5 Skills All Cloud Architects Require

What does it take to be a modern cloud architect? A modern cloud architect requires knowledge and expertise over and above what is required to be a traditional software architect. Building and operating applications in the cloud differ significantly from applications in a traditional data center.

Cloud architects must not only understand these differences, but they must also know how to leverage them to benefit the business.

What are these additional skills that are required? Here are five skills that are required of all cloud architects.

1. Operations Expertise

Modern cloud applications are overwhelmingly managed using DevOps principles. This means the cloud architect must understand not only how the application is architected but how the infrastructure on which the application runs is architected. The infrastructure becomes an integral part of the application. As such, the cloud architect needs operational knowledge and experience in addition to development expertise.

2. Automation

At the highest level, the biggest advantage of the cloud is its ability to dynamically create, update and resize infrastructures and other resources. Fleets of server instances are dynamically scaled up and down to satisfy the changing needs of an application. Databases and data stores handle a large amount of data using a large number of transactions. Instances of applications and services dynamically start and stop to meet changing demands. Application software changes rapidly to keep the business innovative.

Creating and managing automation is therefore central to the cloud architect’s responsibilities. Cloud architects need to understand how to take a known task and automate it so it becomes a repeatable, sustainable process. This task might be provisioning an application on a server or provisioning a network subnet to be securely isolated from the internet at large. Whatever the task, in a modern, cloud-based application architecture, most of the tasks that historically were manual are now automated and this automation must be designed and managed.

3. Microservices, Containers, Kubernetes

Modern applications are built using service and microservices architectures to allow for easy dynamic resizing and scaling. They are deployed in containers and managed using a container orchestration system such as Kubernetes. Given the tight connection between the code making up the application and the infrastructure that runs it, this means that cloud architects must have expertise in creating containers, container management and managing tools such as Kubernetes. Further, they need to be able to architect and build applications using microservices architectures.

So common are these principles for cloud-based applications that there is now a standard term to describe them: Cloud-native. A cloud-native application represents a very specific class of applications that inherently takes advantage of cloud technologies in an optimal way. Typically, a cloud-native application is a microservices-based application built using containers and Kubernetes and that leverages cloud vendor services such as S3 and DynamoDB.

4. Security and Security Automation

When cloud computing first started to grow in popularity, large enterprises stayed away due primarily to concerns around security. How can you secure private data in a public cloud? The cloud vendors listened and created cloud offerings to create safe and secure applications. Now, arguably, you can build safer applications in the cloud than you can in a typical on-premises environment.

This means, however, that cloud architects also need to be security architects. They need to understand how to use these security tools made available to them by the cloud vendors, and they need to understand what it takes to keep an application secure in a public cloud setting.

5. Cloud Certifications

Because there’s so much developers must know to be proficient in building and architecting cloud-hosted and especially cloud-native applications, the major cloud vendors have created certification programs. These programs allow cloud architects to demonstrate proficiency in the skills necessary to design and architect cloud applications hosted by the vendor.

These certifications, which started out as a training program for cloud architects, now are a rite of passage that all true cloud architects must complete. They allow cloud architects to demonstrate understanding and expertise, which is valuable for clients and employers.

Modern Architects for Modern Applications

The cloud blurs the differences between development and operational responsibilities, and the cloud architect is in the middle of this obfuscation. The modern public cloud is a required component for modern application development, and the cloud architect is the person responsible for leveraging those capabilities.

Building modern applications at scale, highly available and highly secure. That is the focus of the cloud architect.

Lee Atchison

Lee Atchison is an author and recognized thought leader in cloud computing and application modernization with more than three decades of experience, working at modern application organizations such as Amazon, AWS, and New Relic. Lee is widely quoted in many publications and has been a featured speaker across the globe. Lee’s most recent book is Architecting for Scale (O’Reilly Media). https://leeatchison.com

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