He adds, "There's an overall flattening of management within IT as a lot of those silos become obsolete, and so it becomes more important to be a generalist who can do a lot of things than to remain a specialist at any one thing."
Losers: Technical specialists
Specialized skills -- in networking, security, storage, or any other IT discipline -- has been the best guarantor of a job or chance for advancement in many IT organizations, says 451 Group's Hackett. Not any more.
IT people working with applications based in the cloud need to know about networking, storage, security, user interfaces, and all the other parts of the infrastructure that application touches. "IT doesn't require skilled resources at the lower levels to maintain a data center. It requires a guy who can go over to a rack, pull out a bad board, put another one in, and slap it back in the rack," Hackett says.
That means IT needs more people able to do a lot of things and not as many who can do a very few things very, very well, consultant Olds says. "Increasingly what we're seeing is that companies are willing to hire those [specialized] skills from outside on a temporary basis. So you end up with IT being populated much more by IT generalists, but they're generalists with a lot higher level of skills than before. That's good internally because you're hiring experienced people, but it makes getting that first job or two harder for people right out of school or who are very early in their careers. There's a higher barrier of skills to climb."
Uncertain implications: IT support and help desk
Predicting the demise of the help desk and direct IT support role is risky because users always need more help than IT can afford to give, analysts agree.
As enterprise applications become more intuitive and Web-oriented, and as corporate applications become available in an app store that users can browse to find the applications or resources they need, the need for hordes of support people living on the phone or walking into business units to repair someone's laptop decreases.
"If you can put all your apps in a Web interface, so they live in the cloud, and the desktops are either remote-managed or provisioned via VDI [virtual desktop infrastructure], it's more possible to fix a problem by closing out the VM and relaunching a virtual desktop for that user, or to log in remotely, fix things, and log out," Olds says.
"The key to being able to scale to support very large cloud infrastructures is automation -- the ability to automate solutions to common end-user problems, password reassignments, reconfigurations, provisioning new resources, and so on," Olds says.
Of course, such automation can reduce the need for support staff, Olds notes. But "usually you find the company has taken those people and moved them to different responsibilities, or given them time to do the things they were supposed to do -- the things they couldn't do because they were always running around putting out fires."
This story, "IT jobs: Winners and losers in the cloud era," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in IT careers at InfoWorld.com. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.