Get Off the Hypervisor and Get Into the Cloud

In my last couple of posts, I wanted to express my thoughts about the future of cloud computing. In the first post, I shared what appears to be a bright outlook for the future for people working in the cloud space, given the soaring demand for skilled engineers and not enough quality people to fill those roles. In my second post, I presented a couple of key skill areas that currently seem to have the most demand. I want to share my thoughts, or more to the point, concern, that this “gap” of skilled engineers is only going to increase unless we can help guide people off the hypervisor and into the cloud.

So what do I mean when I say “get off the hypervisor and get into the cloud?” Quite simply that to be able to compete and support the cloud technology of the future, one must focus a lot less on the hypervisor itself and move on to the tools and technology that are part of the makeup of the cloud infrastructure. For most of you, I would imagine that your first thought might be something like, “well duh, you’re just pointing out the obvious,” and you would be absolutely correct.

The hypervisor itself is just a commodity and in reality is simply a given in any cloud you see. You cannot really have a cloud without virtualization, right? As the technology has matured, the need to troubleshoot the hypervisor itself has become something of the past. With the exception of performance tuning, when is the last time you spent any real time troubleshooting an issue on a physical hypervisor? It has come to the point where, for the most part, we just reboot, rebuild, and move on.

Having a good understanding of all the main hypervisors out there is now expected, as is having the skills and ability to work with and on most from OpenStack, Microsoft, VMware, and Xen. I think this will become more important in the near future, especially if other companies start to follow IBM’s lead in getting rid of the cloud vendor lock-in with the launch of IBM’s “cloud of clouds” offering. There also seems to be a strong interest and investment in hybrid cloud solutions. In my humble opinion, this trend will continue and is why you need to have an understanding of all hypervisors.

Unless you are working in a decent-sized environment with a solid investment in the cloud, chances are that you will not really be able to develop the Hadoop, Puppet, and/or Chef skills that will be needed to compete for those in-demand positions. However, there is one skill set that everyone needs to master, and that is automation in itself. No matter the size of the environment you work in, if you have done a task more than once, there is really no reason why that task should not be automated. Automation is a fact of life with the cloud, and this area continues to grow as more and more companies are looking to automate as much as possible. I believe the main scripting languages are Perl, Java, and PowerShell, with PowerShell having the most bang for the buck, since it is highly used in both VMware and Microsoft environments. One point with this that I want to make is that the script is the easy part. The real skill comes from creating the logic and the workflows that drive automation in the cloud. Don’t wait for a vendor to come out with automation. Develop the ability to create your own, because as we all know, no product or service tends to do everything we would like it to. You need the ability to change that shortcoming in your own environments.

In closing, there is one other point I would like to make. Cloud computing has redefined the concept of managed services. That is essentially the basis of the cloud itself, with all facets being delivered as a service and with software companies leading the charge to get rid of installation media and focus on delivering their software as a service from their cloud.

Will this trend continue to move services away from the company’s data center, along with the staff to support it? I am not quite sure anymore, since the news of the spying agencies’ accesses to some technology companies, but let’s say for the moment that this trend continues. By far, the most companies out there are small and medium businesses (SMBs). If you work with an SMB, if you migrated your email, financial, and customer relationship management into managed services outside of your data center, what would be left of your infrastructure and in-house services? That could be one of the biggest factors in creating this technical skills gap that we are seeing now, and it could help push to widen the gap even further. As the skills gap gets bigger, it becomes harder and harder to close. This leaves the really skilled individuals working for the larger companies or cloud providers, which in turn will make it even harder for others to gain the knowledge and skills needed to advance in a cloudy world. If you want to compete, then it is time to get off the hypervisor and get into the cloud.

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