Thinking outside the software box
According to Stephens, Xerox customers demand updates every "two weeks, not two months," which is why the company now uses an agile development methodology. "It's hard to find people who know it," he adds.
Also hard to find are people who know how to turn a service into a product -- a key component of any cloud provider's business model. That skill is still so difficult to pin down that Xerox "grows its own," Stephens says. Not coincidentally, the IBM engineer who was the object of a bidding war had those skills, though Xerox ultimately dropped out of the fight.
At Hewlett-Packard, which recently launched a full OpenStack implementation under the HP Cloud brand, engineers with deep systems-level experience and those with high-performance computing skills are in demand, says Matt Haines, HP's vice president of engineering for cloud services. Scalability, obviously, is a major cloud issue, and people with experience in that area are in demand, as well as those with what Haines calls "core computing and storage" skills.
Like other cloud executives, Haines emphasizes the need for team members who put aside the traditional developer mentality -- that is, build software, ship it, and move on to the next project. "You don't have the luxury of putting heads down on a hard problem and do nothing else for five months. You've got to have the ability to focus on a number of little things at the same time."
And while developers have often been called on to help with some support issues, particularly in the enterprise realm, customer support as a developer function is even more critical in the cloud and it moves much faster.
At Microsoft, for example, Azure developers are on call to help customers, says Mark Russinovich, a technical fellow with the Windows Azure group. "It's hard," he says, "to get out of the [boxed software] frame of mind." But that's very much the nature of the beast. For many developers, the speed and constant creative challenge is what makes jobs in the cloud rewarding, but if that pace is not to your taste, stay away from cloud providers.
How to get noticed by cloud hiring managers
IT pros looking to make the leap may be wondering how to prove they're fit for the cloud. Those thinking a pocketful of certifications will help should think again. "Certifications have not caught up," says Russinovich. "When you're developing for the cloud, it is your background and skills that matter."
Russinovich does not make an exception for security certifications, although some other cloud execs believe security credentials are important. On the whole, though, certifications are not a significant hiring factor for the cloud, and as Foote partners has found in its regular surveys, the overall value of certifications in IT has declined for years.