Software architects have the best job today -- but can they adapt?

Cloud computing needs software architects, but few truly get it -- and the major cloud providers have snapped up those who do

After looking at 100 jobs, Money magazine rated software architect as the best job in America: "Like architects who design buildings, they create the blueprints for software engineers to follow -- and pitch in with programming too. Plus, architects are often called on to work with customers and product managers, and they serve as a link between a company's tech and business staffs."

However, in recent years the role of the software architect has been morphing quickly; more and more, we're being asked to design and build complex distributed systems that exist both outside and inside of an enterprise -- meaning clouds. The challenge has been acquiring the new skills required to build infrastructure, platform, and software clouds, which often means understanding how to design and construct multitenant and virtualized systems that can manage thousands of simultaneous users.

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Although being a software architect is a great job today, it's a position that will morph quickly as cloud computing begins to creep into our enterprises and as cloud providers build or expand their software architecture teams.

Truth be told, software architects who understand cloud computing and can build instances of efficient cloud/software architecture are scarce. I talk to many who believe they can easily transition into the required skill set, but they fall down quickly when it comes to the emerging patterns of core cloud computing systems such as use-based accounting, virtualization, and multitenant access to resources. And most of the major cloud providers own the competent architects, so there aren't many left for consulting organizations or enterprises.

I suspect that software architects will better understand the mechanics of cloud computing as time goes on. However, it will be interesting to see if supply can ever keep up with demand. Perhaps software architect stays Money's top job for the next few years, just considering the skyrocketing pay.

This article, "Software architects have the best job today -- but can they adapt?," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and follow the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com.

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