The top five in-demand cloud skills for 2017

Financial results for the fourth quarter of 2016 reveals massive growth for the top cloud providers. With 47% and 93% revenue growth for Amazon AWS and Microsoft respectively, one thing is clear – cloud is growing at a breakneck pace.

Enterprises and small businesses will continue to adopt and invest in cloud technology. Cisco’s Global Cloud Index whitepaper shows global cloud IP traffic will almost quadruple over the next five years.

But the rapid expansion of cloud has created a skills gap; there’s a lack of qualified cloud professionals. To support this growing demand, businesses require skilled cloud professionals.

Take advantage of this opportunity and expand your cloud skill set; how many of these in-demand skills do you possess?

Database and big data

It’s estimated that 80% of the world’s data is ‘dark’ – collected and stored by computers, but invisible and unusable to organisations.

Big data systems - delivered through the cloud - are starting to tap into this potential resource and the sector is predicted to grow at a rate of 60% annually, report IDC.

Experts argue that cloud will be the place where enterprise databases live – “The cloud is going to be the destination for a lot of this big data moving forward” says Jeff Kelly, big data expert at Wikibon.

Businesses need somewhere to store and access their data, which is now increasingly hosted in the public cloud. There are an abundance of cloud database services, provided by large cloud providers like Microsoft, Amazon AWS, and recently, Google. As organisations continue to migrate databases to the cloud, professionals should familiarise themselves with how these platforms work.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) provide Amazon Relational Database (RDS) which runs either MySQL, Oracle or SQL server instances. Alternatively, professionals can get to grips with the schema-less Amazon SimpleDB for smaller workloads.

Microsoft Azure uses SQL Database to provide access to a SQL database on the Azure platform, or a hosted SQL server instance on virtual machines.

Professionals can also opt for open source database platforms, like MongoDB. Learn how to code in Hadoop -- a massively popular language used to process masses of data -- and you’ll be well placed to take advantage of cloud’s big data revolution.

Luckily for professionals, database skills are well-supported by vendors. There are a number of database-focused Microsoft Azure certifications as well as the Big Data on AWS certification to support your learning.

There are also a huge breadth of big data and Hadoop MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) and certifications available from Cloudera.

Application security

As cyber threats become more complex and the number of businesses using the cloud attracts larger numbers of cyber criminals, cloud professionals must be increasingly vigilant when developing applications for the cloud.

The lack of thought given to security built into publicly used applications is a huge weakness, one that can be exploited by cyber criminals.

“On average there are now 777 cloud apps in use in European organisations, but 94.4% of these apps are not enterprise-ready from a security standpoint” states Eduard Meelhuysen, VP at cloud security firm Netskope.

Software developers must understand the security threats to software developed for cloud. It is ultimately the developer’s responsibility to ensure the security and compliance of their Azure applications.

Plus, when EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is introduced in 2018, Azure application security must improve or businesses will risk up to £17 million in fines.

However, with only 2% of cloud applications ready for GDPR, there’s a massive amount of work ahead for cloud professionals.

If you need to develop your security skills - or prove them to potential employers - consider attaining (ISC)2’s Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP) certification. This high-level certification is co-developed by the Cloud Security Alliance and provides an in-depth look at cloud application security.

Enterprise cloud migration

It’s not just small businesses that are migrating to the cloud, commercial enterprises are doing it too, and at an increasingly rapid rate.

Nearly 77% companies relied on traditional IT infrastructure in 2015. As large businesses migrate to cloud-based infrastructure, this number is likely to drop down to 43% in 2018, according to a report from MicKinsey’s Silicon Valley group.

But enterprises migrating their applications and services to the cloud continue to face roadblocks. Cloud migration challenges are among the top constraints for IT, according to a survey from Frost & Sullivan.

The cloud may offer some automated features, but migration is not one of them. This means that enterprises typically rely on customised, professional services from partners or providers.

Businesses require cloud professionals with the knowledge to oversee migration projects in an organised and secure way.

These professionals will also need in-depth knowledge of their chosen cloud platform. For Azure, professionals should consider attaining the Specialist: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions certification through the recommend Azure course.

Alternatively, AWS professionals should consider attaining the Certified Solutions Architect – Associate, which covers the process of shifting an existing on premise application to AWS.


The cloud computing industry has witnessed a surge in the use of containers, a more agile and secure alternative to VMs, designed to virtualise a single application. Containers are an ingenious way to develop and deploy micro-services, especially for cloud-based apps.

Whilst arguably not a career-defining skill for most, knowledge of containers is becoming increasingly important for cloud professionals. 81% of businesses suggested that they will increase use of containers in the future, according to a survey from Robin Systems.

Interestingly, 40% of respondents also said they had already deployed big data applications tools, like Spark and Hadoop in their containers.

Containers promise to make operations more portable and efficient. Impressively, the application container market will grow from £610 million in 2016 to £2.17 billion by 2020.

‘Containers will be used for deploying solutions to solve real-world business problems. Companies will use them to provide new services that are secure, efficient, elastic, and scalable,’ says Anand Krishnan, EVP and GM of cloud at Canonical

Amazon AWS and Microsoft provide container services and associated tutorials. Take a look at the Microsoft Virtual Academy for a detailed tutorial on Azure Container Service or the Amazon EC2 Container Service walkthrough.

Cloud enterprise application development

As more businesses launch public and private cloud initiatives, the importance of application development and testing in the cloud is increasing.

If applied properly, the cloud provides faster application development and can facilitate DevOps style collaboration. Other benefits include: using cloud features with minimal coding, reducing development time, and creating realistic distributed testing for application lifecycle management.

Amazon AWS supports development with the AWS SDK, enabling developers to code with Java, C#/.Net, Python and JavaScript. There’s also a AWS track for development and free training through a number of online self-paced labs.

Luckily, developers already familiar with Microsoft technologies, like the .NET framework and Visual Studio IDE, should find developing for Azure an easy transition. With solid infrastructure and service delivery guidelines behind Azure, most developers won’t need much more than their existing skills to get started building apps for Azure.

Editor's note: Take a look at the 2016 must-have cloud skills list here. What do you make of both and how do they compare? Let us know in the comments.

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7 Mar 2017, 5:05 p.m.

The RDS description is uncomplete. Aurora, PostgreSQL and MariaDB are also available.