It seems that every year, we see new IT job titles popping up, some of which aren’t very self-descriptive. Here’s one: what exactly is a “cloud architect”? And what do they do that an infrastructure or systems architect doesn’t?
Coming to a definition of a cloud architect, more or less
Let’s forget about the other guys for a minute and look at what a cloud architect’s job generally involves.
First of all, a cloud architect understands the defining features of cloud, namely the delivery of IT as a service that is:
- Available on demand
- Capable of dynamic provisioning and pooling of resources
This is the environment a cloud architect operates in, and a good one will know how to put all the pieces together according to specific client requirements.
And since both public and private clouds have their own unique characteristics, and many companies are now opting for so-called “hybrid clouds” or hosted private clouds, they have to be experts in how to find the right balance between the two. For instance, a company may hire a vendor to deploy a private cloud that has the ability to “burst” to a public cloud if user demand exceeds a certain level. Determining exactly when and how and this should happen is an art in itself.
The elephant in the living room—security
If there’s one question about cloud that won’t go away, it’s this one: “how secure is it?” Someone who knows this very well is Graham Thompson, CTO of Intrinsec Technologies as well as a partner of the international Cloud Security Alliance, for whom he works as a trainer. He himself is a cloud architect.
For him, a defining feature of a true cloud architect should be a robust understanding of the security implications of cloud computing. There’s a massive lack of knowledge about security in the cloud among the general public, so it’s essential that an architect knows and can explain where the gaps are. It’s a common misconception that most public cloud providers offer built-in security, he says, and it has to be corrected.
For example, a company that has software developers creating an application that will run in the cloud needs to be made “aware that any security is going to have to be baked into that application,” says Thompson.
Good marketing or “cloud-washing”?
As a job-seeker, there’s certainly an advantage to giving yourself a title with “cloud” in it these days. And if you have the right experience to call yourself a cloud architect, why not?.
But don’t go too far, lest someone suspect you of “cloud washing,” the practice of some vendors of labelling everything they do as “cloud.” It’s an easy way to take advantage of customer budgets allocated for cloud services. This can be taken to absurd lengths, Graham says. He’s even seen a vendor sell a hardware firewall under the cloud banner.
Organizations may also have one internal title for employees, but give them more flexible ones when they go in front of customers, says Mark Schrutt, director of services and enterprise applications at IDC Canada. An employee can simply be presented as a cloud architect if fits into the company’s sales objectives, he says. That doesn’t necessarily mean the person isn’t qualified—it’s just a natural response to a demand from clients for cloud experts.
IDC generally advises companies not to confuse everyone by creating too many new titles, Schrutt says. But for you, as an independent consultant or job-seeker , it’s only logical to highlight the skills that make you most in demand.
Should you get cloud-certified?
At this point, there aren’t many ways to get certified as a cloud architect. But if it’s important to you to have the letters after your name, here are a few links to get you started:
If you want to be certified in cloud security, you can also take an exam through the Canadian Cloud Security Alliance (CSA):