Good cloud architects are generalists not specialists

Enterprises that focus on cloud architecture in the narrow may miss out on valuable solutions by not understanding all that technology has to offer.

Good cloud architects are generalists not specialists

In the 90s I use to filter out jobs I wanted based on how they defined the role of enterprise architect. Many would focus on a specific platform skill rather than an understanding of more holistic solutions that were often the better choice.

If they advertised for an architect but focused on a certain platform (e.g., Unix, Windows, or mainframes) as the core qualification, then I knew that they were not looking for an architect but a platform-specific subject matter expert (SME). Thus, many held the title “architect” but typically were not.

Moreover, they cost the enterprise a lot of money in missed opportunities. Architects are tasked with finding solutions. However, if they are not focused on the larger possibilities and all technologies, they often miss those very opportunities.

Now we’re looking for cloud architects and the same problem is back. Typically, the confusion exists around certifications, meaning “(insert name of large cloud provider here) Architect.” These certifications take about 20 hours in online training.

Don’t get me wrong, you need SMEs who can focus on a specific cloud. But you also need somebody to think about the larger picture and consider all cloud technologies. I suspect that an architect who is certified by a specific cloud provider will only see that provider as the correct solution for storage, databases, compute, artificial intelligence, etc. 

I’ve always said that cloud architects need to be aware of all technology solutions not just cloud-based ones. They need a mix of traditional enterprise systems, networking, security, governance, and now cloud-based solutions. They need to understand how all the pieces fit together in an optimized way that’s best for the business.

I often run into cloud architects who don’t look up from their screens to find better and more optimized solutions. They only focus on options from a single cloud provider, because that’s all they really know.

The trouble comes from the concept of generalized versus specialized. We know that it’s easy to enroll someone in a cloud architecture course that focuses on a single cloud provider, but where do you find architects with more holistic skills?

Unfortunately, no course can get you there in 20 hours. These skills are more experienced based, where you’ve done many projects that used many different types of technology—cloud and non-cloud. The person you want must be a continuous learner, eating up details and insider information about specific platforms and tooling features and functions. The right person will always understand that this learning will never stop.

Only then can they ensure that the architectural solutions they pick will likely be the right ones for the business, no matter what technology or public cloud provider is leveraged. Simple enough. 

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