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Careers in Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is remaking the IT landscape with a simple innovation: the migration of computing from a centralized, single-tenant IT architecture to a distributed, multi-tenant architecture spanning a vast network of PCs. Cloud Computing Journal describes the technology as "the infrastructural paradigm shift that is sweeping across the enterprise IT world." The new IT shifts the emphasis from desktop hardware to data, impacting work styles, IT resource management, and your IT career opportunities.

What Is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing redefines the data network, introducing new flexibility and scalability by distributing IT resources across a vast infrastructure. The official NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) definition denotes cloud computing as "a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort." IT resources available in the cloud include networks, servers, storage, applications, and software services.

Different service models for cloud computing offer varying degrees of resource access for consumers, while the provider manages the underlying IT infrastructure (network, servers, storage, etc.):

  • Software as a Service (SaaS). Subscribers access a software application through a multi-tenant IT architecture.
  • Web-based Development Platforms (PaaS). Consumers access development environments, which allow them to create and deploy applications in the cloud.
  • On-Demand Infrastructure (IaaS). Consumers access virtual data center commodities such as servers, storage, operating systems, and some networking components such as firewalls.

The classic model of cloud computing is a public service infrastructure operated by a third-party. But according to the NIST, cloud computing infrastructures may be public or private, operated by a third party or internally, on or off premises.

What Is Cloud Computing Not?

This broad definition leads many to wonder -- what doesn't qualify as cloud computing? The term's trendiness became an instant sign of computing-industry relevance in the late 2000s, to the point that even Oracle CEO Larry Ellison "[had] no idea what anyone is talking about."

Since then, analysts and IT professionals have sought to rein in the concept by identifying essential properties of the cloud.

  • Pooled Resources. Rather than a single endpoint, the cloud is a conglomerate of multiple infrastructures and frameworks--a vast resource pool. The cloud frees computing from a particular platform or device; instead, consumers access data hosted on a virtual, Internet-mediated network.
  • Virtualized architecture. The cloud is a "virtualization of resources that maintains and manages itself," says Kevin Hartig. Virtualization enables the on-demand requisitioning of resources through distributed and grid computing, allowing the cloud to accommodate many users with changing network demands.
  • "Elasticity" and On-Demand Access. The cloud is elastic -- it allows users to dynamically access services and resources on demand, instantly ramping up or scaling back usage.

The new virtual information technology redefines data management and network architecture, creating a more flexible environment for business computing.

Careers in Cloud Computing

At the same time, cloud computing is reshaping the IT professional's role, both within individual organizations and data centers. Cloud computing careers call on IT professionals with specialized skills in developing, implementing, and servicing IT systems across a distributed network architecture.

The expertise you need to get a career in cloud computing varies depending on your intended career path. For example:

  • IT administrators benefit from a knowledge of service-oriented architecture (SOA). The SOA registry/repository is crucial for integrating on- and off-premises infrastructure to expose and govern cloud services.
  • Network architects draw on advanced knowledge of parallel computing to develop distributed cloud computing networks.

From service provider to end user, a vast team of IT systems administrators, network analysts, database managers, network engineers, security experts, and information architects keeps the cloud up and running. These jobs in cloud computing draw on a combination of basic information systems training and specialized skills in distributed networking.

How to Get a Career in Cloud Computing

Cloud computing degrees and certification programs lay the foundation for a career in cloud computing. Look for an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree in computer science or information science to get started. Then add specialized training in key areas such as network security, database management, and distributed networks. Some jobs in cloud computing value experience in specific cloud computing vendor technologies. Vendors such as IBM and 3Tera are among those offering cloud computing certifications.

Cloud computing careers are growing rapidly as the IT sector shifts to the new virtualized data infrastructure. It's no wonder that network analyst jobs lead the Bureau of Labor Statistics' list of fastest-growing careers, with 53 percent job growth forecast through the 2008 to 2018 period.


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