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April 13, 2016
Emerging role of the cloud administrator
By: David Mills

A new Cloud Administrator role, requiring a wide range of cloud management skills, is in high demand and could transform IT departments. Here are some ways enterprises and individuals can prepare.

Cloud is the word, in case you haven’t heard

It is becoming more apparent that companies need a variety of cloud services in order to stay competitive in their respective industries and to reap the potential benefits. These include establishing more agile and continuous development and allowing companies to harness the power of big data and the “Internet of Things.” Of growing importance is the hybrid cloud—an environment that employs both private and public cloud services to transform the way businesses innovate through technology.

But in this shiny new cloud age, it’s easy to underestimate the importance of evolving existing IT roles and skills. 

The only thing that may be certain in life is change

As Bob Dylan once so poignantly sang, “The Times They Are A’ Changin.’” Many companies have already devoted time and resources to developing a cloud strategy, with the primary focus being technology. Typically, these organizations evaluate cloud platform options and try to determine which Line of Business apps they should deprecate and which they should move to public cloud. For these plans to succeed, leaders must focus on recruiting and training the right people for the right roles to support a new, cloud-based mode of operations.

Think of all the traditional datacenter roles that exist in IT departments today: network administrator, system administrator, database administrator, ITSM, application development and more. With the move to cloud, people in these traditional roles are finding it necessary to look beyond their job description to gain the big-picture perspective. For example, system administrators and application administrators must now be cognizant of network technologies and operations. Meanwhile, network administrators should be aware of the application traffic flowing across their networks, as well as how to design and implement networks to support diverse requirements.

The coalescing forces of cloud, and all the accompanying technology changes, are beginning to blur the lines between many traditional IT roles. Moving from a “mode 1” model of IT operations to “mode 2”, including the introduction of cloud PaaS and SaaS offerings, is forcing an evolution of roles and responsibilities—it’s not just about infrastructure anymore. 

Dawn of the cloud administrator

One of the important emerging roles that would help organizations to effectively adopt and operate a hybrid cloud datacenter is the “Cloud Administrator.”

Perform a quick job search under the title “Cloud Administrator/Cloud Infrastructure Administrator/Cloud Engineer” and you would find a fairly consistent set of skills and responsibilities that looks something like this:

  • Experience with various virtualization technologies and multi-tenant, private and hybrid cloud environments

  • Experience with server OS and storage technologies required; knowledge of EMC VNX, VMAX, Extreme IO, Dell EqualLogic, Avamar and Veeam preferred; Cisco, replication, distribution, availability, recovery, development, and Linux experience a plus

  • Experience in scripting (BASH, Perl, Ruby, PowerShell, Python, ) and building required automation (using standard technologies such as Puppet, Ansible, Chef) and tools

  • Ability to lead and contribute to the development, maintenance, and usage of deployment and task automation (OS, database services, virtual networks, or other platform services) 

  • Ability to secure cloud applications and data against theft, loss, or other disasters

  • Ability to work with third-party SaaS providers and third party development partners on integration

  • Ability to participate in fast-paced DevOps and SysOps Engineering teams within Scrum agile processes

  • Ability to work directly with architects and developers to debug problems and solutions

  • Ability to implement cloud infrastructure designs provided by architects

That covers a lot of ground. Examining this list, it’s easy to see why maintaining traditional, discrete or narrow roles and skillsets is simply not enough to lift and shift a business to hybrid cloud IT operations. Cloud administrators need a deep understanding of IaaS, PaaS and SaaS architectures, as well as the platforms and tools required to operate them. The bottom line is that businesses and IT professionals should proactively recognize the role changes required by the shift to cloud or risk simply “blowing in the wind.”

This list, is a good indicator of the general skills and knowledge a cloud administrator should possess. But, where to start? Should your company hire new people? Train existing staff? Better leverage automation? The answer is probably a combination of all of the above.

Even with the appropriate talent, building and managing a hybrid cloud environment can be a huge challenge with native cloud and traditional tools. This is where Accenture would provide the insight and resources required for Cloud Administrators to be potentially successful. Accenture is a worldwide leader in Cloud Professional Services, with more than 21,000 professionals working on more than 13,000 projects enabling clients to appropriately move to and operate in the cloud.

In addition to training and knowledge exchange, Accenture offers various tools and services that can automate, facilitate and simplify the work required of Cloud Administrators. At the center is the Accenture Cloud Platform (ACP), which can help organizations procure, provision orchestrate, manage and govern enterprise cloud resources.

In summary, the rise of the Cloud Admin is underway, and cloud professionals and enterprise leadership should be prepared. Accenture has several resources available to train and help aspiring Cloud Admins, with much more planned for the future, so stay tuned.


Footnotes:

Gaudin, Sharon “The cloud changes IT culture, demands new tech skills”, October 15th, 2015; retrieved January 7th, 2016 from http://www.cio.com/article/2993480/cloud-computing/the-cloud-changes-it-culture-demands-new-tech-skills.html

Garvin, Lawrence “The Rise of the Cloud Administrator”, July 11, 2014; retrieved December 22nd, 2015 from http://www.networkcomputing.com/cloud-infrastructure/the-rise-of-the-cloud-administrator/a/d-id/1297173


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