Rackspace program looks to 'seed' cloud workforce

Rackspace to launch Open Cloud Academy, a training program to fill skills gap in cloud computing

Open Cloud Academy

Open Cloud Academy logo

Rackspace launched the Open Cloud Academy today, a training program to teach skills in various open source areas, such as OpenStack, Hadoop and Linux, with a specific focus on cloud computing.

Graham Weston, founder and chairman of Rackspace, which is one of the biggest cloud computing providers, says the company can't find enough people with the skills needed to work on cloud and open source technologies. "There's just a huge short of people who have skills in these fields," says Weston.

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Rackspace is launching a pilot of the Academy today, which will offer online programs to anyone for $200, plus a $20 per month fee, a sort of education-as-a-service. The plan is to roll out a series of six- to eight-week, eight-hour-a-day courses that "go really deep on subjects," Weston says, that participants would apply for. Enrollment would be capped at 20 per course. Anyone can apply at the Academy's website, but Weston says he'd like to focus on enrolling recent college graduates and former military personnel. The courses will be taught by a combination of Rackspace officials and professional educators.

Focus areas will include OpenStack -- the open source cloud operating system that Rackspace co-founded and now runs its cloud on -- as well as open source databases like MongoDB, Cassandra, and programming languages like Python and Ruby on Rails. Academic institutions just haven't caught up yet to the cutting-edge skills needed by companies like Rackspace today, Weston says. "There are an awful lot of people in IT shops that are highly skilled, but they need to close the gap of how to become marketable in the cloud world today," he notes.

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In researching the potential market for the Academy, Rackspace surveyed 1,300 businesses in the U.S. and England and found that 42% of companies are hiring workers with cloud computing skills, but 43% said they are finding it difficult to find IT professionals with the cloud computing skills.

That tells Weston that there's a need for this in the market. It's not all altruistic for Rackspace, though: Weston says the company hopes to hire up to one-third of the participants in the extended courses to work at the company. Other attendees will be able to work for competing companies, third-party partners, or they can go back to their current jobs. He's hoping many stay in San Antonio, Texas, where the courses will be held and where Rackspace headquarters are to build a "brain trust" in the city.

Weston -- who is listed as one of the 400 richest people in America by Forbes with a net worth of $1.25 billion -- previously started Geekdom in San Antonio, a collaborative startup space for techies in Texas. Participants rent work space for as little as $50 a month to have access to a community of entrepreneurs in the 45,000-square-foot incubation lab. Plans are to expand Geekdom in San Francisco.

Network World senior writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

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