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Evolve IT staff, skill sets for a multi-cloud strategy

To effectively implement and manage a multi-cloud architecture, enterprises first need IT team members who hold a unique mix of technical and business skills.

As enterprises pursue a multi-cloud strategy, they encounter new IT management challenges and, in many cases, will need to evolve their teams' skill sets to overcome them.

Many multi-cloud organizations, for instance, will need to adjust their IT teams to include individuals with cross-platform tool and automation experience, as well as knowledge of API management and data integration best practices.

Somebody who can act as a cloud service broker will also become critical.

"Craftily shifting resources to different cloud providers to take advantage of price variance and workload demand will require a plethora of skills, not unlike a commodity broker," said Zach Loeber, senior consultant and DevOps engineer at SPR, a digital technology consulting firm.

Along with the cloud broker role, it's critical for enterprises to implement a standardized framework to deliver, catalog and operate services within a multi-cloud model, said Greg Thursam, principal at Ahead, an IT consulting company. Automated governance practices, which give organizations tighter control over their cloud deployment, should also be part of that framework. More overarching roles, such as cloud architect and cloud project manager, also help reduce the complexity of a multi-cloud architecture.

"We're seeing the role of cloud architect becoming more common in larger organizations," said Melanie Posey, vice president at analyst firm 451 Research. The person in this role usually handles API and data integration between cloud and on-premises environments.

In general, as more enterprises move their compute infrastructures off premises, internal IT functions shift more toward resource orchestration and integration -- something that's crucial in a multi-cloud strategy.

"The trend is toward this type of integration or aggregation function becoming a standard IT operations task," Posey said.

Partner up

While larger companies are more likely to use multiple cloud vendors directly, SMBs often turn to managed service providers, value-added resellers or other single-point-of-contact options, according to Posey.

"Companies that use IT outsourcers and systems integrators are increasingly procuring multi-vendor IaaS resources through that relationship," Posey said.

Given the various provider relationships enterprises have to juggle in a multi-cloud model, a project manager-type role can also prove useful. "This person will have a very different skill set from what you're used to seeing in a traditional IT role and may not even be supertechnical," said Dave Dozer, business systems consultant at Algorithm Inc., a business process and ERP system consulting company.

The use of multiple cloud providers also demands that IT professionals can filter through the constant flood of new features IaaS vendors release and hone in on those that matter most to their business and technical needs, said Todd Loeppke, lead CTO architect at Sungard Availability Services, an IT services provider.

"IT professionals should know [each cloud vendor's] capabilities, cost nuances, monitoring options and connectivity architectures," he added.

Other coveted multi-cloud skills

While roles such as a cloud service broker, architect and project manager will become increasingly important, there are other, more niche skills that multi-cloud organizations will emphasize as well.

For example, a multi-cloud strategy requires IT team members who can perform trend analysis against various application workloads, both on premises and across multiple IaaS platforms, to optimize costs and performance.

"The ability to data mine performance analytics [data] will go a long way in spotting areas for maximizing efficiencies and opportunities for multi-cloud optimization that can lead to tangible business cost savings," SPR's Loeber said.

In addition, multi-cloud organizations will pursue IT professionals with more modern coding skills, knowledge of infrastructure as code and experience with CI/CD pipelines and automated testing and deployment, Loeppke said.

Posey echoed this thought, noting the importance of emerging technologies, like containers and microservices, which make it easier to develop portable and loosely coupled applications, in a multi-cloud strategy.

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