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Cloud threatens traditional IT jobs, forces change

Cloud computing is making corporate-owned data centers less common, and companies continue to reduce IT staff.

SANTA CLARA -- Cloud computing will continue to change the modern data center in eight distinct ways, and has already resulted in enterprise IT job cuts.

Those changes to the data center will include connectivity, resiliency, trust, overprovisioning, speculative build out, business management, controls and automation and expansion of the data center perimeter, according to Andy Lawrence, the research vice president for data center technologies at 451 Research, who outlined the changes to traditional enterprise and colocation data centers in a session at the Uptime Institute Symposium this week.

"Cloud focuses on the business needs rather than the silo needs of the facilities people and the IT people," he said.

A shift in data centers' decisions from facilities and IT pros to the business side of the enterprise also fuels a move to cloud, he said.

"They will be much more driven by the business requirements than facilities or IT people," Lawrence said.

Many IT pros are "slightly defensive" about cloud computing and, according to some CTOs, it may be a well-founded position. Lawrence said a CTO at a major financial institution told him that their business is likely to reduce its IT workforce by 95% by 2020, and other IT leaders have shared similar stories. Those leaders felt liberated and emboldened by the cloud and the bring-your-own-device phenomenon, he said.

Lawrence pointed to a T-shirt from Amazon Web Services (AWS) emblazoned with the words "Friends don't let friends build data centers."

AWS has added to its offerings development tools, mobile device management and email, among other services.

"That is quite an in-your-face challenge to those of you that are operating enterprise data centers," Lawrence said. "It is a serious threat."

While traditional corporate IT departments shrink, IT positions arise in the cloud with providers such as AWS hiring as they grow. Those cloud IT jobs require different skills.

And looking further out, emerging technologies such as Internet of Things will also impact IT.

"The Internet of Things is in the very, very early stages," Lawrence said. The 50 billion wireless connected devices expected by 2020 "will create a tsunami of data that will have to go somewhere." That means IT will continue to grow.

"A rising tide lifts all boats," he said.

Meanwhile, 451 Research estimates there are still about four million traditional server closets in the world.

"The assumption is that a lot of those four million will go to the cloud or premium data centers," Lawrence said.

A few of those four million server closets are at the University of the Pacific, which has three campuses in Northern California. Robert Henderson, executive director of cyber infrastructure at the college, said he is seeing firsthand the changes cloud computing is bringing about, including a reduced role for the university's three data centers in the future.

"The connection to the cloud is more important than ever," he said. "It is more than an Internet connection."

Even with a reduced role for the university's data centers, Henderson said he expects the demands on IT to grow, mainly from the school's human resources and business-side users.

"You're still going to need the applications close to the edge, close to the users," he said.

Another change coming to the data center will be that more of them will be constructed at the edge, and not all data centers will be so-called stick-build. Instead, a data center could be brought in on a skid, where it will be "plug and go," Lawrence said.

"I think that is something people haven't grasped," he said.

Robert Gates covers data centers, data center strategies, server technologies, converged and hyperconverged infrastructure and open source operating systems for SearchDataCenter. Follow him @RBGatesTT

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Do you have any stats on the percentage of job loses created by using public cloud services? The one quote you use, "we'll reduce 95% of our IT staff" maybe be accurate from one CIO, but it's somewhat misleading for the industry. For example, if you have 95% racking, stacking and maintaining the DC, then you're probably not that efficient at IT. 

Stuff still needed with public cloud:
- Application developers (unless you move to all SaaS applications, and even then, you'll still want to integrate with something)
- Automation engineers / Ops teams - "NoOps" isn't happening anytime soon
- People looking at backups, compliance, auditing
- DBAs
- Security professionals
- Network engineer - not to plug in cables, but manage complex network topologies (even if combined with underlying cloud networking services)

I don't think a lot of companies are willing to put all their eggs in one basket. There may be a possible reduction in staff but not to that extent. I look at it this way, if you have a "disaster" is a staff of two or three going to be able to handle it ??? 
These are all good points, and the comments address good points as to why I.T. is still needed. But I completely agree that the need is lessening; for example, Bushel allows businesses to complete common IT functions simply, therefore by themselves. While I.T. will certainly never be gone, I believe it will be used less as time goes on.
Security is still a big concern for organisations like Banks to go on cloud. Yes, it has affected the way IT has been working in some sense but not very sure if it will really cause job loss to many. Rather, it's likely to create more opportunities to those who are skilled
I do see benefits to the cloud but I cannot see it making IT obsolete.. I cannot count how many companies I have worked for that have bought a software package to run their business and still have many custom applications and have heavy modifications to the pre-packaged code. I feel there is always going to be a need for software developers.
even in a public cloud with drag and drop construction of sites and such (SquareSpace, I'm looking at you ;) ), there's still plenty of need for people to do customization, modification and rework, as well as someone designated to handle all of the machines. With the hardware becoming virtual, perhaps it really isn't necessary for a large IT staff, but there will certainly be a need for people to maintain, update and modify.
There is a hidden discussion here that everyone should be thinking about.  It's evident that companies will look to cloud for reducing expenses, overhead costs, datacenter operating costs, yearly maintenance and updates to hardware, and storage planning.

And I agree with those that state that one reason cloud is taking so long for companies to evaluate and consider is the security side of things - customer data is critical.  However, if a company has the ability to overcome that challenge and the risks associated, then the door is open to more than just moving their own data and It infrastructure to the cloud.  There are so many companies offering SaaS, DaaS, TaaS - and if a company has no security concerns (all have been overcome), then what would limit them from leveraging the "as a Service" organizations to do what is needed.

Suggestion to anyone afraid of their job being at risk due to cloud - read up on what is going on with SaaS, DaaS organizations, and understand what they are offering and how you can learn more about them.