Cloud Data Growth Will Affect Jobs in 2021 and Beyond

Avoiding the cloud is becoming impossible for technologists. From casual smartphone meme-seekers to Fortune 500 companies, billions of people engage with cloud-hosted data daily—which means technologists’ jobs will inevitably touch the cloud, as well. Personal photos, business documents—even low-code services crafted by non-engineers at businesses everywhere—all live in the cloud.

The web itself is a tangle of cloud-hosting. When a service such as AWS goes down for even a few minutes in a specific region, global panic ensues. Just this year, content delivery networks Akamai and Fastly crashed, bringing the web to its knees. Fastly’s scenario proved just how tenuous and fragile the web (and cloud) can be; a single user triggered a specific sequence of events that ultimately resulted in an undetected bug crashing the whole network. Akamai, which delivers websites hosted on Amazon’s AWS platform, failed in July, crippling major websites like Home Depot and Delta. 

Despite these highly publicized failures, the cloud continues to expand its reach. How will the cloud evolve, and how will that impact jobs both in the near- and long-term? We spoke to several experts on how they feel cloud-based jobs (and the discipline itself) may change over the next decade.

Do You Think the Cloud is Growing?

Quimby Melton, co-founder and CEO at data privacy firm Confection, says, “Given the vast performance and storage demands of the modern world, and given that each is only likely to accelerate in the years to come, I can’t imagine a plausible bearish case for cloud computing.”

Solutions Architect at cybersecurity firm Exabeam, Keith Biggin, agrees, telling Dice: “There is little doubt that the need for cloud specialists is growing rapidly. The benefits to organizations of moving to the cloud are potentially enormous. Historically, the cost burden of maintaining infrastructure and systems can be substantially reduced in the cloud, making it attractive to both IT and finance teams.”

That growth, however, means that technologists who specialize in the cloud must learn constantly, and keep up-to-date on the biggest cloud platforms’ latest features, pricing, and quirks. “The various leading platform vendors all have their own ways of management and developing within them,” Biggin continues. “Add to that the speed at which they all change and improve means it’s almost impossible to be fully skilled in all the leading cloud platform providers. Specialists are now focusing on specific platforms out of necessity of the roles they have. This is leading to a steady increase in the need for people across all areas of cloud architecture and engineering.”

Biggin’s comments underscore a critical point: though we’ve become highly reliant on the web, we’ve not yet perfected it. There’s a lot of work to be done in building, maintaining, and iterating on cloud buildouts. Gartner predicts that, by 2026, the cloud will consume 45 percent of all IT spending, up from less than 17 percent in 2021. 

Where Will Cloud Jobs be in Five to 10 Years?

Mark Cusack, CTO of data warehousing company Yellowbrick, suggests that, as the cloud matures, so will its jobs:

We’re seeing data warehouses acquiring more abilities to process semi-structured and unstructured data and providing machine learning functionality, while at the same time data lake approaches are gearing up to tackle data warehousing workloads. It seems inevitable that these approaches will come together. Data lakehouses on the market claim to do this today, but they are not there yet. Over the next 10 years, I believe we’ll see a simplification of the current cloud landscape through the emergence of distributed clouds. Distributed clouds take the hardware and software stacks in the public cloud and deploy them everywhere, including at the network edge. When that happens, we’ll be able to seamlessly deploy analytics anywhere based on data gravity, data sovereignty and data latency needs, opening new IoT use cases in many industries.

To Cusack’s point, many experts we spoke with suggest the “next phase” of the web is about fully understanding the cache of data accumulated over the past 10-15 years. We tend to romanticize machine learning from companies like Google or IBM; now we need to see whether those machine-learning services can actually deliver what they promise in terms of discovering and mining key data for insight. 

Alex Feiszli, CEO of enterprise cloud solutions startup GRAVITL, says that most tech jobs will involve cloud skills sooner or later: “In 10 years, I think we’ll have moved into a more “abstract” version of the cloud. Different cloud vendors will mesh together along with private data centers, edge servers, and IoT. We are beginning to see this now, but a new ecosystem is emerging around hybrid/multi/edge cloud solutions. Basically, anything that can merge different environments together and make them all easily manageable.” 

The average enterprise has over five clouds in production now, Feiszli adds: “That’s a big headache to deal with. In addition, many companies who have gone all-in on a single cloud are just now realizing the need to move some of those services back to on-prem or to a different cloud.”

Lorna Mitchell, head of developer relations at Aiven, thinks the cloud is a pretty safe trend to bet on: “I think ‘what’s next’ will mean moving beyond doing what we already know, but in the cloud instead of the datacenter. Instead, we’ll be compiling our applications from a lively marketplace of next-generation services that will form the cloud platform of the future. Having so many ways to bring services together means we’ll also need to get better at using standard ways to integrate all these new shiny things to create something amazing.”

Technologists should also pay attention to the emergence of distributed clouds. “With the emergence of distributed clouds, there will be a need to re-think how data and analytics work in a geographically disparate world,” Cusack notes. “Perhaps we’ll see job postings for distributed cloud developers, who are responsible for building applications that span all the way from the IoT edge to the cloud center. DevOps, FinOps and SecOps roles will also need to expand to address the automation, cost control, and security and governance challenges that will emerge in future distributed clouds.”

The cloud is in a state of rapid expansion and experiencing growing pains. As companies increase their headcounts and new firms spring up to tackle specific issues related to cloud computing and data, the field will only expand. While experts see cloud-centric jobs evolving, none consider these cloud jobs to be at risk of a reduction in force.