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Cloud computing skills shortage forces CIOs to grow their own

Meridith Levinson | April 12, 2012
When Majestic Realty Co., a Los Angeles-based commercial real estate developer, moved to Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) for cloud-based email in early 2011, CIO Jon Grunzweig was shocked by the lack of technical support he found for BPOS in the marketplace.

To illustrate the scope of the skills shortage, a recent analysis of hiring trends from Wanted Analytics, a provider of recruiting data, quantifies that the demand for cloud skills far outstrips supply. The company counted more than 3,400 job ads for IT professionals that required cloud computing skills in February 2012, a 99 percent increase over February 2011.

"People who understand cloud operations and how to deploy cloud solutions are really sought after right now," says Greg Pierce, cloud strategy officer with consultancy TriBridge. "Talent is very difficult to find and very expensive."

Mark Thiele, executive vice president of data center technologies at Switch, a Las Vegas-based provider of data center and colocation facilities, says the organizations that are currently struggling the most with this skills shortage are the ones that are trying to support other companies and their cloud requirements. "All the hosting providers and small cloud startups and professional services organizations are cruising around the world trying to find anyone and everyone who can spell cloud," he says. "If you have successfully built and delivered any kind of cloud environment for someone and can put that on your resume, you can write your own ticket."

Indeed, without these cloud-savvy IT professionals, everyone suffers: the vendors, the consultants and their customers.

Look for Workers With Their Heads in the Cloud

CIOs need people--both internal staff and third-party providers--who can help them think through their cloud computing plans, develop business cases, determine what to move into the cloud, how to get it there, how to integrate it with on-premise systems, and how to secure it. The stakes for getting these plans right are high.

"The CIOs who will fail will do so because they've forced the cloud issue with a less than holistic view of their entire organization," says Thiele. "They will end up investing millions of dollars to put something in [at the behest of their CEOs] that becomes an anchor or an eyesore for the IT organization. There's no way to underestimate the potential for that risk."

Thiele says he has observed that nightmare scenario play out inside several big financial services companies that he says spent millions of dollars to build their own private clouds only to have them fail completely.

"Without those skills, you'll be wasting your time," warns Thiele. "It'll be like having a Ferrari engine without any Ferrari mechanics around to service it."

How CIOs Should Address the Cloud Computing Skills Shortage

If Grunzweig's experience is any indicator, CIOs will not be able to rely exclusively on professional services firms to take the lead on cloud deployments. A year ago, he couldn't find any consulting firms in his budget with any knowledge of BPOS. Nor could he identify third-parties that could help him do data replication and back-up in his company's private cloud, another project he was pursuing at the time (and continues to pursue).

 

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