First Things First: Background Knowledge and Skills
Cloud computing has come to dominate the enterprise space because it abstracts away much of the messy business of installing, preparing, managing, and maintaining hardware.
Until recently, enterprises maintained private data centers, which were serviced by dedicated teams of operators.
Now, an increasing number of enterprises are migrating their apps to the public cloud. However, the infrastructure housing their apps didn’t just disappear; it moved to someone else’s data centers.
Cloud service providers (CSPs) have data centers spread across the globe in different regions. It is those data centers that provide the computing power and storage as a service offered by the CSPs.
This shift has reshuffled who works where and has opened new opportunities for developers and engineers. One of the fastest-growing and most exciting areas for developers to expand their skills is cloud engineering.
While this has significantly reduced the need for skilled hardware techs at the enterprise level, anyone serious about cloud engineering should still have a reasonable understanding of hardware and—more importantly—of networking to be proficient in this specialized area.
Let’s look at your options from a training and education standpoint if you want to expand your skill set into this rapidly growing area of enterprise computing.
Networking is Key
While cloud computing has removed the headache of managing the hardware, even if you’re just getting started with cloud service providers, you still need to give a thought to networking.
Remember, everything runs over the network. It’s like plumbing in construction: If you’re building a house, you need to have a working knowledge of plumbing. It’s a foundational layer.
If you’re preparing yourself to be a cloud engineer, start with a strong working knowledge of network design and data transport.
This recommendation is especially crucial if you’re mid-career, and looking to move your organization into a multi-cloud or hybrid-cloud environment. If you don’t have a strong understanding of the network stack, you’re doing a disservice to your organization.
For multi-cloud DevOps, you need an even deeper understanding of networking. You have to know how a VNet (Virtual Network) and VPC (Virtual Private Cloud) work together. Maybe you were already comfortable with a Platform as a Service (PaaS), but now you must also be familiar with the underlying constructs.
Go Deep or Go Broad?
Each major cloud service provider (CSP) has its own protocols for network management, and offers its own specific training and certification for engineers.
Many people feel it’s advantageous to be very knowledgeable about a single cloud platform, whether Azure, Google, Oracle, AWS, or Alibaba Cloud. And if your company is operating with a single CSP, then focusing on developing skills within that one environment may make sense.
Just keep in mind the general trend is toward multi-cloud. Enterprises choose CSPs as a business decision, based on which cloud’s services best fit their needs. As those needs evolve, they will go from single- to multi-cloud. Other factors contributing to the multi-cloud migration trend include mergers and acquisitions, geographic needs, best-of-breed services, etc.
By establishing a good working knowledge of each major CSP’s platform, you can better prepare yourself for the future needs of your current employer—or future prospective employers.
Learn the fundamentals of how each one works, and what each platform’s strongest use case might be. For example, a company might need Oracle’s powerful database capabilities, Azure’s strength with Microsoft 365, or Google’s AI/ML capabilities. If you are familiar with each of these, you’ll be more valuable to a company with complex needs.
Strong general skills will also position you for more senior positions in an organization, since you’ll have a broader perspective and a more global understanding of how these platforms work, how to make them work together, and how to deploy company resources across a suite of cloud providers.
So, even though each major CSP offers deep certifications for their individual technologies, you may find that having “associate-level” skills across all the clouds provides more career opportunities than having a “full-stack” certification with one major cloud.
But let’s say you’re working at a company that only uses AWS and GCP. You might not see the value of having an Azure Fundamentals certification, but I encourage you to pursue one anyway. You might also want to get a HashiCorp Terraform Associate certification. These are easy to complete and having it will give you more breadth of knowledge.
Ultimately, as you complete more of these certifications, you’ll understand what they have in common, making you a more versatile member of any team.
So you want to be a cloud engineer? Here is my advice:
- Start by learning the fundamentals of networking and, specifically, network design and data transport.
- Go deep or go broad: If your company is in a single cloud, by all means pursue deep certification with that specific CSP. If, however, you want to maximize your positioning according to industry trends, go broad with associate-level certifications across multiple clouds.
- Continue to pursue generally-applicable skills through training like HashiCorp’s Terraform Associate certification.
As I mentioned previously, the industry is shifting steadily toward multi-cloud. So wouldn’t it be great if someone offered multi-cloud certification?
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that Aviatrix does offer multi-cloud certification tracks. The Aviatrix Certified Engineer (ACE) program is the only multi-cloud networking and security training and security program in the industry and offers multiple tracks. Over 17,000 Aviatrix Certified Engineers have earned certifications since the program launched two years ago.
And for more insights on making your next career move, join Aviatrix and special guest Krishna Chaitanya Gadhiraju (GK) for the March 30th webinar, “Getting Ahead in the Cloud: Use the Skills Gap to Your Advantage.”