The cloud computing hype machine may have networking professionals fearful that everything they manage, maintain
and operate will become a casualty to outsourced, as-a-service offerings. But the cloud poses little threat to IT job security for network and systems admins who adapt by advancing their skills and expertise.
"[Routing and switching] is not going to become irrelevant. You're going to have a new way of monitoring it and a new way of managing those things in a new environment," said Vanessa Alvarez, industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan. "If you want to evolve your career … you're going to have to start gaining the skill set that's going to encompass the skills to deal with virtualization, to deal with the cloud and to manage the infrastructure components of things that are in the cloud."
Telecommunications managers -- or at least those who learned the ins and outs of IP networks -- weren't engineered out of a job when traditional private branch exchanges migrated to voice over IP systems, Alvarez said. Likewise, networking jobs won't disappear because of cloud computing.
"At the end of the day, cloud computing still needs some infrastructure. It just doesn't need as much infrastructure," she said.
Cloud computing? Networking pros have no fear
Despite some disquiet about what will happen to jobs because of cloud computing, networking professionals say they're not losing any sleep over it.
If anything is to be said about the impact of cloud computing, networking jobs are going to become a lot more essential as the networks themselves get more complicated because of the cloud, according to . Norman Elton, network engineer at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Va.
"From our perspective -- the networking group perspective -- we don't really see any threat from it, but we don't manage servers and whatnot that [are] more likely to be outsourced," he said. "We would lose our data center networking, but that accounts for 5% of our network. Most of it is in campus buildings, residence halls and academic halls."
Even if enterprises embrace cloud computing, networking teams will still need to be there if and when something fails, said Scott Evans, a telecommunications and network services manager at a financial services firm in the Midwest.
"Somebody still has to understand how the cloud works, and when it rains, how to make it shine again," Evans said.
Cloud computing threatens network security more than IT job security
Wesley Corie, a network administrator for Providence Engineering in Baton Rouge, La., said he is not eager to embrace the cloud -- but owing to technical concerns, not personal ones.
" I'm not a fan of the cloud much, either, [but] not because of 'job security' per se -- users will always need some warm bodies to help them -- but more [because of questions around] security, accountability and availability," Corie said.
Even if everything at his firm that could go to the cloud did so, he said, there are still plenty of networking tasks that are "supposed to be done by hand."
"I would still have to worry about how the workstations are doing.… They're not going to disappear or else you're not going to have a network anymore," Corie said. "If everything in our company shifted to the cloud, I would still have 40 hours of work to do every week, and I might get to focus on user training and things like that, rather than figuring out what's wrong with the email server."
Cloud computing is likely to be unpopular with his users as well, Corie said, noting that access to key data in the cloud depends on a flawless and fast Internet connection.
"As an engineering firm, we're constantly dealing with really large documents," he said. "Until we can get a 100-megabit Internet connection, they're never going to be happy with everything being hosted remotely."
Enterprises slow to embrace cloud computing, networking skills help in transition
As enterprises inch toward cloud computing, networking professionals will just need to update their skills -- not search for a new job, according to James Staten, a principal analyst at Forrester Research.
"Historically, if you were the network administrator, the network was yours. You controlled everything. The network was your domain," Staten said. "In this new world, you may have to become an 'influencer,' which means you're going to have to be able to advise your [organization] about what's good and what's bad to put in the cloud … and a lot of network administrators are short on those soft skills."
Alvarez and Staten said enterprises will adopt cloud computing slowly and gradually. Networking professionals should advance their training so that their skills provide a "bridge to the cloud," and they aren't rendered obsolete, Staten said.
"Assuming that [their] organization embraces cloud computing, [networking professionals] now have to know how to manage [cloud-based assets tied to the] network," he said.
Staten said new job opportunities will come from the cloud as well.
"As the cloud grows, there's going to be more demand among the cloud providers for people who are cloud-savvy network administrators, so their future may not necessarily even be in the enterprise," he said.
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, News Writer