Careers in the Cloud: A Look into the Emerging Field of Cloud Computing

The field of information technology offers a variety of promising job opportunities, but the rising area of cloud computing is often overlooked. Robert Howden, IT professor at Computer Systems Institute, answered some important questions about this fascinating field.

Can you provide a brief explanation of cloud computing?

Cloud computing is taking advantage of powerful resources that are available elsewhere on the very large network we all know as the internet. Typically this involves clusters of servers hidden away somewhere (we don’t really know or typically care) by another company that run software or computations for us, so we don’t need to have all the expensive servers at our own business or home. We pay an incremental amount for this processing power or software as a service charge. This turns computing from a capital investment into a utility service we pay for monthly by usage.

There are some key issues regarding cloud computing, including security and privacy. What should we know about these issues and do you think cloud computing is better than traditional methods despite these concerns?

Cloud computing’s major concern is that the data we are using, whatever it may be, is outside our hands and transfers itself across the public network (usually while encrypted) between us, and an unknown location. The primary concerns are:

 1) Who has access to my data? The who has access is a security risk, as we cannot  control physical security and manage the risks involved. While they may have all the latest cyber warfare security installed to prevent hacking, who’s to say the front door isn’t left unlocked so anyone with a flash drive can walk in and steal all your data?

 2) Where is my data at? We really can’t often say, as many providers may have several different cloud computing centers and cloud computing is by definition ethereal. When we need our data is it going to be so far away we suffer from poor latency in receiving it? If there is a hurricane that takes down power on the east coast will we still have access to our data in Chicago? These are questions that may go unanswered unless your cloud provider is taken to task on their policies and procedures.

What job opportunities are available in the field of cloud computing?

There are consulting jobs, sales jobs, and jobs implementing cloud computing services at the customer’s site. For the most part cloud computing is set up to be as automated and maintenance free as possible, and will likely consolidate data center type jobs into fewer, larger server farms.

How can information technology students prepare for a career in cloud computing?

The decision to turn to cloud computing is an operational, and accounting decision primarily. The idea is to shift the heavy investment in server infrastructure toward a small, manageable monthly payment and remove concerns like obsolescence and backup strategies onto the cloud service provider. The best way to find a job in cloud computing is to look to building skills with virtualization, data center technologies like server clustering, and familiarity with high end network equipment. On top of this, a firm grasp on the benefits and risks involved with turning to the cloud may help an employee advise the upper management of their company on whether cloud computing is worth the trade-of.

Any further tips for those interested in a career in cloud computing?

Be wary of buzz words that try to turn an old technology new. The truth is that cloud computing has been with us for a very long time, but has only now become a commonly used term thanks to a push toward utilizing this type of technology more commonly. Email services such as Gmail for business are a well established example of software-as-a-service cloud computing for example. Keep in mind that any new technology comes with its own set of risks and considerations before pushing too hard for its adoption.