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What is a cloud architect? A vital role for success in the cloud

What is a cloud architect? A vital role for success in the cloud

As cloud strategies become increasingly vital and complex, cloud architects can help organizations avoid risk and ensure a successful, cost-effective transition to the cloud.

What is a cloud architect?

Cloud architects are responsible for managing the cloud computing architecture in an organization, especially as cloud technologies grow increasingly complex. Cloud computing architecture encompasses everything involved with cloud computing, including the front-end platforms, servers, storage, delivery and networks required to manage cloud storage.

The cloud architect role

According to a 2018 report from RightScale, 81 percent of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy and 38 percent of enterprises view public cloud as their top priority in 2018 — up from 29 percent in 2017. The report also found that cloud architect jobs grew in the past year, with 61 percent identifying as a cloud architect in 2018 compared to 56 percent in 2017.

“The adoption of cloud computing is multidimensional and must be run like a multiyear program, not a fixed-duration project. As a result, the complexity of cloud adoption requires at least one accountable architectural leader to lead the organization through the transformation that cloud computing warrants. This is the task of a role that many IT organizations are now finding to be mandatory — the cloud architect,” according to Gartner analyst Kyle Hilgendorf’s 2016 report “Analyzing the Role and Skills of the Cloud Architect.”

To handle the complexities of cloud adoption, most organizations will want to hire a cloud architect — if they haven’t already. These IT pros can help navigate the entire organization’s cloud adoption, helping to avoid risk and ensure a smooth transition.

Cloud architect responsibilities

According to Gartner, the three main, high-level responsibilities of a cloud architect are:

  • Leading cultural change for cloud adoption
  • Developing and coordinating cloud architecture
  • Developing a cloud strategy and coordinating the adaptation process

While those are the high-level responsibilities, day-to-day responsibilities of a cloud architect, according to Gartner, include:

  • Finding talent with the necessary skills
  • Assessing applications, software and hardware
  • Creating a “cloud broker team”
  • Establish best practices for cloud across the company
  • Selecting cloud providers and vetting third-party services
  • Oversee governance and mitigate risk
  • Work closely with IT security to monitor privacy and develop incident-response procedures
  • Managing budgets and estimating cost
  • Operating at scale

Cloud architect salary

According to data from PayScale, the average salary for a cloud architect is $124,923 per year, with a reported salary range between $82,309 to $185,208 per year depending on experience, location and skills.

Cloud architect skills

Cloud architects are responsible for communicating with vendors to negotiate third-party contracts for hardware, software and other cloud technologies. It’s a constantly evolving field, and the job requires someone who can stay on top of the latest trends and technologies.

Related video: 6 trends shaping IT cloud strategies today 

“The cloud architect should have a variety of technical and nontechnical skills, but above all, the cloud architect must be a great collaborator in order to empower and connect with a variety of other architecture roles in your organization,” says Gartner analyst Kyle Hilgendorf.

While strong communication skills and an ability to remain agile are crucial for a cloud architect, there are plenty of other technical and soft skills required for the job. According to Gartner, these include:

  • Application architecture
  • Automation and orchestration
  • Governance
  • I&O (input and output)
  • Integration architecture
  • Outsourcing and external hosting
  • Security
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Company and vertical experience
  • Delegation
  • Finance and legal experience
  • Procurement and vendor management
  • Program leadership
  • Thought leadership and change agency

Becoming a cloud architect

There are plenty of paths to becoming a cloud architect — if you’re still early in your career, you might want to consider a formal degree program. But for those with experience in IT, Gartner suggests IT pros with the following skills and experience will find the transition easiest:

  • Enterprise architects: Hilgendorf notes that the role of a cloud architect is “a new form of an enterprise architect,” and that it’s an easy transition from enterprise to cloud architect. However, the report cautions it’s best suited to those with “real hands-on program leadership.”
  • I&O (virtualization): Those with virtualization or infrastructure architecture experience are often a good fit for the cloud architect role, since “many cloud programs begin with simple IaaS projects, and virtualization architects are best-positioned to understand the technical nuances of a ‘virtualizationlike’ environment,” says Hilgendorf.
  • Integration architecture (network, identity, services and data): Some of the biggest issues with cloud adoption arise with integration across the company. Integration architects are adept at working with complex systems, and they’re typically skilled at working across departments.
  • Business liaisons: Employees who are known for rocking the boat or pushing the envelope with technology can serve as valuable liaisons to encourage company buy-in to new cloud technologies.

You might even find there’s an “extremely technically savvy individual in a business unit,” who has the right skills and background to bring value to enterprise cloud adoption, says Hilgendorf. If your organization finds it difficult to land the right skills outside your company, there might be someone well suited to the role in another business unit who can transition to cloud architect with a small investment in training and education.

Cloud architect education and training

If you’re just starting out in your career and you have your sights set on becoming a cloud architect, you can attend a master’s program specializing in the field. There are also a variety of certification and professional development programs you can choose from. If you already have an IT background or the right skillset for a cloud architect, you can look into one of these professional certifications to boost your resume:

  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect: Amazon Web Services (AWS) is one of the most-used cloud services in the industry. This certification establishes your skills when it comes to managing AWS applications and infrastructure.
  • Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect: Google’s cloud architect certification asses your ability to design, plan, manage and provision cloud solution architecture and infrastructure. It also covers security and compliance, analysis and optimization of cloud architecture.
  • IBM Cloud Computing Solution Architect: This certification demonstrates your ability to “design, plan, architecture and management principles of an IBM cloud computing infrastructure.”

For additional cloud-related certifications, see “The most valuable cloud certifications today.”

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