The cloud skills gap is getting wider, argues Interoute exec

“Anyone starting a company right now would have to be completely bonkers to build their own infrastructure,” roars Interoute chief technical officer Matthew Finnie.

Finnie is a man never short of an opinion or two, and with the number of born in the cloud companies increasing, this seems like a pretty safe bet. But here’s another view: the skills gap in the industry continues to get bigger.

“You’ve almost got two- or three-speed adoption to the cloud,” he tells CloudTech. “You’ve got a bunch of early adopters, guys at Dropbox, Netflix who’ve embraced it and done very well on the back of it. You’ve then got a middle tier, and then you’ve got a group of, more generally speaking, enterprise guys, who are circumspect about the cloud.

“And I think to some extent, what you’re looking at is some of the cynicism, or concern, is really masking a skills deficit in certain areas.”

It’s a message which has been spread on more than one occasion in recent months. The dreaded skills gap is said to be hindering government cloud adoption, according to a recent Eduserv paper, whilst IDC prognosticated last year that cloud-specific job skills would grow at six times the rate of overall IT.

Indeed, recruitment bods Robert Half Technology wrote back in October that cloud computing was the most valuable IT job skill to have. Everyone’s singing off the same hymn sheet – so why haven’t things changed?

“The speed in which you can engage with this stuff is so much quicker than in a lot of previous technologies, because most technologies, you had to load them up, buy them, stand them up, plug them in or whatever. People over a weekend decide [they’re] going to give this stuff a bit of a kicking. By Monday, they kind of like this.”

You are going to see the complete digitisation of the supply chain, and it ain't gonna stop

Regarding the more traditional enterprise customers, he adds: “Pretty much all the models of the cloud are far more direct than they’re used to. You can do stuff instantly, you can create servers – and for a lot of them, the model they’ve been used to for the last 10 years has been ‘talk to a guy in a suit about what you want and they’ll go off and do it for you.’”

The natural question after that: where does cloud computing currently stand? Finnie wouldn’t argue that it’s not in the trough of disillusionment for now, but that it’s not unlike video conferencing, which spent “an eternity” there.

By happy coincidence, Interoute launched its own enterprise-class video conferencing biz last week, called One Bridge. For cloud, however, Finnie’s position is clear.

“I would like to think there are the doomsayers, the naysayers, saying this stuff is hard – there is starting to become overwhelming evidence that that’s just not the case,” he says. “You are going to see a complete digitisation of the supply chain, and it ain’t gonna stop. I think it’s important for people to engage with it quickly rather than wait for it to mature.”

Plenty of cloud businesses certainly aren’t dragging their heels if Box’s IPO – since been delayed – is anything to go by.

“Not so much in Europe, but definitely in the US, there’s a fair amount of excitement – as opposed to rational thinking, about the valuations of some of these organisations,” he notes. “If you look at Box, how does it deal with the fact that Microsoft now [with OneDrive] is increasingly integrating it – that whole corporate diaspora, it’s very frictionless for them.

“There doesn’t necessarily seem to be a lot of rhyme or reason behind these valuations,” he adds, especially interesting given Egnyte CEO Vineet Jain called for “basic financial sense” to come back into the market.

Yet Finnie adds the fickle nature of the current market is an indicator of things hotting up.

“Look at SDN,” he says. “One minute you were selling SDN companies with no real revenues for a billion or so, the next minute VCs are saying ‘well we’re not doing that anymore’.”

Either way, there’s plenty of evidence the market is changing – and being a have, rather than a have-not, is more important than ever.

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