutions to both cloud services providers and enterprise users, with the options of deploying private, public and hybrid clouds.

“One of the benefits that cloud computing brings to businesses is to manage the whole IT environment more effectively. From this point of view, enterprises can manage more IT resources with less manpower. While we probably will not need as many system administrators as before, converting to cloud computing enables us to free our IT resources – both people and infrastructure– for creating more high-value IT job opportunities, as opposed to day-to-day administrative jobs,” Tai explains.

Martin Cerullo, managing director Asia-Pacific at Alexander Mann Solutions, makes a similar observation. As a global leader in the provision of talent management services, Alexander Mann Solutions helps companies develop and implement their strategy to recruit, retain and engage cloud computing professionals.

“I think we are still in the very early days of enterprise adoption. Much of this is due to many corporate IT policies being linked more to the traditional model. That said, this is changing – and fast,” he says.

Cerullo points to the changing the nature of IT jobs in the cloud. “Demand for cloud computing roles is very high in organisations across the world, but they are struggling to find talent with the right skills level.”

Career opportunities will be hugely attractive for professionals with the right skills, says Cerullo. “Many companies have realised that the skills don’t exist in the external market, so they are providing training for current employees and often for new hires in cloud computing, to ensure their workforce is prepared,” he says.

IBM’s Tai expects opportunities for IT professionals to grow alongside the new business opportunities created by cloud computing. “For public cloud providers especially, potential customers are the whole public. They have more business opportunities than ever before – in line with their ability to innovate and deliver their products and services via the cloud. Hence, a successful cloud computing business needs more capable people who not only understand the market they are focusing on but can also make it happen on the cloud computing platform,” says Tai.

Which IT jobs will be in demand in the cloud computing era?
Infrastructure people such as database administrators, network administrators and system administrators will be much sought after, according to Tai. “In addition to regular IT jobs, the most important job is those innovators who understand the industry, marketing trends and customer habits, and who’ll be able to define and create new services,” he says.

Victor Wong, Citrix Systems’ regional director for Hong Kong and Taiwan, lists other specific IT jobs. “We really require a different type of architecture designers in the cloud computing infrastructure. The system needs to be available almost 24/7. One of the basic requirements of cloud computing is that you can access your cloud computing services anytime, anywhere via any kind of device such as a tablet PC, mobile phone, ultra-book computer, desktop PC or even Smart TV. This is a really high-availability system that needs to be built,” he says.

Citrix is a global provider of virtualisation, networking and cloud computing services, with 69,000 employees worldwide and 10,000 partner companies in 100 countries.

“The other high-demand jobs would be security-related. No matter the security software required, the compliance rules and audits will be quite different. And no doubt, systems must be on an open basis. It requires certain programmers who can support these programming languages or tools,” Wong explains.

“We see a lot of job roles related to cloud computing, but we still require a lot of project managers, programmers and analysts who need to know about their industry or application. All of them are still very important and cannot be replaced because they are the bridge between the technology and the business,” Wong adds.

Besides cloud architects, Cerullo of Alexander Mann Solutions, points out a continuing need for application developers, capacity planners, data specialists and vendor managers.

Equipping themselves with the right cloud computing skills is the way for IT workers to ensure that they survive the job market shift. “Some fundamental skills and knowledge, such as virtualisation as-a-service concept, cloud related technologies and products, are required for cloud computing professionals. Based on these general capabilities, some specific skills such as database, middleware, security and storage are also required for various experts to cover particular customer requirements for their cloud computing environments,” Tai advises.

Cerullo emphasises institutional training. “A strong foundation in IT, whether from their university degree or from specific training courses or certifications, is a great starting point. The key to the future is to gain certification in key cloud technologies. When reviewing your current training plan, look for courses which provide these certifications, and also look externally at courses provided by universities or industry training bodies,” he says.

High-level cloud computing skill sets, however, are still not easy to find in Hong Kong. “I don’t see any courses related to pure cloud computing at the moment because it is a really new perspective,” says Wong of Citrix. “It involves a lot of different kinds of new technologies such as virtualisation and it also involves some of the next concepts or architecture, which is quite different compared to the traditional system we build. No doubt the US is still the pioneer in this area.”  

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