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New study sees cloud service providers as jobs generators

As studies are designed to do, this one caught my attention with its exciting-sounding prognostication: Jobs! Plenty of them! All thanks to the cloud! Hurray! 

Actually, the title that SAP America Inc. (which commissioned the study) went with was a bit drier: Job Growth in the Forecast: How Cloud Computing is Generating New Business Opportunities and Fueling Job Growth in the United States. Still, the bullet points were pretty juicy (italics are mine):

  • Eleven cloud computing companies added 80,000 jobs in the U.S. in 2010, and the employment growth rate at these organizations was almost five times that of the high-tech sector overall.
  • Companies selling cloud services are projected to increase revenue by an average of $20 billion per year in the next five years. That has the potential to generate as many as 472,000 jobs in the U.S. and abroad at the same time.
  • Venture capital investments in cloud opportunities are projected to be $30 billion in the next five years. That could add another 213,000 new jobs in the U.S.
  • The economic impact for companies buying cloud services might be even more significant. Cloud computing could save U.S. businesses as much as $625 billion over five years, much of which could be reinvested to create new business opportunities and additional jobs.

Study authors that maintain cloud computing has greater potential for employment growth than the Internet in its early years. Another exclamation-point-worthy prediction!

Indeed, it was all so hopeful until a comment on the study in my Twitter feed gave me pause: “Is this just swapsies?”

An interesting question, adorably phrased. In other words, are these new jobs really new jobs for new employees? Or will they mostly be filled by people put out of work because of outsourcing to the cloud? You could be laid off, then get a job with a cloud service provider and technically end up working for the same people who dumped you in the first place. I’m not knocking the idea of “swapsies” — anything that gets people re-employed is a good thing. But it’s not the same thing as growth. Some cloud jobs could require unique new skills the laid-off workers might not have — but how many “new” jobs would that account for? 

Other data that gave me pause were those 472,000 jobs in the U.S. and abroad. How exactly does that big number break down stateside? And by abroad, does the SAP study mean low-paying offshore locations? Also, the technology savings generated by cloud could lead companies to create new businesses and add more jobs — or it could just result in companies spending less on technology.

What’s your gut on the job-adding potential of cloud? Is this a solid proposition, or do they have their heads in the — well, you know. Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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