The cloud is driving a digital transformation revolution throughout the world, as traditional “brick and mortar” companies morph into software companies. This is easy to see with retailers and publishers, but it’s also happening at companies such as ZipCar, Boeing and Liberty Mutual (more about them later). This transformation, while driving radical performance and cost improvements, has caused the skills gap to widen substantially as businesses struggle to find top developer talent—competing with the likes of traditional software companies such as Google and Microsoft. I attend the Cloud Foundry Summit in Boston to verify my assumptions.
The diversity of offerings of cloud products has opened up a variety of possibilities, and one specific usage is on the rise: the multi-cloud strategy. This means that a company is using multiple cloud providers to host its services. There are numbers of reasons to do this: to take advantage of price differences, distribute the traffic to serve different geographical regions or as part of a disaster recovery plan, to name a few.
Having a multi-cloud infrastructure brings a lot of complexity and challenges. Fortunately, solutions such as Cloud Foundry are designed to help companies embrace what the cloud industry has to offer, including the multi-cloud aspect. Cloud Foundry has actually seen a 12 percent increase in adoption from 2017 to 2018, and 42 percent of its users consider themselves developers or DevOps engineers.
The 2018 GitHub developer survey confirms the trend: “DevOps and machine learning are important trends in the software industry today. Languages and frameworks associated with these kinds of works are on the rise, and developers working in these areas command the highest salaries.” DevOps engineers are not only the second most well-paid developers, but they are also among the ones with the most experience.
DevOps engineers or site reliability engineers (SREs) are a rare type of talent, because these professionals need a wide range of knowledge within the software scope—more specifically, development skills and infrastructure/system administration skills. The fact that DevOps engineers are generally more experienced is because most people start as developers and then end up learning about infrastructure on the job, and this takes time. And our education system is to blame.
Most computer science degree programs do not focus on practical computer science and software development. System administration skills are often not covered at all, so there are hardly any graduates taking on this type of position. As a result, many engineers learn on the job rather than during their degree programs.
I heard time and again from attendees at Cloud Foundry Summit how difficult it is to find talent. When I asked about students graduating from colleges (even top colleges), they universally responded that new graduates were far “too green,” required months of training and were not familiar with or attracted to the DevOps/SRE career path.
Taos, a prominent Silicon Valley IT consulting and services provider, is among some that are getting creative when it comes to attracting and developing quality DevOps talent. “Our customers are increasingly investing in projects that require engineers trained in cloud technologies and DevOps,” said Trish Palumbo, vice president of Talent at Taos. “To meet the demand, we look for knowledge-seekers with a baseline of CS fundamentals to join the Taos DevOps Bootcamp.” The training is free and students get paid to attend.
As more businesses digitally transform, more developer talent will be needed. The Cloud Foundry Foundation has been aware of this skills gap for some time, having published a full report on the topic in 2016. The foundation continues to work hard to close this gap by hosting summits where developers can take training sessions, participate in a hack-athon and learn about a career in DevOps, while networking with experienced developers and organizations seeking talent. Cloud Foundry Summit is a crucial event for organizations in need of digital transformation, as this is one of the best industry conferences to meet top-tier talent.