The world of cloud computing has experienced a meteoric rise in recent years, becoming an essential component of modern business operations. AWS alone has grown 34% over the last two years. This has sparked a significant transition in many organizations as they scramble to cross-train staff on these new skills while simultaneously trying to acquire outside talent to help fill the gaps in cloud expertise.
In looking at this phenomenon, it is important to understand what a cloud team does differently from traditional IT so you can understand what gaps you may have and avoid a potential mishap.
In this blog we’ll look at the necessary roles and responsibilities of cloud engineering teams, the challenges associated with building cloud teams, and how a managed cloud service provider can help you build the right cloud team.
How does a Cloud Team differ from Traditional IT?
Imagine traditional IT as a group of mechanics who have worked on cars their entire careers. They understand the fundamentals of how a car runs and are probably experts on replacing a carburetor or fixing a timing belt. What happens though when you bring in a Tesla? It serves a similar function but does not operate in the same way as all the previous cars the team has seen. This is what on-premises IT teams face when presented with the cloud.
Public cloud service providers (CSPs) such as AWS and Microsoft Azure have hundreds of services designed to work together in a pay-as-you-go model. You can use as much or as little as you want, and you have the flexibility to experiment with numerous configurations. It takes a shift in thinking for the team to execute a cloud strategy. When planning the architecture, you have to consider the near instant provisioning of resources and how to place them. When looking at day-to-day tasks, there is much that automation can do to eliminate non-differentiated jobs. Since price is based on consumption, there must be controls in place that are constantly monitored to avoid over-provisioning.
Who will be on a Cloud Team?
Understanding the cloud team’s different roles and responsibilities is vital as you plan for cloud success. Although smaller teams may have employees wearing multiple hats while bigger teams will break out these roles individually, each of the primary functions of a cloud team below will be found in most groups.
The Cloud architect is the backbone of any cloud team and the most challenging position to fill. This person understands an organization's business needs and then designs cloud infrastructure to meet the business objectives. These professionals have a deep understanding of cloud services and technologies and can communicate complex technical concepts to non-technical stakeholders. They will have a strong background in building and deploying infrastructure and understand the budgeting and provisioning process well.
The Cloud Engineer title is one of the most versatile on a team and may well include a range of experience levels. The role of the Cloud Engineer is to implement and deploy cloud resources while implementing automation scripting for tasks that do not need constant human interaction. Aspiring architects will typically spend a portion of their career in a Cloud Engineering role where they can learn how to create stable cloud infrastructure on the job. In smaller organizations, these people may also have responsibilities related to security, daily monitoring, and building cloud resources and documentation.
Site Reliability Engineer
Site Reliability Engineers, also referred to as Observability Analysts, are responsible for the day-to-day activities of cloud optimization and monitoring. They will have access to performance monitoring and logging tools, ensuring alerts are handled as they arise. These people will develop response playbooks and handle the on-call rotation for critical incidents.
This is a role that is heavily data-driven and critical for avoiding wasted cloud resources. A good SRE should be an automation expert using configuration management, orchestration, and Continuous implementation/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) practices.
The Security Engineer is critical in protecting company assets from outside attacks. Since malicious actors perform most attacks, the Security Engineer must constantly educate themselves about new attacks that threaten the company’s cloud resources. The Security Engineer must be able to identify, assess, and prioritize security vulnerabilities. Additionally, they are responsible for ensuring security and compliance related to frameworks such as HIPAA, PCI, and HITRUST. These engineers must work closely with the Architects, Cloud Engineers, and DevOps to ensure that all resources remain secure.
Unlike other engineers thus far in this list, the DevOps engineer is not part of the infrastructure team but is a part of development. These engineers are focused on developing new products and must act as a liaison between teams as necessary. The DevOps Engineer needs to work closely with security since their team will likely experiment with cloud resources that will not be permanent fixtures. Their primary focus is to get new code deployed quickly while balancing the security, speed, and reliability of that code. These people will oversee version control systems, deployment documentation, and problem-solving skills related to the development lifecycle.
Technical Program Manager
The last engineer on this list is the Technical Program Manager (TPM), or Project Manager, in some organizations. This role is typically seen on large teams where there is a need for a large amount of coordination. The TPM will oversee the overall execution and scope of projects for the team. They will often have certifications such as a PMP, CSM, or 6 Sigma certification. This person must know technology and business objectives and help the team reach milestones and project completion on time. Since a background in engineering and project management is necessary, this can take a lot of work to fill.
What are the challenges of building a Cloud Team?
When building a cloud team, there are two ways to create your team. You must either look outside the organization to find cloud engineers or cross-train existing personnel to take on new tasks. Each of these paths has its challenges in execution.
Here are the challenges of building a cloud team.
The Cloud Skills Gap
In a perfect world, you would want cloud engineers who already understand the culture and technology that makes your organization unique. However, it can be difficult to find these people because of the cloud skills gap. Cloud engineering skills are among the most sought after on the market today. Recruiting them is highly competitive.
Cross-training Existing Employees
To deal with the shortage of cloud skills, many organizations choose to cross-train the existing IT team in cloud functions, but this is not a perfect solution as acquiring cloud skills takes time and experience. A common starting point for cloud training is the AWS Solution Architect Associate exam. It’s suggested that 50-60 hours be spent studying over three months to prepare for this exam. Enrolling beyond this step to seek the higher level Solutions Architect certification requires two years of AWS experience. In many cases, there is not enough time to train staff and meet migration deadlines.
Hiring Cloud Engineers Externally
Hiring outside of the organization has its own set of challenges to overcome. There is a small pool of engineers who have both cloud experience and understand the nuance of an industry like healthcare. Finding a person who understands compliance and security needs related to Protected Health Information (PHI) will be critical. Many times this will require using a recruitment firm that currently charges 20-27% of that person’s first year’s salary. This comes before considering overhead, relocation, benefits, or onboarding.
Why work with a Managed Cloud Service Provider?
Looking at all the roles needed and the effort to retain these people, it makes sense for many organizations to look for outside help to fill in missing talent gaps to create a plan for success in the cloud.
An MSP will have numerous engineers on staff with various backgrounds. This means you can access people with specialized certifications, such as the AWS Certified Security specialization. If you are pursuing a multi-cloud strategy, a strong MSP can deploy in different environments in a coordinated effort with your business needs. They will conduct Well-Architected reviews to keep you on track and cost-optimization efforts to reduce costs over time. Most importantly, when using a proven MSP, you can access industry-specific talent and a proven track record of success.
It is easy to underestimate the potential costs of inefficiency and failure when building cloud assets on your own. When building infrastructure, which is undifferentiated, it can take a lot of resources and time to learn how to develop and deploy in the cloud correctly. Rather than doing that, using an MSP for these resources lets you focus on what makes your organization unique.
Best in Breed Tools
There are hundreds of services and thousands of third-party integrations in the public cloud. Having a partner who has identified a technology stack that has been honed over time and includes all the tools needed for success is a huge advantage for organizations moving to the cloud. The most basic cloud configuration will still require much expertise. Standard guidance for an EC2 instance includes security, storage, resource management, backup and recovery, and networking.
Add on top of this the third-party tools, which require deployment, optimization, and ongoing tuning. It is easy to have many internal resources taken up in this endeavor, with costs that can spiral. Instead, you can take the years of trial and error that your MSP has undergone to find a tech stack that works and is stable. This means more time to focus on your core business.
Enhanced Security and Compliance Controls
A final consideration, which cannot be over-emphasized enough, is the security and compliance capabilities available from an MSP. The healthcare industry, for instance, accounted for 79% of recorded breaches in 2020. For these organizations that are under constant attack, a healthcare-focused MSP like Cloudticity can put security protocols in place that are based on best practices. With multiple engineers with security specializations, any problems can be dealt with quickly. Additionally, having programs such as the Cloudticity HITRUST Inheritance program can reduce the burden of becoming HITRUST certified by up to 40%. This means less money spent on outside resources for certification and a more secure environment overall.
When building cloud resources, it is imperative that you have access to the right expertise for success. There are many different types of cloud engineers, and they must work together to create a cohesive cloud experience. Using an MSP like Cloudticity can augment your existing staff and provide learning opportunities for those who are becoming proficient in the cloud. If you want to learn more, schedule a Free Consultation with one of our cloud experts.
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