Public cloud and technical culture

By on 5 May 2022

Category: Tech matters

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Public cloud adoption has been on the rise around the globe in the last five to ten years. The reason for this surge in adoption is due to the features, services, resources, and apps developed and offered by big cloud players such as Amazon, Microsoft, Alibaba, and Google. Unless you have strict compliance or data sensitivity requirements that restrict your organization from using public cloud, there is no apparent reason why your organization shouldn’t take advantage of the conveniences offered.

By subscribing to public cloud offerings, an organization can focus on its core business and not worry about the physical infrastructure or traditional skillset of support staff. Outsourcing to cloud operators who maintain the platform means your customers/employees/partners can access services without your company needing to host on physical premises. However, it is changing the traditional technical culture of organizations, with trained and skilled resources declining in enterprise organizations.

Read: Hybrid cloud: What is it, and should you use it?

Can you imagine how challenging it will be for any organization to move back from public cloud to on-premises completely? How difficult will it be to find employees with a traditional skillset of infrastructure deployment and maintenance? It is evident that public cloud is indirectly creating and promoting a technical enterprise workforce who are overwhelmed with automation, GUI portals, virtualization, and abstraction-level remote troubleshooting without any on-site maintenance/troubleshooting exposure.

Let’s investigate some typical organizational support roles and see how their traditional duties/work expectations have changed since they completely migrated their workloads and assets to the public cloud.

Network technicians/engineers

As a typical network technician/engineer of an enterprise organization, you mostly find yourself busy dealing with network appliances including routers, switches, servers, and similar for installation/provisioning/configuration/maintenance purposes. Your skillset improves on a daily basis when it comes to using Layer 3 routing protocols, Layer 2 switching technologies, appliance operating systems, enterprise data centre hardware (including cables, connectors, accessories, power/environment monitoring systems and so on). You also frequently use tools for network management and monitoring that are necessary for everyday troubleshooting and during scheduled/unscheduled maintenance outages.

If your organization has completely migrated its workloads to the public cloud, there are very few things you can do remotely as you don’t have physical access to the infrastructure of a cloud data centre. Perhaps you never get a chance to see your deployed resources and assets inside a data centre. Your remote access to your deployed assets in the public cloud is limited to abstraction level only, which means the maintenance tools and troubleshooting services offered by cloud operators to its enterprise customers are limited in scope and functionality compared to traditional on-premises tools and services. Simply put, your remote access is now a portal or shell-based utility that is cloud specific in nature and has limited functionality and scope. Perhaps the only hardware you can touch and manage in your organization now is the VPN devices required for connectivity with public cloud data centres.

IT support staff

Public cloud has made it ridiculously easy to perform everyday support tasks such as spinning-up a new server, scaling up or down hardware (such as CPU size and memory), installing or configuring operating systems, taking a backup or performing a disaster recovery in case of failure, managing storage needs, and so on. With a few clicks via portal or shell commands, these tasks are easy. It reminds me of my first day at work back in 1998 when my boss asked me to install Linux over a new server machine. It took me hours to finish that task as I was confused about the size and number of partitions I was supposed to create for a smooth installation of Linux. 😊

The downside of all this cloud-based automation is that we miss out on the learning experience and opportunities of performing everyday IT support tasks when we choose to work for an organization that doesn’t manage its compute resources internally.

Developers

Coming from the infrastructure side, I had to rely on input from my colleagues and friends who work as software developers, database admins, data scientists, app developers and so on. They don’t seem to lose anything by migrating to the public cloud in terms of skills. In fact, their productivity has increased due to avoidance of compatibility issues, ease of access to code repositories and libraries, integrated data platforms with modern built-in tools, rapid methods of spinning-up databases, along with global replication options and more. Now they can focus more on their code and needn’t worry about deployment or hosting issues. As an example, a container management solution like Kubernetes can now be deployed in a public cloud within minutes by developers. This task usually requires teamwork in on-premises setups, requiring frequent support from infrastructure IT teams.

Security professionals

For security professionals, it is a mixed experience. Securing the assets of your organization deployed in the public cloud relies mostly on cloud-native solutions as on-premises solutions either don’t work in the public cloud (due to incompatibility) or are limited in terms of functionality and scope of work. This includes identity management solutions (for authentication and authorization purposes), software firewalls, IDS/IPS, SIEM, anti-virus/malware solutions, sniffers, and so on.

Although the skills needed to operate cloud-native security solutions closely match the skills required to manage the security domain of any organization, security professionals still miss out on the physical ownership and control of their security solutions while using public cloud. In most cases, they can’t enforce their customized pre-operational solutions and rules, so building an on-premises skillset is limited to cloud-native security tools only.

In summary, there’s no doubt that the popularity of public cloud is changing the technical culture of enterprise organizations. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this shift below in the comments. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post. Please keep learning and broadening your knowledge using resources and training available offered by APNIC.

Azhar Khuwaja is a Telecom/IT Trainer with over 20 years of industry and training experience.

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The views expressed by the authors of this blog are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of APNIC. Please note a Code of Conduct applies to this blog.

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