What Are the Core SaaS, Cloud Skills?

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Microsoft's Jobs Blog a while back addressed what that company looks for as "cloud computing skills" in job applicants. The answer? Basically experience with large-scale software-as-a-service (SaaS) projects or infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) initiatives.


In an eWEEK article, Don E. Sears poses the question of where job candidates should focus to attain these skills. He writes:

The hype is over: Adoption of cloud applications and software as a service (SaaS) is for real, and this means jobs for now and the future.

Liz Herbert, principal analyst at Forrester Research, writes at CIO.com that clients are asking increasingly sophisticated questions about SaaS and approaching it much more strategically. But one of the "clouds" might be the fog of confusion over the true definitions of "cloud" and SaaS, and their differences. Both figure prominently in the 2011 predictions piece by Bernard Golden, CEO of consulting firm HyperStratus.


And ITBE blogger Mike Vizard writes that this ongoing trend will shape companies' IT strategy for 2011 and beyond:

Most chief financial officers think that cloud computing is all about cutting the IT budget so they can drop more profit to the bottom line. That creates a perilous situation for an IT department that could quickly become a shadow of its former self.

Sears posed the question about skills to Apprenda CEO Sinclair Schuller. Apprenda makes the cloud middleware SaaSGrid. Schuller spoke of four areas of skills to comprehend and master:

  • concurrent programming
  • building for Web scale
  • employing high-availability software infrastructure
  • performance-based architecture


Said Schuller:

Another way to look at SaaS skill sets is to group them in two buckets: industrial and academic. Industrial skills are those that you can to some degree learn on the job but employ knowledge of programming languages, of the framework du jour and understanding how to correct bugs. Academic skill sets are higher-level skills with knowledge of how to design systems for high availability and scale, many of which came out of technology research communities, and have experience in areas like memory management systems, thread scheduling and many skills aligned with operating systems.

He says a paradigm shift is under way for software developers, as Sears explains:

That shift means understanding multitenancy and efficient distribution at the data level. It also means knowing how to design systems that weight performance mechanics against cost and how to optimize for speed and service-level requirements.

Schuller said certifications are nice to have, but he'd never hire a person solely on that, adding:

The industry does need a standards body, and those standards need to be rigorous, deep and define competency levels.