Adapting skill set and mindset for success in the cloud
Two years ago, Forbes Magazine reported that more than half of all businesses in the US were using cloud computing.1 Since then, the increasing availability of platform-as-a-service (PaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), and software-as-a-service (SaaS) resources continues to drive a fundamental change in how enterprises approach IT. The level of change may not be quite on par with what a cosmic impact event once did to Earth’s dinosaur population, but the IT landscape is very definitely changing. The question is, does the technological disruption brought on by cloud computing carry with it a commensurate skill disruption? How is the widespread adoption of cloud computing affecting architects, developers, and others in IT, and what are they doing to adapt their skills to the unique characteristics of cloud-based solutions?
Based on his experience implementing cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions and PaaS solutions, Oracle ACE Director Basheer Khan finds that most of his precloud technical skills remain valid.
In SaaS environments, Khan describes as still relevant his precloud functional skills in conceptualizing, setup, and configuration. Similarly, his pre-existing technical skills in development, deployment, and management are entirely relevant in PaaS environments.
But according to Khan, who is also an IT architect and principal at Knex Technology, not all precloud skills apply to PaaS and SaaS environments. “Infrastructure-related skills are no longer needed, and performance tuning, beyond the code level, is also irrelevant,” he says.
For success in working with SaaS products, Khan has had to sharpen his understanding of cloud ERP concepts, template-based rapid implementation, and file-based data import, along with new reporting tools, web services, and Oracle Fusion Functional Setup Manager. For PaaS projects, Khan has bolstered his skills in provisioning instances, making cloud services from multiple vendors work together, working with consoles, making PaaS work with SaaS, and overcoming limitations.
In the cloud, principles of solution architecture and platform architecture are different.
In addition to tweaking his technical skill set, Khan says he has had to adjust his thinking. “With SaaS, the biggest challenge has been meeting clients’ expectations of reduced implementation costs and shorter timelines. For PaaS, architecting solutions requires a completely different mindset. You need to factor in service compatibility, availability, and security.”
Oracle ACE Director Ron Batra, senior director of innovation in the Office of the CTO at Equinix, reports that in his work with SaaS environments, the depth of skill he has in understanding business processes, resulting in setups, workflows, and configurations, is as relevant as before. For his work with PaaS environments, he says, “code development, testing, and quality assurance are relevant. Deployment and management concepts have carried over as well while the tooling has changed. For example, more online code repositories such as Git are gaining popularity.”
Batra finds that he now relies far less on his infrastructure architecture skills. “Detailed infrastructure design and planning, deployment, and procurement skills are no longer needed as much,” he explains. “Built-in templates and the ability of applications to auto-scale change the game significantly.”
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Batra has had to adjust his skills to address unique aspects of cloud computing such as the polyglot nature of cloud services, the gradual shift from Simple Object Access Protocol–based to Representational State Transfer–based APIs, automated load testing, and continuous integration and development in agile development lifecycles.
Batra also has had to adapt his thinking. “Not having full control of everything, as was the case with on-premises environments, took a while to get used to,” he says. “The rapid deployment cycles expected from the cloud have raised expectations for rapid development lifecycles. Agile development is the new norm, and the usual past behavior of a drawn-out implementation with lots of bodies and complex infrastructure provisioning has become history. The entire focus is on getting a solution up and running. In the cloud, principles of solution architecture and platform architecture are different.”
For Khan and Batra, and for others who participated in an online discussion on this topic, the transition to cloud computing appears to be less about skill disruption and more about making a few key adjustments.
How are you handling the shift? Share your thoughts on the Oracle Technology Network community discussion, Getting into the Cloud Headspace.
1 “The Cloud Hits the Mainstream: More than Half of U.S. Businesses Now Use Cloud Computing” —Forbes Magazine, April 16, 2013