The Cloud Connection

Slowly but steadily Cloud computing is finally making its presence felt in India. An interesting career option for IT aspirants, cloud computing is currently the talk of the town.

Let’s begin with basics. What is cloud computing? Wikipedia says it is an Internet (cloud) based development and use of computer technology. Cloud computing is a mechanism that enables management of computing and IT infrastructure to be consolidated in one or more data center to reduce the overall cost of operating computing facilities. Cloud computing is nothing but a computing technology that provides organizational abilities to access software and hardware resources from a virtual space.

Commonly referred to as the cloud metaphor for the Internet, this technology facilitates delivery of common business applications online that are accessed from the Internet. This technology is expected to revolutionize the way data is stored and managed. Since the software and data are stored on Internet (remote or in the cloud) servers, the cloud also curbs the exponential expenses incurred on maintaining high end data servers. The cloud eliminates expensive server farms and allows companies to analyze peta bytes of data. The cloud changes everything in technology. It is also specially aimed for cost advantages during IT investment to provide maintenance free software and infrastructure. The payment methodology or customers is based on an affordable pay as you go model which provides optimum utilization of resources, thus enhancing productivity and profitability of enterprises.

Myths and facts:

As mentioned right at the beginning, globally the cloud has arrived such that it has made in roads in our daily lives. Web mail (web based email) is a cloud application, which means web mail runs on clouds. Thus it isn’t as new as it sounds.

Having said that we do have a long way to cover. While we are far ahead than the western countries in all other technologies, when it comes to the cloud we are laggards. China is far ahead of us with respect to the cloud.

But playing devil’s advocate here, one questions the promise this technology holds especially since the internet penetration in the country is about seven per cent. While the metros have good connectivity, in the smaller cities the connectivity offered for business is fairly good. Companies who used leased liens in smaller cities can use the cloud connectivity is really not a problem.

Cloud computing actually works very well for the unconnected. They can use any manner of small applications / programs / software to edit images, video, power points, excels sheets etc which might not be available on local machines (either cyber cafes or desktops in schools etc).

Besides the limitations of broadband requirements, there are other concerns such as security, incomplete control over IT infrastructure privacy of critical data on the cloud etc. This model is absolutely new and will take some time before it gets accepted. However, in the long run, cloud computing is the way for homogenous computing in a universal environment accessible to all at an affordable price. Moreover, we believe that this model will be of immediate relevance to small and medium businesses (SMBs) by allowing them to automate business processes without large upfront investments in hardware and software.

Opportunities abound:

This implies that in the near future there would be a requirement for professionals in this field. India is a huge potential market for cloud computing. Analyst position India has the fastest growing SaaS market in Asia Pacific. As companies increasingly depend more on blogs / online document storage or other web based applications, enterprising youngsters can actually set up a business to help people set up applications. Enterprising students in Europe make pocket money doing this kind of stuff.

Thus while there would be bigger players like Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Yahoo, who would need such professionals in the field of cloud computing the smaller players talent. While these companies invest heavily to make cloud computing mainstream, it is the nimble start ups like Nivio who rush to take advantage to even cheaper cloud computing infrastructure to deliver innovative applications.

Professionals Preferred:

The million dollar question then remains which professionals i.e. software or hardware would be sought after? Aspirants would need an understanding of both! However the software issues far outweigh the hardware requirements at this point in time.

Experts also predict that is the space for creative professionals to tap their energies. They feel that while professionals joining startups would need to know how to use cloud computing services, they would not necessarily need to, know to build them. Projects, ides, dreams and world changing thoughts can all be launched using cloud computing. It truly makes for a flat, resource un-constrained world. The only limit is your imagination so think of cloud computing not as a standalone skill / feature but an integral part of the workplace that workers of the future are gong to encounter.

While people that have developed a deep expertise in systems software and distributed systems are well positioned to contribute to building massive cloud computing systems, innovative application developers will be better off tapping the creative potential that cloud computing unleashes. As cloud computing gets more main stream, the barrier to conceiving new ideas and bringing them to the customer will go down dramatically. This is the sweet spot that innovative application developers should be targeting.

Over and above the need for software and hardware professionals there would a need for information (IT) security professionals who will find a major place in the cloud computing environment. This is because with cloud computing you are taking all your needs and giving tem to third party to manage. Companies become a little sensitive bout their corporate data being hosted on third party servers due to sensitivity about data, and thus they would be in need of security professionals.

If you are harboring thoughts of making a career in the cloud, familiarize yourself with the skill sets to succeed. Cloud computing is a mix of many methodologies and one has to have proficiency in software application development and porting to understand it. To succeed in this sector, students must develop their skills in the area of hardware, systems, software distributed systems, network, storage platform deign, scalability, systems failure analysis, multi threaded programming, operating systems internals and virtualization software internals.

Addressing the issue of formal training in this field it is quite clear that there are no bachelor’s or master’ program run by any Indian university with regards to cloud computing as of now. While there are no such formal courses run by any Indian universities, most of the top IT players have set up competence centers and are offering services to help customers shift to cloud computing environment.

Ofcourse engineering colleges that offer IT specializations do have a strong systems software curriculum that prepares their students well for a career in cloud computing. The IITs, Georgha Tech, in Atlanta, University of California at Berkley, University of Washington in Seattle, Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford University in Palo Alto are few such institutes.