Is there a big gloomy cloud over the IT job market?

The cloud will bring inevitable repercussions to the job market
The cloud will bring inevitable repercussions to the job market

As perhaps the biggest disruptive technology trend in recent times, cloud computing is steadily permeating throughout businesses across the world. The adoption of cloud computing is so widespread that Gartner predicts that it will be a $207 billion (around £135 billion, AU$270 billion) industry by 2016, growing at a rate of over 100%. Compare this to the general global IT market growing at around 3% and cloud computing's popularity is clear to see.

But just as the disposal of paper and the rise of IT changed the way that staff worked, the shift to cloud computing looks to have the same effect. As IT infrastructure and operations are moved to offsite hosted locations, there will be inevitable reverberations in the job market.

It means that new and updated skillsets will be required, while others will have to adapt and be redeployed. In fact, a study recently commissioned by Microsoft found that the cloud will create nearly 14 million jobs worldwide by the close of 2014. So what is this transition likely to look like?

Out with the old

As the uptake of Infrastructure-as-a-Service increases, in-house infrastructure related jobs such as system administrators or operators may find that their primary tasks will be moved to the cloud. This means that fewer traditional data centre managers will be needed internally as IT becomes hosted offsite by someone else.

The same will be true as more businesses use Software-as-a-Service: an organisation that is looking to implement a new ERP system can take advantage of a hosted service, which means that a specialist in-house application manager may not be necessary.

Many research organisations have predicted that the number of these technology specific roles will shrink by up to 75% by 2015 due to this effect. But, while this may seem like doom and gloom, the reality is that cloud computing will also lead to tremendous job opportunities elsewhere.

For example, in the traditional outsourcing sector the growth of cloud will in the long-term lead to less technical infrastructure management work; however, those in these types of roles will be transferred to other areas as new business dynamics are created.

In with the new

Cloud computing will mean that new areas of specialisation will be required; areas which have yet to be filled and will only increase in size. New IT systems will demand new skills, which means that IT professionals have the opportunity to upgrade their existing skillsets and qualifications.

While the traditional roles diminish or merge with new roles, new jobs will evolve which will require a mix of both technical and business skills to provide valuable insights into cloud-based business solutions. For example, those who have the technical skills to address services and technologies whilst being able to analyse and consult will be in high demand.

Cloud specialists will be required – both in-house and at service providers, ranging from cloud product managers and consultants, to network managers and engineers – to help businesses shift to, and maintain, their cloud environments. Businesses are likely to need cloud specialists with the ability to project manage in line with business requirements, while cloud providers will need staff with technical cloud skills to maintain service levels. A huge number of these job opportunities are on the horizon – opportunities which if capitalised on now, can reap huge rewards in the future.

As highlighted earlier, the outsourcing industry will feel this effect too. As the number of cloud providers, resellers, integrators and distributors increase, an ecosystem of cloud parties has started to develop. The complex relationship of these businesses will need to be nurtured by an entirely new role – the cloud broker. A cloud broker adds value not only by managing the use, performance and delivery of cloud services but also by negotiating relationships between cloud providers and consumers. They also provide various services such as integration, aggregation and arbitrage.

This is an enormous task and needs an army of qualified people to manage. Organisations can have their internal staff manage this ecosystem but they can lack the commercial skills to broker these services. The benefit is that organisations can save money by handing these complex services to cloud brokers which, through partnerships with leading technology providers, can provide cost-effective and cutting-edge value propositions.

Evolution not extinction

Cloud computing won't be the death knell for modern IT professionals. It won't necessarily eliminate jobs, but rather, it's likely to combine multiple roles together while opening up new job opportunities for others.

Naturally, there will be some degree of labour displacement as the way that businesses use technology evolves, and the skills required to support that evolve, too. But in redefining how IT is used, staff need to undergo the same level of transformation to develop the necessary skills to help all involved make the most out of cloud computing.