Since around the turn of the century, I have had a motto that goes like this: “Virtualization is a journey, not a project.” It seems now would be a good time to bring that slogan up to date, changing the message to “The cloud is a journey, not a project.” It really amazes me when people bring it up in conversation that their company is going to build a cloud to better meet the needs of its users and customers. The only thing that amazes me more is the number of people I have talked to who believe that because they have a few hypervisors with virtual machines, they have a cloud.

But back to my slogan: “The cloud is a journey, not a project.” In my humble opinion, you do not just build a cloud. I think that the companies that try this approach are doomed to fail. Let me explain why. First, it is not the technology that will doom the project, but rather the skill set involved with cloud computing systems. It does not do a company any good to get a shiny new toy and if the company does not have a solid understanding of how to maintain it and build from it.

The migration to the cloud is what I would consider a fundamental change in the way data centers are staffed and do business. This change involves a major focus on the staff and skill sets that will be needed to support the environment. Presenting services in a self-service manner changes the expectations for tier one and tier two support staff. The automation in the cloud is reducing some of the need for those positions, while making it advisable to move those resources and head count to an automation team.

The point here is that major changes and a good reorganization is going to be needed during the journey to the cloud. Let me be clear that it is more the automation, rather than the hypervisor, that truly makes up a cloud. By embarking on a journey approach, you are presented with an opportunity to start working on re-training some of the tier one and tier two staff and having them focus more on the workflow design, creation, and scripting skills needed for some of the customs tasks.

Any size of company can start to work on getting the right pieces in place during its journey. There has been more news about the number of cloud-based jobs that cannot be filled around the world. This demonstrates what I like to call “the technology divide,” in that there are plenty of virtualization administrators out in the world, but there only seem to be a few real cloud professionals available for the sheer number of projects to just build a cloud.

If companies do not take the ample time to adjust to the ever-changing world of the cloud, we are looking at what I think will be a major division between the cloud and everything else. Such a huge division between skill sets will make it even more difficult to realize a cloud without some kind of professional services or major staff readjustment. This will continue to present a world of opportunity for people with cloud skills to excel, while at the same time leaving the others behind.

A flip side of this argument could be that the opportunities this technology divide will bring means that the demand for this talent will be so great that people will take the time to achieve that skill set. This could, in a way, entail a repeat of the 1990s, when demand brought people into the technology space in droves. The only difference is the level of complexity that is now required, but this just may be the straw on the camel’s back, creating a greater divide. Here is my advice for companies for a successful adventure into the cloud: Slow down, and remember that “The cloud is a journey, not a project.”

 

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Steve Beaver (160 Posts)

Stephen Beaver is the co-author of VMware ESX Essentials in the Virtual Data Center and Scripting VMware Power Tools: Automating Virtual Infrastructure Administration as well as being contributing author of Mastering VMware vSphere 4 and How to Cheat at Configuring VMware ESX Server. Stephen is an IT Veteran with over 15 years experience in the industry. Stephen is a moderator on the VMware Communities Forum and was elected vExpert for 2009 and 2010. Stephen can also be seen regularly presenting on different topics at national and international virtualization conferences.

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