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Virtualization and Cloud Computing Hiring Outlook for 2011

By Kevin Fogarty, CIO
January 13, 2011 09:55 AM ET

CIO - 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 showing that the number of ads for full-time IT jobs focused on cloud computing grew 344 percent 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's data.

Growth in demand for server virtualization - a cloud-computing precursor with much wider acceptance in the market, grew 78 percent between Nov. 2009 and Nov. 2010. That's nearly double the 40 percent 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 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 percent or 30 percent 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.

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