Cloud computing doesn’t sound revolutionary… except it is.
And it’s taking over!
How does it work?
Instead of building on-premise infrastructure (buying expensive tech, hiring expensive specialists, waiting for months or even years), you hire software and hardware from a third-party provider. Sharing computing resources comes with rapid elasticity – you can use more or less, depending on how much you need.
And you’re only paying for what you use!
The simple idea of computer resource pooling provides high-quality, scalable, and affordable solutions to businesses of all sizes.
It’s no surprise that cloud architect jobs are among the most in-demand and fastest-growing tech positions!
But…. What even is a cloud architect?
What skills are required for cloud computing?
Read on to find out!
We will guide you through:
The history and principles of cloud computing
Cloud services and cloud service providers
Comprehensive cloud architect job description
Cloud architect education and certification
Salary and prospects
Tips for getting started (even with zero experience)
Let’s dive right in:
Understanding Cloud Services
Cloud services span across fields of study, such as computing, storage, networking, development, and tools for the internet of Things to name a few.
When you use such a service, you are just sitting on your desktop as usual, using software and/or hardware that is rented out to you.
There are three main models of cloud service:
Software as a Service (SaaS), where you access software through the internet and pay on a subscription basis
Platform as a Service (PaaS), where software development platforms are hosted on the cloud.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), where you can access shared computing infrastructure through the internet.
The biggest cloud computing services provider is *drum roll* Amazon!
Yes, Amazon doesn’t make money just from selling you toothbrushes/ebooks/taco sleeping bags (yes, this is actually a thing).
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is responsible for 13% of Amazon’s total revenue! They are growing faster than the company as a whole, continuously lowering their prices (75 times since launch). They also have the likes of NASA and the CIA as their clients.
AWS jobs are well-paid and more in-demand than ever.
As an AWS architect, cloud developer, or DevOps engineer, you will be helping companies implement cloud services to best suit their needs. It speaks volumes that the average AWS certification holder salary is $129,868!
The cloud computing architecture is older than the internet. It doesn’t sound like it’s true but it is.
In 1963, MIT’s Project MAC developed technology allowing “a computer to be used by two or more people, simultaneously.” In this case, the ‘cloud’ was a room-sized computer and only a couple of people had access to it.
In 1969, ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) appeared as a primitive version of the internet.
Bottom line? The internet is six years younger than cloud computing!
Of course, things didn’t really get off the ground until the 90s. In 1999, Salesforce pioneered software as a service (SaaS). They would use the internet to deliver software to end customers.
Then, when Amazon started growing, they realized using infrastructure-as-a-service internally will help with availability. This eventually grew into offering it to other businesses, too. Their first product launch was Simple Storage Service (S3) on March 19, 2006.
Today, AWS offers 165+ services!
And they’re doing significantly better than their competitors – AWS is 10 times bigger than its nearest competitor.
Then again, the cloud-based services market is much bigger than AWS alone.
But spoiler alert: the market brings $141 billion per year!
Cloud Architecture for Beginners
Here are the steps to take you from ground zero to entry-level cloud architect jobs:
Learn About the Types of Cloud Computing
Know your terms and abbreviations to navigate the cloud environment more successfully.
The essential types of cloud computing services include:
Software as a Service (SaaS) – a pay-per-use model that gives user easy access to software applications hosted on the cloud (Microsoft Office 360, Adobe Creative Cloud, Google G Suite).
Platform as a Service (PaaS) – development tools, business analytics, and hosting data sets (AWS, Microsoft Azure, OpenShift, Oracle Cloud).
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – simulates on-premise solutions for data storage, servers, and cloud networking (AWS’s Amazon EC2, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform).
The subcategories of the main three include different types of cloud computing like:
FaaS (functions as a service) – the ‘fourth main type’ of cloud computing, which insulates developers from anything apart from their code (no virtual servers, for instance) and only uses IaaS resources if a problem comes up. This saves money and simplifies the development process.
Storage as a service – hosting files on a shared space.
Database as a service – the database is placed on the cloud and reached through broad network access.
Information as a service – where companies sell relevant information (i.e. ZIP code validation services).
Business Process as a service – business process outsourcing (BPO) services are on the cloud and multiple companies can take advantage of them at the same time.
Application as a service – another term for SaaS (the software is licensed on a subscription basis and accessible through the cloud).
Integration as a service – using the cloud for data and software integration.
Security as a service – outsourcing security services through the cloud.
Management as a service – systems management through a common environment in the cloud.
Testing as a service – outsourcing testing to a service provider through the cloud.
Cloud deployments can be:
Public cloud – the application is fully deployed on the cloud (either built as a cloud-based solution or migrated from a non-cloud location).
Hybrid – connecting cloud-based solutions with existing infrastructure and applications that are not on the cloud.
Community cloud – accessed by organisations (or groups of organizations) with a shared goal.
Private cloud – uses on-premise infrastructure, but with virtualization and application management; essentially, it’s a cloud built just for the company (but the cloud strategies means you utilize resources more efficiently).
Now that we have this clear, let’s talk about qualifications and certification.
Cloud Computing: Do I Need a Degree?
Cloud careers come in different shapes and sizes.
If you are in sales, most times you don’t need a B.S, at least not in a tech field.
For cloud architect jobs, though, a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field is almost always required. The most popular degrees to pursue include information systems, computer engineering, and computer science.
Additional courses in databases, security, software development and testing, will benefit your future career and help you stand out during your job search.
You can also certify your skills through the AWS Associate, Microsoft Azure Solutions Architect, or Google’s Professional Cloud Architect. We will cover them in-depth further on in the article.
Cloud Architect Requirements
Short answer: you need a very strong core of technical skills, including cloud-specific skills (like security for cloud-based solutions).
Here are the basic skills you need to apply for jobs:
Solid administration and architecture knowledge of at least one OS (Linux is always a good choice).
Good understanding of networking concepts – the TCP/IP protocol, HTTPS, etc.
High-level understanding of cloud security (especially as security concerns are on the rise)
Software development for the cloud – programming skills (in at least one coding or scripting language) as well as the specifics of creating applications for the cloud.
Software development is not a requirement for entry-level cloud architect jobs but you still need to understand key concepts.
Don’t assume soft skills are unimportant here. Since cloud architect jobs require a lot of collaboration, companies often hire based on how well you will fit in the team. This makes skills like communication and business acumen (since you’ll be working with non-tech executives) indispensable for success.
Highlight them in your cloud architect resumé by mentioning extracurriculars, volunteer work, and slightly out-of-scope training (i.e. a public speaking workshop that you went to).
Cloud Architect Job Description
Disclaimer: This is a general job description for this position. Every employer will have different criteria for hiring.
Cloud architects initiate, implement, and oversee the deployment of cloud-based solutions.They provide both expertise and technical leadership to projects in the cloud. Here is what their responsibilities include:
Cloud architects don’t just design cloud environments. They also take ownership of the systems throughout their lifecycle.
A cloud architect’s daily activities will vary depending on the stage of the project. Holding such a position means they will be called to:
Define and document architecture.
Design technical solutions to proposals.
Deploy applications in the cloud.
Manage cloud resources to maximize them and stay within budget.
Ensure security in all deployments – before and after launch.
Provide technical support in a timely manner.
Key Areas of Expertise
The main cloud architect requirements are:
Enterprise computing – a deep technical understanding of how businesses use technology, including enterprise architecture frameworks like TOGAF.
Cloud environments – a strong core in cloud architecture design, deployments, and management cloud resources in different environments (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform).
Cloud security – creating and implementing security policies using best practices for the cloud.
Communication and leadership – cloud architects are the technical leaders of a cloud solution deployment.
Business acumen – a strong business sense is necessary for cloud architects to turn in practical solutions.
Cloud Engineer Jobs
What is the difference between cloud architects and cloud engineers?
Often, not even upper management can articulate the distinction.
Cloud architects design a cloud solution with a customer-facing approach. They meet up with the client, talk about their needs and goals, and architect the cloud infrastructure to achieve them. Cloud architects also work closely with developers, making sure that their needs are also met, while using cloud resources efficiently.
Cloud engineering is not a client-facing position. Engineers migrate infrastructure to the cloud, and integrate existing systems into cloud-based solutions. They join any project at a later stage, and their job involves less whiteboarding and more technical expertise.
How to become a cloud engineer?
You will need a strong software development core in addition to cloud-related expertise. Cloud engineering is not about architecture, as much as it is about tech details. The main requirements for the position include:
Basic understanding of the fundamentals of cloud architecture.
Programming in a variety of languages – Java, AngularJS, C++, Python, etc.
Using software development kits (SDKs) by leading cloud computing providers like AWS and Azure.
Application lifecycle management.
Database development on SQL, MySQL, and Hadoop.
Security best practices for developing cloud-native applications, as well as during the process of migrating data to the cloud.
Cloud engineers will also benefit from understanding DevOps and keeping up with emerging content management platforms like Kubernetes and Docker.
Cloud Architect Jobs: Salary Range
The average base salary for cloud architects is $122,908 per year or $73.18 per hour.
However, seniority, expertise, as well as the size of your company all influence how much you will get paid. We gathered a more granular breakdown of salaries in the industry.
These numbers come from PayScale and other sources might cite slightly higher or lower salaries.
The six figure range, though, is completely realistic and common for cloud architects.
Here is how your salary varies depending on your seniority:
Entry-level cloud architect jobs: $81,573 total salary
Junior positions: $95,135 total salary
Senior positions: $122,312 – $143,433 total salary
But some companies pay much more than that:
At Microsoft Corp the average salary is $148,000!
Some of the skills that get higher pay include DevOps, big data analytics, and Microsoft Azure.
The highest paid cloud architect jobs are in Washington DC (14.2% above the national average), New York (9.8%), and Atlanta (8%).
Finally (and importantly), if you are working with AWS, get certified. It can increase your salary by up to $12,000!
Cloud Computing: Freelance
Remote cloud architect jobs are increasing in number as the field grows. Still, cloud architecture is predominantly a full-time office job.
The perks of freelancing are clear:
Working from any place in the world
However, employers are still hesitant about going completely freelance. In cloud architecture, your role combines technical and business aspects. You will have to sit in meetings, give reports to management, as well as communicate directly with clients.
While you might get home office time (usually a few days per month), there are few fully remote jobs. At the time of writing this article, Upwork only had 7 postings!
Telework is more common in cloud engineering, which is a more tech-dense position.
Cloud Computing: Education & Certifications
First, the good news: you don’t necessarily need a degree.
Then, the bad news: no degree means you’ll have to work extra hard to gain experience.
If you are currently in college or considering going back, do:
If you’re having trouble deciding which tech degree to pursue, consider the skills you will need for your future job. While cloud architects need a basic understanding of development, they don’t necessarily need to code themselves.
Choose networking, administration, and cloud-related subjects instead. Learning how to deal with confidentiality and sensitive data on the cloud is also indispensable. Since cloud architecture is also about the management of computer system resources, enterprise computing courses and business-oriented classes will also come in handy.
Cloud Architect Certification
First things first, the AWS certs can boost your earnings by $12K so they are the best for AWS architect jobs.
Amazon offers both associate and professional-level certifications, as well as specializations (for instance, working with AI). They have a dedicated certification path for architects. The most sought-after cloud certification in the field is, in fact, their AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional.
Microsoft has their own certification – the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure. It requires at least one passed Microsoft exam in Windows Server 2016, Cloud Platform, Linux on Azure, or Windows Server 2012 as a prerequisite.
Cisco’s certification programs are reputable and highly sought-after in the industry. However, they are planning to retire all current certifications and begin offering new ones, staring February 2020. Keep an eye for new information on the Cisco website.
Finally, the VMware VCP7 – CMA certifies you can work with the VMware vRealize hybrid cloud management platform. It’s a complementary certificate that will look good on your cloud architect resume, but is rarely a requirement.
Cloud Computing: Technical Skills
Cloud architecture jobs come with a variety of IT requirements.
Understanding the Characteristics of Cloud Computing There are undeniable perks of using cloud-based services:
Rapid elasticity allows you to automatically request more space on the cloud as your needs grow.
High availability (that the cloud service providers take care of) through the broad network access.
Faster and better performance – resource pooling gives businesses access to better infrastructure for cheaper.
Increased security (again, overseen by the cloud computing providers).
As a cloud architect, you need to be aware of those advantages and know how to use them best to serve your client/company. If cloud implementation is still pending, your expertise is even more important.
If that’s the case, you won’t manage with just a solid understanding of cloud computing. You’ll also need communication skills so you can answer questions and present solutions to people with little to no tech background.
Business-oriented IT skills are key for success as a cloud architect. They include:
Operating system administration – Linux, Windows OS, or Mac.
Networking – TCP/IP protocol, HTTPS, etc.
Migration and integration of existing infrastructure (into the cloud).
Software development (basic understanding) and application lifecycle management.
Specifics of cloud-native development and data security.
Enterprise computing is an umbrella term for all the ways in which businesses use information technology. There are constantly new things coming up in the field, so you will need to continuously educate yourself on it.
This is within the scope of enterprise computing BUT it’s so important that we’re giving it a separate section.
The better acquainted you are with th principles, controls, and procedures for optimal security, the more valuable you become to your future employer.
Cloud Computing: Soft Skills
When people ask:
What skills are required for cloud computing?
… non-technical ones don’t really come to mind first.
But consider this:
Technical expertise is linked to your day-to-day work on the position. The top soft skills like creativity and communication will help you thrive in any field or company.
Or, if you prefer numbers and research:
When Google crunched the numbers, the seven top characteristics of success were all soft skills – communication, empathy, coaching, etc.
An MIT Sloan study found that soft skills training, even in factory settings, yields impressive ROI (250 percent!).
According to Deloitte, by 2020 two-thirds of Australian jobs will be soft-skills intensive positions.
With these facts in mind, it’s time to bone up on soft skills like:
Cloud-based solutions are still solutions to actual business problems. In fact, a lot of the decision-making around cloud technology adoption comes from non-IT people. CFOs and COOs finance cloud implementation but they are rarely tech-savvy.
Business skills will help you succeed in the field… Plus, they look great on your cloud architect resume because companies value real-world solutions, not just expertise in the technical side of cloud adoption.
Solid interpersonal skills are useful everywhere. In cloud solutions architecture, you need them to get your point across – even to people who know very little about the cloud. Since cloud architecture is such an interdisciplinary field (a little bit of business, a little bit of law and compliance, and a whole lot of tech), communication skills are indispensable.
When trouble strikes, creativity is more important than it seems.
Troubleshooting is one thing, but as a cloud architect, you’d be expected to provide more advanced support. This involves resolving complex and critical issues.
And you need to be fast, too – businesses depend on their internal operations!
The cool thing about cloud computing is that the ecosystem is always changing. AWS alone has come out with multiple new tools and solutions this year. There are new products, new practices, new regulations… You will never get bored, but a passion for learning is a must!
The cloud computing market is expected to reach $623.3 billion by 2023.
Considering the trends in cloud computing, jobs in cloud architecture will grow exponentially over the years to come. With high demand comes greater job stability, easier employment search, and (of course) higher pay.
There is no better time to learn your way around a cloud!
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the 3 basic components of cloud computing?
Cloud computing is the on-demand access to shared computer resources.
The basic components of a cloud architecture include the front and back end, as well as the network being used. However, ‘components of cloud computing’ often also refers to the models of a cloud service.
The three main models offered by cloud computing providers are:
Software as a Service (SaaS) – the software is hosted on the cloud and accessed on a subscription basis.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) – the platform for creating software is hosted on the cloud and shared by developers.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – the computing infrastructure is cloud-hosted and accessible via the internet.
Examples of these models include:
SaaS – software for the end-user like the G-Suite apps and Microsoft 365.
PaaS – platforms for software developers like AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Windows Azure, and Google App Engine.
IaaS – scalable and automated cloud infrastructure for system administrators; some of the IaaS cloud service providers are AWS, Windows Azure, and Digital Ocean.
What does a cloud architect do?
Cloud architects oversee cloud computing systems for different enterprises. They manage the cloud adoption process – from developing a strategy to monitoring cloud privacy.
Essentially, a cloud architect provides cloud computing architecture solutions to meet company needs.
What does it take to become a cloud architect?
Cloud architect requirements include:
Post-secondary degree in Computer Science or a related field.
Experience in cloud solution design, execution, and support.
Expert-level knowledge of cloud computing technology and cloud services.
Strong interpersonal skills and preparedness to collaborate with members of different teams.
Also, consider a cloud architect certification to prove your skills and stand out during the job search. The AWS Certified Solutions Architect is the cert of choice for most companies.
Are cloud architects in high demand?
With the boom of cloud technology, job openings are on the rise.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer network architect jobs will increase by 5% by 2028.
Cloud computing is one of the most in-demand tech skills of 2020, according to Linkedin. Cloud engineering is also one of the fastest-growing emerging jobs in this year’s World Economic Forum Jobs of Tomorrow report.
When you look at the rise of cloud technology, it’s easy to see why cloud architecture jobs will only grow in number and remuneration.
The cloud architect job outlook is great, too. Entry-level cloud architect jobs can open doors to more senior positions, both in the tech department and in management.
How much do cloud architects make?
Cloud architect jobs can easily come with six-figure paychecks. The average base pay, according to GlassDoor, is $107,309! Payscale places it even higher at $122,908.
And this is not even accounting for bonuses and other additional cash compensation. These can go up to $29,792 per year!
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