And why not? If you've made your career in IT, you know that it makes sense to invest in skills and roles ahead of market demand -- if at all possible.
So, how does that play out now? And should you be thinking of making a career in the cloud?
Joe Tucci used this slide to share the wave thought at EMC World. You can quibble about the labels on the waves; it's hard to deny that the waves exist.
Anyone who's familiar with basic economics knows that when demand exceeds supply, prices go up. Besides, if you're like me, there's a certain restlessness that causes some of us to inherently seek out the new shiny thing.
So a lot of us have learned to spot and ride the waves that come through this business.I first saw this in the 1980s when I realized that UNIX and relational database skills paid more than COBOL and JCL. I saw it in the 1990s when the web became a big deal, and people weren't really all that interested in SNA and OSI. Virtualization via VMware did it for me during the 2000s.
And, as I sit here in 2010, it's all about the cloud.
If you'd like to see what Sanjay had to say, please scan down towards the end of this blog post to read it in text form. Sanjay and EMC IT are not alone. Across the IT industry, I see a continually growing call for a new set of IT skills -- and a new style of IT leadership.
Is It Real?
I can't prove it to you. I'm not even going to try.
Besides, by the time there's quantitative and unarguable proof, it's a little late in the game. I distinctly remember having "this is gonna be big" conversations on all of the technology topics listed above (and more!) and generally being met with skepticism.
You pays your money and you takes your chances.
What Makes Cloud Skills and Cloud Leadership Different?
Well, if we go back to my oversimplified definition of "what is cloud", you can see the starting point.
Clouds essentially are (a) built differently (dynamic pools of virtualized resources), (b) operated differently -- low-touch or zero-touch IT services) and (c) consumed differently -- convenient consumption around what the user wants and needs.
OK, if that's the high-level agenda, what makes the ideal cloud IT specialist or leader?
First, you have to have an appreciation for how these things are done today at multiple levels. You need to know -- at least at a conceptual level -- how IT infrastructure are built today. You need to understand the existing ITIL-ish processes around provisioning, service delivery, security, capacity planning, etc. And you need to know how IT is paid for, and the process by which business users get access to IT resources.
That's the baseline -- how things are done today -- from a technology, process and political perspective.
Second, you have to understand how things need to be done in the future. You should have a clear picture on how these new IT infrastructures are built around fully-virtualized resources. You should be able to articulate how the existing ITIL-ish processes need to be re-architected and re-engineered in this new world. And, of course, you should be open to all the different ways that the business will want to pay for the IT services they receive.
Third -- and here's where the culling will happen -- you should be proficient at getting people from where they are to where they need to be. All of this cloudy stuff can be very threatening to people who've built a career in IT. Their skills can be mismatched, their processes can be mismatched, their behaviors and mindsets can be mismatched.
To say that you'll face an uphill battle in getting from point A to point B is an understatement. Heck, look at all the skeptical comments on this blog, for example.
Whether you're an individual contributor, the CIO, or something in between, you're probably in for a journey.How Might You Prepare?
Well, life would be easier if I could say "here, go get this list of industry and vendor certifications, and you'll be good to go". This discussion is so early that there aren't any generally-accepted certs and courseware yet -- although I'm sure that there are a few vendors who'll try and convince you otherwise.
Chad Sakac faced a version of this problem when he created the vSpecialist group at EMC this year. He started with the best VMware practitioners he could find as a starting point, and then built from there. Taught them storage. Taught them networking. And I'm sure he's working his way through security, management, operations, applications, etc. -- all the disciplines that will be needed.
I also see people with a very well-rounded IT background recognize that their breadth is now their strength, and they've got a good foundation to layer on the new stuff, and be fairly credible and proficient -- especially in regards to leading others through the transition. I like it when I see that.
The basic point -- you need to know a fair amount about a whole lot of different things. "Cloud" is not a bounded specialty like security or storage or virtualization; it's the sum total of all these things working as a system. And, ultimately, it's about organizational change -- as Sanjay will tell you :-)
If you really want to get into the thick of things, you might want to consider working for one of the newer generation of service providers. I see them as significantly ahead of the industry at large in using cloud principles as a foundation to offer their IT services. And, for them, it's not just a management imperative, it underpins their entire business model -- so they've got to get it right.
I'm betting that those service provider-ish skills will be very much in demand within enterprise IT within a few years. Because, after all, enterprise IT is really an internal IT service provider when you think about it :-)
But what if you're a vendor, consultant, analyst or somewhere else in the IT industry?
I'd advise you to start preparing yourself for the inevitable industry shift and resulting consolidation. Work with vendors, integrators, consultants and customers who are also interested and motivated by the inevitable industry shift. And if you can't do that from your current position, consider migrating to one that gives you that opportunity.
A word of caution: there is a strong temptation during any industry transition to label yourself something like Cloud Expert, Cloud Guru, Cloud Czar or something similar. My advice would be to attempt to stay humble, freely admit that no one knows everything yet, and -- although we all have strong opinions on how things are likely to evolve -- there's no accepted or conventional wisdom yet.
Several years ago, I led a project to create a broad social media proficiency across EMC. Turns out we were way ahead of our time, and became comparatively proficient compared to the industry at large -- a state that persists to this day. I wrote about it on this blog, no longer updated.
I did not label myself a Social Media Expert or Social Media Guru or anything else along those lines.
I cringed when people referred to me that way. And, to this day, I still wince a bit when people self-identify as a "social media expert" or something similar. Why? It was all a learning experience -- as it should be.
That's important in life -- learning new things.Final Thoughts
Paul Maritz, CEO of VMware has some great quotes.
One of my current favorites is "cloud computing is more about how computing will be done, and less about where it will be done".
If he's right, and cloud computing will change how computing will be done, doesn't it make sense to start swimming in that general direction?