Despite so many optimistic predictions from Gartner, IDC and other surveys about the growth of cloud computing that they're almost an industry in themselves, there's no better indication of real interest from real companies than spending on a new technology.
And due to the collateral costs of hiring - benefits, space, power, travel, training - there's no better indication of a company's intentions than its plans to hire more people with specific skills, says Tom Kiblin, CEO of cloud- and location-hosting company Virtacore.
Data from Dice.com showing that the number of ads for full-time IT jobs focused on cloud computing grew 344 per cent between Nov. 2009 and Nov., 2010 should be a good indication of how quickly demand for those skills is growing.
The number was tiny in 2009 - only 378, but grew to 1,300 postings this year for jobs with titles like cloud computing architect and technical leader for cloud, says Dice.com's data.
Growth in demand for server virtualization - a cloud-computing precursor with much wider acceptance in the market, grew 78 per cent between Nov. 2009 and Nov. 2010. That's nearly double the 40 per cent increase in overall IT job ads the service itself saw during that time, according to an analyst from the company.
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The IT market in general is just getting back to where it was during the fourth quarter of 2008, the last real high mark, according to John Reed, executive director of Robert Half Technology, the IT recruiting wing of Robert Half International, which recently issued its latest quarterly IT hiring survey.
Virtualization and cloud computing are among the most hotly pursued skills, but not at the top of the list, Reed says. Application developers and Web specialists take those honors, largely because companies that put projects on the shelf when the recession started are dusting them off and relaunching them, he says.
Cloud and virtualization skills tend to fall, among RHT's clients, with networking and security specialists, all of which are in high demand at companies that do IT for other people -- engineering and consulting companies, law firms, outsourcers and management consultants, he says.
One reason virtualization and cloud computing are among the hottest-selling technologies and skills most sought on Dice.com is due to the way IT groups are organized, not the skills they need, according to Mark Bowker, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.
"Virtualization migrations typically start with the server team and can run for quite a while focused just on consolidation and IT-driven workloads," says Bowker, interpreting data from an ESG survey of 463 companies that was released in November. "Most companies are at that point, where they've finished the first 20 per cent or 30 per cent of a virtualization migration, gotten the low-hanging fruit, and now have to move outside IT where the technology is not the barrier to success."
Virtualizing servers and applications that belong to business units - ERP applications, collaboration software, for example, rather than firewalls, load balancers and other IT-focused apps - the IT people doing the migrations need more than just virtualization skills. They need security, application development, business-process management, and soft skills like user management, Bowker says.
Even straight IT-owned workloads in virtualized or cloud environments involve so many skillsets that it's not practical to hire someone with just virtualization skills, Kiblin says.
"Our guys have to be skilled in so many areas - OS, hypervisor, storage, routing, backups - you can't find them," he says. "In three to five years other people [companies other than service providers] will realize their people have to cross-trained to be an asset to an organization, not just be a member of the routing team or a load-balancing team or a SAN team, or whatever."
The services industry is particularly strong in IT hiring right now, especially in business consulting, legal services, outsourcing and management consulting, Reed says. Also at the top of the list of hot industries are financial-services and healthcare companies -- both of which are IT-heavy and undergoing lots of overhaul.
The services industry is hot because, in the absence of a lot of IT hiring for the past two years or so, they've been filling in the gaps, he says.
As hiring in general increases, as surveys from check processor ADP and the Federal Reserve's report on private-sector hiring both predict - much of that work may shift back to full-time employees, he says.
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Read more about virtualization in CIO's Virtualization Drilldown.