Cloud: good or bad for IT jobs?

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This article is part of our special report Cloud Computing.

Cloud computing is changing how IT professionals work. But is it putting them out of work? Not likely, say cloud providers. 

Cloud providers claim that their services – be they software, infrastructure or platforms – will halve corporate IT spending. That raises the question whether it will also lead to redundancies.

The argument is that cloud computing automates tasks that, in the past, have been performed by employees, and that after automation occurs, those people would no longer be needed.

Low- to high-end jobs

IT professionals will move from low-end jobs to just doing the higher-end jobs, said Richard Davies, chief executive of the UK start-up Elastic Hosts.

Infrastructure services and in-house data centre operations will likely shift to providers like Amazon, Google and Microsoft while IT teams will be required to configure these services, integrate them with business operations, carry out updates and load data to the cloud.

But that doesn't mean professionals should forget about infrastructure: even if companies rely on cloud providers for their back-end systems. "You still have to know a lot about this infrastructure, you just don't have to manage it yourself," said James Staten, an analyst at Forrester Research.

Davies acknowledges that data centre technicians – staff who instal on-site servers – will likely become redundant in companies that embrace cloud computing, but that technicians' jobs in bigger companies using cloud could become more sophisticated.

Business analysts in charge of company operations, as well as software integration engineers in charge of making sure the cloud and the business stay connected and updated, might be looking at even heavier workloads depending on the size of the company and its cloud-based operations, said Davies.

Job-seeking IT engineers beg to differ: "Cloud computing is great, but over time, there will be some big players that will provide almost all external cloud services, leaving the internal IT staff without a job. You might just need a small group of IT staff to provide infrastructure services for your organisation," said Sebastian Bammer, an IT engineer in Vienna.

Good for graduates

But IT jobs are still listed as one of the most desirable fields for graduates during a recession.

According to Forbes, software design engineering will be one of the fastest growing occupations through 2016. 

The IT profession ranks ninth in the top-10 list of recession-proof jobs compiled by the UK recruitment company Hays.

Cloud fans argue that the phenomenon will make computing and the jobs connected to it explode.

"The reason many are wrong about cloud computing's effect on employment is that they assume this disruption is unleashed in a static environment," said Ben Golden, chief executive of the HyperStratus consulting firm in California.

"However, the field of computing has never been static, and will not be in the face of cloud computing," Golden said. 

 

Cloud computing describes a whole range of infrastructure, software, data or applications residing in the cloud – that is to say, off your own premises and accessed via the Internet.

A study carried out by the University of Milan, published in 2010, estimated that cloud computing has the potential to create 1.5 million new jobs in Europe over the next five years.

While businesses and governments wax lyrical about the benefits of cloud computing, EU regulators have been more wary, as further use of cloud systems would mean a large swathe of public and commercial data would migrate to servers possibly located outside the EU.

 

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