Cloud computing is bringing a hail of opportunities for those who know how to integrate the old with the new.
By Doug Bartholomew
To reduce costs and bring new applications on-line faster, organizations large and small are computing and storing data on the cloud. But for many, getting the cloud to work isn't so easy, especially when it comes to making it fit in with the rest of their computer infrastructure. These organizations - typically larger firms with their own IT staff, computers, and enterprise software - face several hurdles before they can fully utilize the cloud model.
"Most enterprise workloads can't yet move to the cloud due to inherent architecture constraint, data security issues, and performance and availability requirements, among other criteria," says Rebecca Lawson, director of service management and cloud solutions for Hewlett Packard.
In many instances, trying to run an existing enterprise application on a public cloud requires it to be completely rewritten for a new operating system, such as Linux, says Nati Shalom, chief technology officer and founder of Giga Spaces Technologies in New York.
Looking for Solutions
Not surprisingly, many companies already have begun looking to augment their IT staffs with people who have a background in cloud integration, even if it's only in helping a startup adapt an application to run on Amazon's EC2. Some technologies used in connection with cloud computing are grid or utility computing, virtualization, software as a service (SaaS), and open-source software.
For instance, Red Hat recently sought cloud computing software developers and architects, with job roles including open-source technologies, cloud application programming interface (API) definition and development, and data center integration. Similarly, Amazon was hunting for a software development engineer for EC2. Key qualifications for the position included experience with Linux, Ruby, Java, and/or Perl.
Virtualization a Key
For companies with large IT organizations, virtualization tends to be at the heart of the private cloud initiative. "The virtualized infrastructure is typically the foundation of private clouds," says Dave Malcolm Sr., vice president and chief technology officer at Surgient in Austin, Tex. "Knowledge of virtualization technologies and how they work is important."
Connecting open-source applications running in the cloud with existing infrastructure, such as customer relationship management or enterprise resource planning systems, has become such a hot area that a number of fast-growing companies have sprung up to fill this integration vacuum.
Besides Surgient, another player in this area is Boomi, an SaaS application integrator that offers the capability of on-demand integration that can be accessed via browser. Boomi's integration engine contains the appropriate APIs to make the connections between, say, an SaaS application and an enterprise CRM or ERP system behind the company firewall. Even small and mid-size firms running their accounting on Intuit's Quickbooks or Microsoft's Great Plains find they need an on-demand system to help make the connection with a SaaS provider.
To sum up, those seeking cloud jobs would be wise to add an integration arrow or two to their skills quiver.