Clouds Part a Bit on IT Jobs of Future

Susan Hall
Slide Show

The Impact of Cloud Computing

The primary driver for cloud computing adoption is shifting from costs to agility.

Despite worries over the economy and the debt ceiling's potential effect on IT spending and IT jobs, experts keep reporting that tech remains the bright spot in the job landscape.


But mirroring the concern reported in the CompTIA IT Business Confidence Index released Monday, the North Carolina Technology Association calls the IT job market in the state "stagnant" after finding 7 percent fewer IT job openings in June than in May.


Meanwhile, a long piece in the Charlotte Observer looks at how cloud computing will affect the IT work force, a popular topic these days as IT workers fret over what this new paradigm will mean for their careers. It has implications for the state, too, which has worked out sweet deals with big tech companies to create its so-called Data Center Corridor. But while the data centers provide jobs in construction in counties where the unemployment rate has been 12 to 15 percent, they provide few IT jobs.


According to the Observer:

According to a tally by Gov. Bev Perdue's office, leading tech firms spent $3.8 billion to build facilities in the Data Center Corridor from 2007 to 2010. This infrastructure, which now powers many of the most popular sites on the Web, added only 1,181 local jobs or an average of 394 per year during that interval.

The article echoes the notion that with cloud computing and automation, IT jobs will be less about maintaining equipment, but that IT pros will adapt, learning new programming languages and going where the jobs are. I recently quoted IDC analyst Shawn McCarthy putting it this way:

... even as some jobs will go away, others will evolve in dynamic new ways. ... many IT shops, including government IT facilities, will become less about systems operation and maintenance and more about operating as centers of information technology expertise for their organizations. Workers will take on evaluation and advisory roles, essentially becoming service brokers who are able to leverage their specific knowledge to help ask the right questions and judge details about the correct technologies for specific solutions. They also may be called upon to establish price points and effective platforms for those solutions.

A recent InfoWorld article gets more specific, looking at nine categories of jobs affected by the cloud.

  • Winners: Enterprise architects, systems administrators, front-line IT managers - after all, someone has to design it all and keep it working optimally.
  • Changed roles: CIOs, senior IT managers - their business role is expanding to create a more flexible infrastructure. Contract and service managers - there's more to manage than ever, prompting this CIO.com article to refer to them as "cat herders." Enterprise developers - similar to the philosophy recently adopted at Petco, the article quotes Susan Cramm, founder of executive career-development and strategy consultancy Valudance, predicting less customization and in-house development: "Someone still has to do that programming; it's just not you."
  • Losers: Middle IT managers. Technical specialists - with convergence in the data center, we're already seeing the rise of what our Mike Vizard calls "super administrators."
  • Uncertain implications: IT support and help desk.


The Observer article also points to IT skills that have gained importance, such as security. And it points to a wealth of opportunities that cloud computing offers in entrepreneurship. It quotes Dr. Nasseh Tabrizi, graduate director for Computer Science and the Software Engineering programs at East Carolina University, referring to an ecosystem such as the one that has sprung up around Facebook:

Rather than thinking about it in terms of jobs that are not being created or perhaps being lost to automation, I think we need to think of it in terms of how many jobs will be created by all the new companies that are going to spring up as a result of people innovating in the cloud. ...
Cloud computing - with its 'pay-as-you-go' features that lower the initial investment required - is going to actually help generate opportunities and the potential for economic prosperity over the next few years, even in rural parts of North Carolina.
We need to start planning for the shift and create programs for retraining IT personnel so they can adapt to this new world, so they are not only supporting desktop computers. And from a broader perspective, we need to prepare as a country so cloud computing infrastructures and related IT and software engineering jobs don't go overseas.

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