The benefits of cloud computing are there for the taking - but only if you have the right skills to exploit them, says Ian Molyneaux.
In IT, new skills come and go at the same rate as new technologies. One of the most significant tech changes of the past few years has been the growth of cloud computing, with analyst Gartner saying by 2015 half of CIOs expect to be operating their applications and infrastructure using the cloud.
Along with that technological shift comes probably the biggest challenge to recruitment and retention of talent of the past 10 to 20 years. That's because a shortage of the skills needed for virtualisation and cloud deployment will hinder IT departments in their adoption of this important technology.
IT departments are already discovering they need to change employee skillsets because cloud encompasses more than one technology. Inhouse teams used to be siloed but now individuals need a broader set of skills, which might include storage, servers and networking.
With cloud computing, CIOs are effectively renting the technology, potentially reducing costs and management overheads, while gaining greater flexibility and autonomy.
That versatility can allow greater risk-taking, enabling new approaches, environments and applications to be created, tested and taken down again in a matter of days, and at much less cost than on conventional infrastructures.
This approach frees up the CIO and his team to add real value to a business and concentrate on strategic management issues that will save money or - even better - drive revenue growth.
As well as taking away some of the challenges of running an effective IT resource, the cloud can be used to achieve competitive advantage, to create efficiency, stimulate collaboration and facilitate information-sharing. The cloud encourages IT departments to think about the business strategically, rather than performing a support service.
As IT moves towards using cloud to deploy technology in more strategic ways, naturally the skills needed become broader.
Technical competency in the cloud
With elastic infrastructure, finding people with the right skills is difficult. Using the cloud can a very different experience for those used to dealing with physical servers but the severity of the change depends on whether infrastructure as a service (IaaS) or platform as a service (PaaS) is the chosen route.
It's easier to train staff to use IaaS products such as Amazon's EC2 because you're really just dealing with another form of hosting. The concept of servers, networks and software deployment remains largely the same.
At a basic level, IT needs to...