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As enterprises migrate workloads to cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, what happens to the operations staff that once supported them on premises?
A role is evolving in the IT space for cloud capacity management, wherein an IT professional steers the high-level cloud strategy of the business, said Kurt Marko, technology analyst at MarkoInsights. Another option is to gain skills on a specific public cloud platform for a cloud operations engineer job.
Cloud capacity management jobs require an ability to choose cloud consumption strategies and set allocations, then calculate actual use and reconcile the numbers. In contrast, a cloud operations engineer will execute cloud migrations, scale resources up and down, deploy patches and updates and complete related tasks. Businesses refer to these jobs as cloud consumption, procurement or capacity manager positions.
Adding cloud capacity planning to the overall IT mission is worth it, especially when companies unknowingly misuse resources. "Cloud makes it very easy for people to spend a lot of money without realizing it," Marko said.
The vendor plays a critical role in project success as well, explained Brian Kirsch, IT architect and instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College. AWS has extensive industry partnerships, long experience in public cloud and a massive user base that encourages IT shops to forklift workloads right onto its distributed, cheaper, massively scalable cloud resources. Azure, by contrast, might take longer to spin up instances; it acts like a giant domain system. Other options with distinct advantages in given situations include IBM's Bluemix and other cloud services, and Google Compute Platform. Cloud procurement specialists must gain experience with platform as a service in addition to infrastructure as a service, to exploit services tailored to the needs of the given application and thus spend wisely.
"IT [is] going to have to actually manage a full gamut of cloud services, and not treat them the same way they've always run virtual machines and storage," Marko said.
IT operations management skills pay off on public clouds
Configuration automation and orchestration lets organizations get the most out of available cloud services -- the trends drive each other.
"When we can express an environment in a configuration file or database -- some consistent configuration object, that can be versioned -- that opens up [the possibility to use] containers and AWS database as a service instead of running a whole operating system to run a database," said Matt Sprague, manager of infrastructure services at CDI Managed Services, a Roswell, Ga.-based managed technologies offering of CDI LLC. To ramp up automation, the IT organization needs a configuration management database to map the infrastructure supporting applications.
"Ideally, you build [business intelligence] into your automation framework and put business rules in ... and tie it to a CMDB [configuration management database]," Sprague said. Rather than blindly deploy to the cloud or hold delay projects for review, cloud operations engineers set up this automation framework to make decisions based on these inputs. The cloud advisor who crafted this setup can then continuously review the results against corporate strategy, and tweak the rules as needed.
A cloud capacity manager is not necessarily worried about the day-to-day operations of which application uses which AWS EC2 instances and which S3 storage, Marko said. Instead, the cloud consumption manager ensures that the business allocates what it needs on one or several cloud providers to size the deployment correctly, or -- if necessary -- suggests keeping the workload on premises. They have some help from the major public cloud vendors.
Microsoft's Azure Resource Manager tool sets up roles in the cloud platform for a person to control what the enterprise uses and how employees access those resources, among other service delivery decisions, Marko noted. AWS also does this to a lesser degree, he added -- AWS Management Console, for example, shows monthly spending and security settings.
Enterprises likely won't reach 100% public cloud operations, so consider cloud capacity management skills an addition to or evolution of -- but not replacement for -- IT operations capabilities.
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