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The impact of cloud computing on IT jobs - a few thoughts



Talk around the (mostly negative) impact cloud computing will have on IT jobs doesn’t seem to ever let up. In his piece, Cloud computing’s real creative destruction may be the IT workforce, Larry Dignan at ZDNet writes that “humans will be virtualized just like servers are," as he recaps a presentation from two analysts at the market research firm Gartner.  Taking a different view, Bernard Golden at CIO.com provides a strong argument in his The IT Jobs Cloud Computing Will Create.

 

Golden contends, essentially, that rather than jobs being automated away - on net - that the increased use of IT that cloud computing will usher in will actually create IT jobs.

 

I tend to agree with Golden, and think the hysteria on how many IT jobs cloud computing will displace is significantly overhyped - if not flat out wrong.

 

There’s no doubt that anything as disruptive as cloud computing will have to force some evolutionary change on IT job roles. Some roles may disappear altogether. Others will remain, but in much less demand. For instance, it’s probably a safe prediction that lower level on-premise IT support  roles will still exist, but in fewer numbers.

 

Recently, the impact on cloud computing on the role of developers came up for discussion. Some believe the trend toward continuous application development means the need for dedicated developers is likely to wane. Silicon.com’s Steve Ranger tackled the changing role of the developer very recently in his piece, Why cloud computing will kill programming - and make us all developers:

 

  In this new cloud computing world, so the argument goes, any element needed to build an application will already exist on the web somewhere, so all that will be needed is for someone to connect up this series of ready-made modules and APIs in order to create a new application.

In this scenario, no coding is required, or at least not at the level that it is done today - we need architects, but can do without builders.


"People fundamentally don't realise where cloud computing is going to wind up," Don Ferguson, CTO at CA Technologies told me at the company's customer conference earlier this week.


"We aren't going to write programs anymore, we are going to find something and configure it. No more programming - that's the way IT is going to be."

 

While I agree that easier-to-use development tools will liberate many aspects of what is accomplished by skilled developers today, and thereby lessen dependence on custom development: software developers won’t be disappearing any time soon.


There will always be a need, in my view, for custom development. And there will remain plenty of jobs that require the custom work and heavy lifting that only a professional developer can provide.


There will also be an abundance of jobs in other areas of IT. Organizations will still need experts that not only know IT, but also how IT fits into their specific industry. Industry is also going to need those with the security expertise necessary to build and maintain a secure architecture. And, because many cloud services are outsourced, industry is going to need engagement managers who help to ensure that the proper service levels are in place and that vendors are living up to their agreements. With the growing dependence on data, data scientists and those with business intelligence skills will be in high demand.


IT project managers and business analysts will also be crucial for success. Someone will have to make certain that all of those Web-based applications are being developed to an organization’s specifications, reasonably on schedule, and that enterprise resources are being deployed efficiently.


Of course, IT jobs within solution providers and at consultancies will remain. All types of IT expertise will be needed at SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS providers as well as independent software vendors. 


Finally, IT security expertise will remain important. The more we depend on IT systems, the more data security will be crucial. And there’s certainly no sign that the challenges associated with keeping data, infrastructure, and applications secure are are going to be solved any time soon.


I’m sure I’ve overlooked many areas were skilled IT workers will remain in demand in the years ahead. The idea of this post wasn’t to be all-inclusive, but to make the point that cloud will not displace the need for IT skills or IT jobs - in fact it could very well create more IT jobs. There’s just too much work to be done.


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George V. Hulme has been writing about enterprise technology and IT security for nearly two decades. You can also find him tweeting about those topics on Twitter @georgevhulme.