Cloud 101: Cloud Roles

By Colby Dyess | April 24, 2014

In part 1 and part 2 of the Cloud 101 series, we looked at the technologies that underpin cloud computing - from on-demand resources to infrastructure elasticity - as well as the different modes in which cloud architectures can be deployed and the operational benefits that they confer. This time, we'll turn our attention to the people who actually make the cloud work.

Some classic IT roles have carried over to the cloud computing paradigm, while others have changed and/or have been replaced by new responsibilities. Getting a sense of the new personnel landscape requires looking at both cloud-specific and traditional roles. Let's separate them out and look at what each one does.

Cloud Roles

Cloud computing has created new requirements for how applications are built, managed and supported by cloud infrastructure. Additionally, teams now have to take responsibility for ensuring proper billing and maintenance.

Cloud Administrator (and Cloud Operator)

This is a top-level role, with responsibility for overseeing the organization's overall cloud implementation. A cloud administrator is typically tasked with setting up, monitoring and maintaining the cloud architecture, and along the way is bound to interact often with system, cloud storage and network administrators. The cloud operator is essentially a junior cloud administrator who oversees to day-to-day operations.

Cloud Application Architect

Cloud application architects shape software for deployment on specific clouds. They typically adapt or port applications for compatibility. Moreover, this role bridges the gap between end users and back-end systems. Architects need both the system administrator experience to tune operating systems and the rapport with end users to make sure that applications exhibit consistently high performance and usability throughout their life cycles.

Cloud Architect

Title notwithstanding, the cloud architect does a very different job from the cloud application architect. Essentially, cloud architects determine whether private clouds align with the goals of their respective organizations. To this end, these architects design the platform and evaluate technologies and vendors to find the right fit.

Cloud Data Architect

Another architect role, this one primarily deals with the management of cloud-stored data. Cloud data architects deal with the wide variety of storage types and associated service-level agreements, ensuring that storage is used appropriately and optimally.

Cloud Service Manager

Similar to cloud data architects, cloud service managers work with SLAs. They may design rules, policies and SLA pricing models, while also keeping SLAs current so that they align with organizational priorities.

Cloud Storage Administrator

Cloud storage administrators create SLAs for different users and map bandwidth, capacity and reliability of storage services to user groups. They monitor the integrity of SLAs and may work with other administrators in the organization.

Cloud Developer

Cloud developers create software for infrastructure, on clients such as the euca2ools suite or system components like Eucalyptus Cloud Controller. They may work with the cloud administrator during debugging.

Cloud User

Not a technical role per se, but a term denoting anyone who has accessed to compute resources such images and instances within a cloud environment. Cloud users may be granted system administrator privileges for the instances that they initiate.

Traditional IT Roles and the Organization At-Large

We won't dig into as much detail about these standard IT roles, but it's important to note that many of them are still relevant within today's cloud environments.

Network, database and system administrators frequently interact with cloud-oriented counterparts. Additionally, IT end users may become cloud users at time and run applications built on instances provisioned by cloud application architects.

Traditional roles such as system administrator have clearly influenced the responsibilities of cloud administrators, and sometimes there may be overlap in who is most suited to perform a task. As the wide range of cloud and IT roles demonstrates, effectively managing a cloud environment requires coordination and team effort.

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