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What specific skills should a successful cloud architect have?

In this Ask the Expert, analysts Kyle Hilgendorf of Gartner and James Staten of Forrester Research discuss the skills a successful cloud architect should possess. Turns out, the best candidate is a jack of all trades.

In parts one and two of this ATE on the emerging role of cloud architect, Kyle Hilgendorf, research director at...

Gartner Inc., and James Staten, principal analyst at Forrester Research, defined the role and discussed why the function is becoming vital for companies. Here we ask these two cloud experts to expand on the skills a cloud architect should possess.

Kyle Hilgendorf: The skills that I've been tracking include all of the integration things that we talked about -- so, integration amounts to network, data, identity and services. That's the four-headed integration monster that we talk to lots of clients about, so you've got to have a good understanding of integration. [A cloud architect] has to have a good understanding of IT service management or IT operations management so, for example, things like ITIL-based processes and practices, change management, configuration management, incident [management], asset deployment, problem resolution.

Vendor management is very useful. This is something that I think a strong technical lead could pick up and doesn't have to be something that they maybe walk in with, but if you can find a technical architect [who] also has strong vendor management skills, that would be advantageous. Anybody with external IT hosting background would be really important, [because] this person has very likely been dealing with integration, procurement, vendor management and finance, and so forth.

The legal aspect of this is sometimes overlooked; cloud computing contracts can be somewhat difficult and hairy to negotiate. So, again, this person doesn't need to be a lawyer, but this person needs to be able to navigate the legal waters and work with general counsel and the legal department and procurement department to get things ironed out. ... I feel like I'm listing a little bit of everything in IT, but you're going to need to find somebody that's probably been within your organization for many years, understands the nuances and has had a variety of projects that touch a lot of different aspects, because if you bring someone in that doesn't know your company, or has been only focused in one sector of IT, they're probably not going to do as well as somebody who has a variety of different backgrounds.

James Staten: Enterprise architecture skills are usually the core skills that you need here, which means knowledge of application architectures, knowledge of integration architectures. But a lot of people who come into this role come from a pure developer role and [as well] from the operations side of the house.

People that are in some of the traditional roles [can] become the cloud architect -- whether that's a traditional enterprise architect or someone from operations. However, they may not see the cloud as an opportunity for career growth [but] as a threat to their job. And as a result they'll be resistant to it and come up with a million excuses about why the organization can't move to the cloud. But they need to shift that mentality, because one of the things we have found in organizations that move aggressively to the cloud is that people who get on board with the program end up with a job that's more relevant to the company, more relevant to the business and better for their career. The people that don't make this transition are the ones who dig their heels in, don't want to change their skill sets and don't want to embrace new things -- and that's always been a recipe for disaster in IT. … So, the IT leaders, CIOs, VPs -- anyone who manages people -- need to help their employees see their career path so that those people don't become resistors.

Go to part four of this ATE to read about whether most companies have a cloud architect already.

James Staten

About the authors:
James Staten is vice president and principal analyst serving infrastructure and operations professionals at Forrester Research. He advises IT leaders on public cloud platforms, CIO-level cloud investment strategies, cloud economics, hybrid cloud and cloud outsourcing, IT cloud readiness, and business and developer engagement on cloud.

Kyle Hilgendorf

Kyle Hilgendorf is a research director in the Gartner for Technology Professionals (GTP) program and is the agenda manager for the consultancy's cloud and virtualization strategies team. He covers public cloud and hybrid cloud, with a focus on cloud technology and providers.

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