This feature first appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
Like the proverbial cumulonimbus high in the sky on a sunny afternoon that looks like a fire-breathing dragon to one kid lying on his back in the grass, and like a plate of spaghetti and meatballs to a playmate looking up from the same spot, the Cloud often has a different profile when seen by different people.
An individual user may see unlimited storage for family photos or digital music, or a tool to stream blockbuster movies like Black Panther (in another month or two) or Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (right now). A corporate manager might see a valuable backup server that mirrors critical business records, or a resource-maximizing platform that seamlessly replaces on-site software and hardware.
An IT security professional could pick out the contours of a challenging new frontier ripe for exploration and discovery — or picture a nightmarish new perimeter rife with exploitable vulnerabilities.
The All Things to All People malleability of cloud computing technology means that we’re probably only scratching the surface of what the Cloud can be and do, and probably still on the rising slope of an employment curve that could eventually encompass nearly all IT disciplines. There are already cloud certs specific to networking, security, data storage, Linux, and more.
Market analysis firm Forrester Research projects that total spending on cloud services worldwide will rise to $178 billion this year — up from $148 billion in 2017 — and robust growth is projected to continue into the future.
Through our own recently completed 2018 Salary Survey, Certification Magazine picked out an obvious indicator of energetic and rising interest in cloud computing professionals. The top-salaried certification on our Salary Survey 75 list was Amazon Web Services Certified Solutions Architect – Associate, a mid-level credential for the industry’s top cloud services provider with an average annual salary of $146,960.
Whatever you make of the Cloud as an IT professional yourself, getting a piece of the action is likely be good for your career.
In keeping with our revised survey strategy, introduced in the final Certification Magazine of 2017, our recently conducted Cloud Certification Survey pivoted away from salary to focus on other aspects of cloud computing certification. One area of interest to many is sorting through the various obstacles to the increasingly widespread integration and adoption of cloud computing technology.
Our results indicate that, out of all the potentially entangling perils of charging whole hog into cloud everything, certified professionals are most concerned about data security. When data of great consequence both to individuals and organizations is stored remotely in vast server warehouses, of course, there’s an obvious vector of attack for malefactors.
A related issue generated the next-highest level of concern: availability of skilled personnel. Like Han Solo once pointed out to Luke Skywalker, having a modified Corellian light freighter at your sevice is great, as long as you also have someone to fly it for you. And as often happens with new technology, it would seem that the current supply of starships — so to speak — outstrips the availability of qualified pilots.
A skills gap, of course, can portend good things for both skilled professionals and those working toward becoming skilled professionals (whether through certification or by other means). You might not quite have the freedom to name your salary, but you are likely to find plenty of employment offers out there.
Data ownership also rated a high level of concern. Among the vast hordes of users who communicate, shop, and transact business via “free” e-mail accounts, for example, what level of discretion does the service provider have to mine and sell personal information? Less concerning at present are such down-the-road landmines as standardization across cloud platforms, and capacity management.
It’s probably also worth noting that the least of anyone’s concerns is the pointed issue of monetization. For now, at any rate, it would seem that getting money out of cloud computing is a given in the eyes of many, if not most, certified professionals.
Cloud computing forecast
We also looked into which of all the various cloud technology applications holds the most potential for future growth. In the eyes of certified cloud professionals, it’s a dead heat, with Software as a Service (SaaS) ever so slightly ahead of data analytics.
Using cloud tech to unify, centralize, and simplify business operations and other large-scale endeavors is probably where there’s the most heat in cloud computing right now. In addition to SaaS being seen (even if only narrowly) as holding the greatest growth potential, there’s also the fact that Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) generated the third- and fourth-highest levels of response.
Data storage rated a distant fifth, followed by the even less trendy applications of backup/disaster recovery and research and development.
That should offer at least some indication of what skills to emphasize for cloud professionals or aspiring cloud professionals who are eyeballing continuing education and career development opportunities. And if you are in that boat, then it may be worth asking your employer about compensation for training and certification.
While about half of survey respondents (47.6 percent) paid the total cost of their most recent cloud computing certification, roughly one-third (33 percent) got the company they work for to foot the entire bill, and a further 15.9 percent worked out some kind of cost split between themselves and their employer.
Who’s got a certification?
There’s some evidence that certification is still catching on in the cloud computing arena. For as much as there may be rising demand for skilled cloud computing professionals, there’s not much to suggest that employers are asking for specific cloud credentials by name. Just 16 percent of survey respondents were required to hold one or more cloud certs in order to accept their current job.
What’s more, a notable 42 percent of those surveyed got their first cloud computing certification just last year. And if you move that timeline back only three years to 2014, then you capture an additional 35 percent of the survey group. In other words, as recently as 2013, more than 77 percent of respondents had yet to earn their first cloud computing cert.
When you additionally factor in that 76 percent of those surveyed hold either just one (50.6 percent) or two (25.3 percent) cloud certs altogether, it seems clear that there’s a lot of room for growth in the field.
There’s also some indication, however, that certification is vital to longterm employment in cloud computing. You can break into the industry and start flexing your IT muscle, but the odds are high that you won’t be there long before the degree of difficulty points you toward certification.
Among survey respondents, 73 percent worked in the field for three or fewer years before getting a certification, and 30 percent didn’t even make it an entire year before getting a cert.
Workplace and education
There’s a fair amount of freedom to move around in cloud computing. We asked survey respondents to identify the industry in which they are currently employed, and no one field captured even 20 percent of the overall group.
Popular employment sectors include computer and network consulting, which claims 18.2 percent of those surveyed; local, state, and federal government (16.7 percent); software (12.1 percent); finance (10.6 percent); education (6.1 percent); and business services (6.1 percent).
For teens and young adults who are considering cloud computing as a potential career, definitely don’t rule out higher education. Among survey respondents, 81 percent pursued their education far enough to hold some level of university degree, including 36.7 percent who topped out with a bachelor’s degree, and 35.6 percent who went one step further and claimed a master’s degree.
There’s more information to come from our survey. Over the coming months, we’ll be posting additional findings online at CertMag.com, where you can also find ongoing dispatches from our 2018 Salary Survey.
TABLE TALK : How satisfied are certified cloud computing professionals with their training and certification experience?