To build and manage the cloud systems of the future will require a specific list of skills. This list might include a thorough knowledge of datacentre operations (including server room design, cooling and airflow), virtualisation, predicting spikes and troughs in demand, and general systems management.
The ability to manage massively scalable server farms will be in demand and the onus will be on hardware and software vendors to deliver systems that are highly scalable, possess fast interlinks and can automatically identify and troubleshoot problems.
We can expect servers to look very different, stripped back for quick swap-out and designed with massive parallelism and fast interconnects as key criteria. Bandwidth management and failover will also be further emphasised.
However, one opportunity that has seen less attention is what some call community cloud – the notion of bringing together groups with shared interests to share cloud systems based on trust.
By co-locating in datacentres, companies can get the benefit of lower-cost infrastructure for commodity services without exposing themselves to broader public clouds.
For the public sector this advanced form of shared services might well become effectively mandatory, given spending constraints.
In the private sector there may well be cultural barriers to overcome but examples of community activity do exist from the keiretsu networks of Japanese business to the shared booking systems of the airline sector. In financial services more sharing of common services is likely and other sectors stand to benefit too.
Other examples are emerging. The Amazon.com marketplace lets sellers offer various goods on a platform that provides mutual benefits.
Sellers gain from a solid technology platform, traffic and a trusted brand while Amazon gains subscriptions, referral fees and access to useful business intelligence data.
In Finland, insurance firm Fennia used the community cloud to streamline document exchange business processes with brokers. In the oil and gas sector a community cloud can help share information between various parties as to operational status of rigs.
Obviously we have some way to go before cloud computing becomes the standard in business IT and issues such as the recent Amazon Web Services outage will certainly cause concerns.
But once cloud systems have proven their resilience look out for community clouds to appear and underpin a radical change in managing IT services, allowing companies to share a base layer of IT service and then continue to compete on competitive differentiation in other areas.
Craig Boundy is UK CEO of Logica