The ten skills to look for when you hire for the cloud

The cloud computing steamroller continues to roll along. As part of its 2014 IT forecast, TEKsystems surveyed around 900 Canadian and U.S. IT managers at organizations of varying size and found that 59 per cent planned to spend more on cloud computing in 2014 than they did in 2013.

Of course as more enterprises move more of their applications into the cloud, the demand for IT staffers with cloud experience is naturally keeping pace. A background in cloud computing isn’t just a nice-to-have any more; it’s fast becoming an essential, and employers who know what they need are willing to pay for it.

A Computerworld report tells of one IT engineer with cloud computing experience going back seven years – virtually to the dawn of cloud computing itself. Though this person just moved to a new position as a DevOps engineer at an endpoint and server security firm, he reports that his cloud computing know-how is getting him around 20 recruiter inquiries a week.

But what are the skills exactly? For starters, cloud computing still covers a range of areas, so informed employers aren’t looking for over-specialized candidates. They need people who understand a variety of programming languages and platforms. The skill set varies from one employer to the next, but in the end it looks as if there are ten skills that are pretty consistent across the board.

  1. Cloud projects are dominated by the programming languages Perl, Ruby, Ruby on Rails and Python, as well as Java and JavaScript. Candidates don’t need to know them all, but knowing just one isn’t enough.
  2. An understanding of the “DevOps” software development method, where developers work with operations staff.
  3. Database skills, especially the SQL and MySQL programming languages, as well as Hadoop, the Cassandra open-source distributed database management system, and MongoDB.
  4. Mobile app development skills.
  5. Virtualization experience. Virtualization is “essentially what makes cloud computing more flexible and increases utilization.”
  6. Deep knowledge of one or more cloud platforms, such as Google and Amazon, as well as specific SaaS products like
  7. Linux. The open-source stalwart dominates many environments, including Infrastructure-as-a-Service.
  8. Puppet and Chef. You read that right. Many enterprises use the IT automation program Puppet, and Chef, a configuration management tool, to scale, provision, deploy and configure equipment for the cloud.
  9. The ability to build an API.
  10. Security expertise.

In 2012 IDC estimated that cloud-related IT jobs in North America would grow 22 per cent a year to 2015, with the total number of positions reaching 2.7 million. But those positions may not be what you expect. According to one analyst, cloud projects don’t require the same number of people or hours that traditional IT does.

Holger Mueller of Constellation Research says that while an on-premises enterprise software deployment might require 100 people, a similar system deployed over the cloud would need only ten, working one-third as many hours.

IT managers can expect to see head counts drop, while full-time staff are switched to cloud-specific roles. Permanent staff might not need deployment skills as much as testing skills to cope with the frequent-release nature of SaaS offerings.

While we’ve come a long way down the cloud computing road and there’s now a growing pool of IT pros with the right expertise, supply hasn’t caught up with demand. That’s good news for the pros, and a headache for enterprise IT leaders.

Andrew Brooks
Andrew Brooks
Andrew Brooks is managing editor of IT World Canada. He has been a technology journalist and editor for 20 years, including stints at Technology in Government, Computing Canada and other publications.

Would you recommend this article?


Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think of this article!
We'd love to hear your opinion about this or any other story you read in our publication.

Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Featured Download

ITW in your inbox

Our experienced team of journalists and bloggers bring you engaging in-depth interviews, videos and content targeted to IT professionals and line-of-business executives.

More Best of The Web