Careers in the Cloud

This version of this article appeared in Computerworld's print edition.

IT organizations that shift a good part of their IT infrastructure activities to hosted service providers over the next decade (see "Is Google your next data center?") will likely see profound changes in the makeup and skills of their remaining IT staffers.

"There's a limited number of resources in IT," notes John Dutra, CTO of Sun IT, a division of Sun Microsystems. "Wouldn't I want to focus them on the most strategic areas possible?"

On the path toward utility computing, IT leaders will need to develop and attract people with transitional skills. For instance, companies that aggressively pursue hosted IT services may wind up creating software-as-a-service task forces to devise new ways of providing support to business users, says Mike West, an analyst at Saugatuck Technology. And as companies cobble together a mix of premises-based and hosted applications, systems integration expertise will come to the fore, whether provided by internal staffs or outsourcing providers, West adds.

Nevertheless, large companies will still need to have IT organizations that are "very deep in the business -- people who have vendor relationship management skills, who can help the [managed service provider] or outsourcer to understand how to facilitate the business," says Robert Keefe, CIO at Mueller Water Products. To play that role, IT staffers will have to improve their vendor negotiation skills, says Roni Krisavage, CIO at World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.

Even companies that outsource the bulk of their IT infrastructure support will still need in-house technical experts who understand how everything fits together and works, says Beach Clark, CIO at the Georgia Aquarium.

And since most hosted services will be accessed using Web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari, "somebody in the [customer] company will have to deal with that in a technical fashion," says Dutra.

Once the transition is well under way, expect to see an increase in the number of people with vendor relationship management skills, says Paul Major, managing director of IT at Aspen Skiing Co. But the people who end up filling those posts might be "superusers" and not traditional IT staffers, he adds.

Major also says many IT pros with deep technical skills in areas such as network management will probably end up working in giant hosted data centers.

Futurist Thornton May agrees. "I think the human capital flow is going to change" over the next decade, he says.

He predicts that many young IT workers will spend the first 10 years of their careers working for managed services providers and then move into middle and senior management positions in corporate IT. "You're basically going to get your technology chops inside the belly of the outsourcing beast," May says. "And some subset of these people will migrate over to their customers."

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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