Defining the elusive cloud architect

These four criteria will help you find -- or become -- the person who will make cloud computing work in your business

The cloud architect is much like Bigfoot: There are sightings, even some blurry video, but we really don't have solid proof that this creature exists.

The problem is cloud computing is so new that it's tough to find people who understand how all of it fits together for enterprises. Indeed, this is one of the biggest limitations around cloud adoption.

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I call myself a cloud architect, and a few people like me are running around out there. But there aren't many, and even fewer who use the label correctly. How can you find one of your own? How can you become one?

I believe the first step is defining the knowledge required for the job, so you know what to look for or what to learn. Here is my short list:

1. An understanding of most cloud computing technology, both private and public. This is the tough one. Try keeping up with this space for even a month. It's exhausting. However, those who build cloud solutions need to have a holistic understanding of the available technology, including its proper function and use. This means understanding all OpenStack and CloudStack products, management tools, cloud security solutions, and of course where Amazon Web Services (AWS) fits in the mix.

2. An understanding of architectural best practices going back 20 years. The ability to design cloud solutions is based on architectural procedures and methods that go way back. If you understand what those are and have experience using those approaches, you won't end up reinventing the wheel in the world of cloud computing. This includes both service-oriented architecture (SOA) and more traditional enterprise architecture approaches.

3. A willingness to rethink what doesn't work to find what does. Much of cloud computing architect's job is trying new things, seeing if they work, and if not, finding alternatives that deliver. The best architects have open minds around the use of technology and are always moving to the optimal solution. But remember: Just because something works does not mean it's the right solution.

4. A willingness to work with and understand the business. Successful cloud computing solutions are those that align directly with the needs of the business, and cloud architects need to understand the business and work directly with the stakeholders. Many tech pros tend to get caught up in the technology and not understand the core business problems that need solving. That leads nowhere good.

Some cloud architects exist today, but most still need to be created. If you follow my guidance, you can more easily find a good one -- or become one yourself.

This article, "Defining the elusive cloud architect," originally appeared at Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.