The Right Kind of IT Person for the Cloud

Apollo 13 crew

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Are you the right kind of IT person for the Cloud? Do you have the right stuff? Read on to find out!

While many fundamental characteristics are common to all IT people, there are some unique aspects to managing “The Cloud.” I propose the big three are:

  • See things in dynamically changing multiple dimensions
  • Possess strong skill sets on a range of tools to implement the 3-D ‘vision’
  • Clearly define and successfully produce “work units”.

Moving Pieces and Multi-Dimensional–The Cloud Time Continuum:  A Cloud person can think in dynamic multiple dimensions. A virtual container, for example, of node(s) and resources associated with it, is one dimension. Another dimension are the virtual appliances instantiated on those containers. A third is the processes that are running utilizing those appliances. And a fourth is the business intelligence or orchestration that traverses both vertically and horizontally across all of the previous three dimensions—and is able to start, stop, sequence, kill, spawn etc these dimensions based on high-level business intelligence.

Yes, the pieces are constantly moving. In the old days, cloud environments were generally static—an administrator set up a job and left that VM and its Appliance stack in place indefinitely. Maybe for months at a time. More and more, the orchestration of all of these layers and sequencing of events put a premium on dynamic response to events and timeliness of start times and finishes.

Skills, Serious Skills:

The new world is much more challenging and you will need to not only think and model in multiple dimensions, but then successfully implement in the same. A strong range of skills is needed across a spectrum of tools—in the these general levels and associated tools:

  1. Provisioning
  2. Software
  3. Configuration
  4. State
  5. Orchestration
  6. Frameworks:  over-arching all of this:  frameworks like OpenStack

This diagram, similar one can be found at openstack.org,  illustrates these slices and some of the associated tools—several of which cover multiple layers.

Work!  Define it and then produce lots of it.

Work is the most important of these 3 characteristics. A Cloud IT person with the right stuff must accurately define the type of work his systems are producing. Which also means he can understand his customers needs and define them accurately and subsequently measure them in terms of these work units. Typically, you will have a heterogeneous pool of customers and multiple definitions of work that will need to be executed against.

Work will have multiple characteristics. Some of the basics are common to all work. All work should be process-driven; it should be easily replicated with high fidelity. For example, one kind of typical work unit may be setting up a specific environment at a specific time. Running an exact series of processes in a precisely defined environment and application stack and upon completion, tearing down the appliance and releasing the resources back into the general pool. Being able to do this over and over with exactness, event-driven logic and automation is a good generic definition of work.

By understanding the work unit, you can apply lean manufacturing principles to increase the quality and throughput of your work units (more on that in another blog).

Comment and Share:  Applying your definition(s) of work successfully to your cloud consumers is an essential skill. These three characteristics will make you invaluable to a company in running an efficient, effective cloud implementation. What other characteristics do you deem valuable for an IT person in the Cloud?

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