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Top 3 Skills Your IT Team Needs to Prepare for the Cloud

By: Duncan Epping, Principal Architect VMware R&D

A question that arises often during conversations about the adoption of cloud computing is what kind of skills are required for a successful adoption of a public, private or hybrid cloud deployment. First of all, I cannot stress enough how important it is to ensure your team has the right skill set.

When I am talking about skills, I am not only talking about your team’s technical competency. For a successful adoption of cloud, it is of a great importance that the silos within the IT organization are broken down, or at a bare minimum bridged. Now more than ever, inter- and intra-team communication is of utmost importance. Larger organizations have realized this over the years while doing large virtualization projects, leading many to introduce a so-called “Center of Excellence.” This Center of Excellence was typically a virtual team formed out of the various teams (network, storage, security, server, application, business owners), and would ensure everyone’s requirements were met during the course of the project. With cloud, a similar approach is needed.

Knowing the audience of this blog though, you are not reading this article for a lecture in cloud organizational readiness but rather which three technical skills are required for cloud. The three areas where a deep understanding is required are:

  • Automation/Orchestration
  • Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity
  • Security/Compliance

Automation/Orchestration

For many people, cloud equals self-service/self-provisioning. A key aspect of self-service and self-provisioning is the fact that things just happen. Of course, things don’t just happen, but will need to be automated/orchestrated in order to provide a seamless user experience. On top of that, you cannot waste time repeating the same manual tasks over and over again when dealing with large-scale environments. As you can see, automation and orchestration are key factors for a successful, efficient and affordable adoption of cloud.

Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity

In any environment, availability of your services is key – the same also applies to a cloud environment. Regardless of whether your cloud is public, private or hybrid, you should have a deep understanding of how you can recover after a failure, and how you can mitigate risks. This could include straightforward solutions like vSphere HA, but it could also mean your application framework needs to be able to scale out depending on the availability requirements of the service and the type of cloud service used. Funnily enough, backup and recovery is another often forgotten key aspect to consider. What/when/where/how –  these are all things you need to know in order to meet the agreed recovery time objective and recovery point objective.

Security/Compliance

The third area of focus should be security and compliance. Now let me start by saying that this is usually the most complex area. Of course this depends on your internal security and compliance policies, but typically a deep understanding is required around how things are connected. Are compute/network/storage resources shared? If so, what is the impact/risk? How are networks connected? What about logging (multi-tenancy aspect)? There are many more questions one can ask around cloud security, which probably warrants a series of articles by itself.

As you can see, we have barely scratched the surface but even these three areas will require all teams within your IT department to work together as one team, which is what I want to emphasize here: Technical competency is important, but without proper communication between teams, your implementation is doomed to fail.

I hope this article will help you prepare your organization during the journey to the cloud.

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Duncan Epping is Principal Architect at VMware (R&D, Integration Engineering) and is focused on vCloud / vSphere architecture and integration. He was among the first VMware certified design experts (VCDX 007). He is the co-author of several books, including best seller vSphere 5.1 Clustering Technical Deepdive. He is the owner and main author of the leading virtualization blog yellow-bricks.com.

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