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What the cloud really means for your IT job

As companies adopt cloud services, is there more or less of a need for IT workers?

By , Network World
March 13, 2012 01:57 PM ET

Network World - Depending on which survey or story you read, the cloud can be either a good thing for IT workers and their job security, or it can be terrifying.

For example, a study by Microsoft and IDC recently predicted that cloud computing will create 14 million jobs internationally by 2015. But those aren't just IT jobs, they are jobs spread around the entire world, across all industries.

For IT shops, the news may not be as bright: A study by IT service provider CSC concluded that 14% of companies reduced their IT staff headcount after deploying a cloud strategy.

As businesses embrace the cloud, experts say there will still be a need for IT staff in the enterprise, but there will be a need for different types of IT workers. Instead of managing infrastructure, tending the help desk and commissioning server instances to be created, IT workers of tomorrow are instead more likely to be managing vendor relationships, working across departments and helping clients and workers integrate into the cloud.

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"The No. 1 reason most enterprises are going to the cloud is cost savings," says Phil Garland, of PricewaterhouseCooper's CIO advisory business services unit. The largest line items in enterprise budgets are traditionally labor, so as enterprises deploy the cloud, it will reduce the number of staff needed, he says.

But, this doesn't necessarily mean that IT jobs are gone with the wind. In fact, while 14% of businesses surveyed by CSC cut IT staff, another 20% actually increased staff.

"It really depends on what the enterprise is doing in the cloud," Garland adds. "In most cases, it's a shift of responsibilities instead of wholesale cutting or hiring."

Take the example of Underwriters Laboratories in Illinois, a 9,000-person company that provides third-party inspection and certification services to more than 50,000 businesses around the world with its trademark UL symbol.

In August, the company transitioned from an in-house managed deployment of IBM communications systems Lotus Notes and Domino, to a cloud-based SaaS offering of Microsoft Office 365. "We needed something that would be much more elastic," says CIO Christian Anschuetz. The company has executed a handful of mergers and acquisitions in recent years, and it expects more in the future. Anschuetz wanted a simpler way of deploying increased instances of communications systems without the need to add infrastructure to support it.

The migration to the cloud took about eight weeks and it created an almost immediate shift in the firm's IT needs. UL no longer needed workers to manage its communications platform, email servers and chat functions. Despite cutting in those areas, Anschuetz says his investment in cloud personnel has tripled since the cloud adoption.

"Most people think that with such a deployment we would be drawing down our services to make them more cost-effective," he says. "Our internal IT is growing."

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