A common belief among IT pros, and perhaps one of the reasons they have resisted the cloud for so long is that it would reduce the number of IT jobs. The theory goes if you are closing data centers, chances are you are going to need fewer people, but is that really the case? I'm beginning to think it's not and here's why.
First of all, it means you're thinking in terms of yesterday's compute model. In that model, you have a data center and you have bodies to run it, but I visited a data center earlier this year which has exactly 10 people running it. It was a huge place, but only required 10 employees, so just because you have physical infrastructure, it doesn't equal jobs.
I know I'm not making you feel much better yet, but stick with me.
Very few companies are closing their data centers wholesale anytime soon. There are too many layers of carefully built legacy hardware and software and IT tends to move slowly. So time is on your side as the hybrid model lives on. But consider that even GE, a company that has announced plans to close the vast majority of its data centers in the coming years, has no plans to reduce head count, and if anything is looking to add people to its vast worldwide IT staff of over 11,000 people.
In fact, Pam Halligan, a GE HR executive, told me recently that closing the data centers may change the focus, but it doesn't reduce the need for people to work on other issues in the organization. "When we think of the cloud, we are going to need to bring additional skill sets and talents we don’t have in house," she said. She added that means that the numbers will shift and grow and they will actually need even more talent than they have now. It just might not be the same set of skills, and people need to be willing to learn new ways of working and be flexible about the changing needs of the organization.
She pointed out that while that may scare some traditional IT folks, she said most people she's talked to are excited by the prospect of learning new skills and in the future she's looking for people who are flexible and not fixed in their IT ways.
She points to the company's San Ramon, CA Software Center of Excellence as an example of how this will work. They have hired hundreds of people to look at how technology can transform the way they do things at GE. And she says, they are drawing people to the company with the prospect of fixing big problems in a modern context.
If you think about the shift we are currently making in computing, this actually makes sense. While you won't need the same kinds of talent you needed before to keep the machines running, you will still need people as the priorities shift from running a data center to building solutions and helping solve the myriad of technical issues that are going to develop inside large organizations as they make the change to a modern computing environment.
All of this means, the skills you need might change, but the need for technical talent doesn't appear to be diminishing anytime soon, and if anything, the shift to the cloud could actually create more jobs than were needed in the client-server era.