What is a cloud architect?
A cloud architect is an IT professional who is responsible for overseeing a company's cloud computing strategy. This includes cloud adoption plans, cloud application design, and cloud management and monitoring. Cloud architects oversee application architecture and deployment in cloud environments -- including public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud. Additionally, they act as consultants to their organization and need to stay current on the latest trends and issues. Companies that hire cloud architects either use cloud services or are planning to move to the cloud.
Cloud architects may also be involved in the legal areas of cloud computing and may negotiate contracts and work with legal and procurement departments. Architects ensure service-level agreement requirements are met.
What are the job responsibilities of a cloud architect?
The main responsibilities of a cloud architect are to plan, design, implement and maintain all cloud environments in the organization. The responsibilities of the cloud architect are as follows:
- Cloud adoption. If the company does not already use cloud infrastructure, the architect's role is to help determine the need for cloud infrastructure and manage its adoption. Part of the process of cloud adoption is managing the cultural change in the organization that comes with changing infrastructure, employee roles and procedures. Another aspect of this is vendor management. The cloud architect should be able to communicate effectively with cloud providers and third parties that are involved in the program.
- Cloud architecture development. After adoption, the architect is tasked with developing the architecture, which spans several areas of IT including application development, data management, and identity and access management. It is the role of the architect to ensure that all these pieces work in harmony.
- Cloud management and monitoring. Once the architecture is established, the cloud architect's job is to maintain the architecture and monitor its performance according to business objectives.
What skills does a cloud architect need?
Cloud architects require a combination of soft, or non-technical skills, and technical skills to be successful. The soft skills necessary for cloud architects include the following:
- Program leadership. They should be able to organize and plan programs around an organization's cloud implementation.
- Communication. Cloud architects should be able to communicate complex technical concepts to team members.
- Collaboration. They should be able to work effectively with other architecture team members and delegate responsibilities.
- Thought leadership. Cloud architects should be a change agent in their organization, suggesting ways to push the program forward.
- Change management. They should be adaptable and be able to plan for and carry out changes in the program.
- The hard skills necessary for a cloud architect include the following:
- Application architecture. Cloud architects should be able to coordinate different applications together in the cloud environment.
- Orchestration. They should use automation for maintenance of certain areas of cloud infrastructure.
- Governance. Cloud architects should be able to handle benefits and risks when implementing key management points in cloud operations and set boundaries with competing organizational interests.
- Virtualization. Architects should be able to understand how to provision virtual machines efficiently and integrate them with cloud technologies.
- Security. They should be able to design infrastructure with enterprise data security and identity and access management in mind. This will ensure that only authorized people or code can access applications.
- Operating system (OS) knowledge. Architects must understand the spectrum of OSes that exist in the complex enterprise cloud ecosystem. Examples include Windows, Solaris, Linux and Ubuntu.
- Networking. Cloud architects should understand domain name system, TCP/IP and HTTP. They should also understand the infrastructure of main cloud providers like Azure, Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services.
- Programming languages. Many cloud architects have a significant software development background which often includes languages like Java, Python or C#.
- Finance. Architects should understand the costs of different services and implementations and be able to balance those costs.
- Big data. They should understand big data architecture and design principles.
What qualifications and certifications does a cloud architect need?
Most cloud architect jobs require a bachelor's degree in an area such as computer science, engineering or mathematics. Some companies prefer a master's degree.
Additional certifications, both vendor-specific and vendor-neutral, may be necessary. Some of the following certifications may be useful in pursuing a cloud architect career:
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect. This certifies the individual's ability to manage Amazon Web Services (AWS) applications and infrastructure, as well as knowledge of AWS deployment and management services.
- Arcitura Certified Cloud Architect. This certification validates the skills used in cloud platform management and tests the individual's knowledge against real-world problems.
- Google Professional Cloud Architect. Earning this certification shows the individual's ability to plan, design, manage and provision cloud architecture, and validates their knowledge of cloud security, compliance and architecture optimization. The exam tests the individual using real-world scenarios.
- IBM Certified Solution Architect -- Cloud Solutions Architect v4. This certification validates the individual's ability to design, plan and architect IBM cloud architecture, service management and security, among other skills.
- Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect Expert. This certification validates the individual's skills, including designing cloud architecture, virtualization, security and business continuity using Azure cloud platforms.
Cloud architect career path and salary expectations
According to 2022 salary research from Payscale, cloud architects can expect to earn base pay between $80,000 and $167,000 per year, depending on a variety of factors, including education, location, skills and experience. The average salary for a cloud architect according to Payscale is $128,418.
In addition to the certifications noted above, prospective cloud architects can study the field in school to earn a degree to validate their skills. Existing IT professionals may be able to transition into the role with the right skill set. Different IT skill sets may also lend themselves to different cloud architect specializations. For example, a business savvy architect who possesses an understanding of IT trends may specialize in buying emerging cloud technologies. IT professionals with virtualization and IaaS experience may bring a specialized skill set to a larger, more encompassing cloud program. In addition, cloud architects with previous DevOps experience may find that their skills fit the job description.
Part of the cloud architect's duties is cloud migration. Learn what seven key steps are necessary to help build a cloud migration strategy.