Moving to the cloud? You need new skills.

Web apps, outsourcing to cloud providers will put new demands on agencies, experts say

While there is still disagreement about what exactly cloud computing is, many experts agree that moving applications to cloud vendors will create the need for new expertise and skill sets in government.

Cloud computing means that the business architecture — not the technical architecture — will become important, said Dan Mintz, chief operating officer at Powertek Corp., speaking May 3 at the 2010 Cloud Computing Conference, held by 1105 Government Information Group..

“If you’re going to start putting your applications on the Web, whether it’s internal — what we call a private cloud — or external — the public cloud — you’re going to have to pay attention to the business architecture because you now have all these different services out there that have to connect and have to be designed a certain way,” he said.

In addition, project and program management skills will become more critical in a cloud computing environment, he said.


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“The relationships are going to get more complicated because you’re not just managing your own people, you’re managing relationships to external sources,” said Mintz, fomer chief information officer for the Transportation Department.

In private industry, he noted, a lot of outsourcing efforts failed because companies didn’t have people trained to relate to other organizations horizontally, Mintz said. “Managing a bunch of people who work for you is different than managing a bunch of organizations that are on the side of you, which is what you have to do with outsourcing,” he said.

Mintz speculated that, as government moves to cloud computing, technical and operations staff will more often come from external providers than from the agency's own ranks. “This is going to be very disruptive,” he said. “A lot of people who have been working in the same job for 20 years are going to be very concerned.”

Cloud computing also will require new procurement skills. “People are going to have to do a lot more services provisioning,” Mintz said. “You’re not going to be buying computers as much a providing external services. So it means that people are going to have to get better at that.”

It will also demand better performance-based work statements from acquisition specialists, he said. Government is “not particularly good at developing service-level agreements,” which will require high performance and security levels of cloud vendors, Mintz said.

“It’s extremely difficult to develop a security or a privacy service-level agreement,” he said. “This is going to put a lot of strain on the acquisition folks.”

Mark Bowker, senior consultant at the Enterprise Strategy Group of Milford, Mass., added that, in a cloud environment, information technology administrators will have to become managers of systems rather than administrators of systems.

About the Author

Richard W. Walker is a freelance writer based in Maryland.

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Reader comments

Wed, May 5, 2010 Wayne Price AZ

While I agree there will eventually be a shift to Managed Service Providers and SLAs, many of the current problems are technical. Moving applications designed for a different environment into a cloud is unlikely to work very well. Besides scaling issues, application security is usually poor (and often involves vendor lock-in). Until developers know how to refactor the software, the business side is pretty much moot.

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