Remember the good old days when everyone that can switch on a computer is called a computer expert and all the big technology companies come calling? Well, those days are long gone after the .com bubble burst. If you want to keep your job in any IT domain, you will already know that your skill set must be up to date. Remember when they told you that being a Java programmer will mean having a job for life? Now you are told that you need to learn web programming. You did that and now someone came along and tell you about the cloud and that all future jobs will require that you know how to perform your magic in the cloud. So is the future in the cloud?
The question really is not about being able to make things happen in the cloud within the scope of a IaaS, PaaS or SaaS. It is more about separating the hype from reality. It is reported that over a million IT related jobs cannot be filled because employers could’t find skilled employees to fill the roles. This is interesting when big technology groups release a survey like that. There is often a hype behind the propaganda. No matter how you cut it, cloud services are not very different from what most IT professional already do. If you already know how to run a VMware on-premise, there is no reason why you will need a PhD to perform something similar in the cloud. The same thing goes for software installation and network administration.
That is not to say that there is no real demand for cloud skills. However, the above does highlight how data can be interpreted in different ways. Every cloud vendor implements its infrastructure differently which makes it difficult to build a unified training that will be beneficial to most IT professionals. If you take the example in the networking world, Cisco certifications are the defacto standard. When it comes to Linux operating systems, taking a Redhat certification is the way to go. The same can be said for Microsoft certification. Does the same exist for the cloud? What you will often find are generic certifications which will not prepare you for the real world.
The best approach to anyone willing to work in the cloud is to learn by practice. You can create an Amazon EC2 account and pay a modest fee to learn how to create an AMI, start and interact with instances, link your instance to Elastic IP addresses, connect to the instance using SSH and more. You can also do the same with Microsoft Azure or Google Compute Engine.
The skills needed to work in the cloud are similar to what you need to work in most IT environment, don’t follow the hype.