One of my students recently asked if I can help him improve his skills for cloud, or as we jokingly put it, "cloudify his skills". My short answer to him was to follow the five steps
1. Know what is cloud, understand the key concepts of cloud and the difference between cloud and traditional IT methodologies
2. Learn Linux
3. Learn at the minimum one cloud platform technology - Cloudstack, OpenStack, Azure, AWS, Google Cloud or Oracle Cloud
4. Learn about tools for cloud - such as Puppet, Chef, Docker etc.
5. And, most importantly, keep on top of the new/emerging technologies that are evolving at the speed of light
In general, follow the five steps outlined below to "cloudify your skills"
Step 1 - "What is cloud and how is it different from current traditional IT". Although it sounds very obvious, this step is the most important part of transitioning your skills to cloud. If you skip this step and move on to learning cloud technologies, you may consider yourself to be a cloud engineer, but it will be harder for you to answer simple questions such as Why Cloud? or What is Cloud? So do yourself a favor and learn definitions of cloud computing (NIST, Wikipedia) and how it differs from what you manage today- this will help you develop solutions for cloud from the get go. Understanding the difference in architecture, cost models, methodologies, and how a solution differs from traditional based to cloud implementation are very important steps to becoming a cloud architect.
Step 2 - Learn Linux. Most of my students achieved MCSE/VCP type certifications. Although these are great skill sets to have, it will not help you transition to cloud. So learn Linux; most cloud implementations today are based on Linux or connect to Linux based cloud environments making it a key skill to have. There are several flavors of Linux but the most commonly used in cloud technologies are Citrix Xenserver (commonly used for Cloudstack) or Redhat. I started with learning Centos as I found it to be easiest to learn and use, besides it being free. For production implementations though , I would recommend Xenserver or RedHat Enterprise.
Step 3 - Choose a cloud platform (Cloudstack, Openstack, Azure, VMware) and learn how to install, configure and manage each component of cloud service offerings - such as network, compute, storage, databases, applications, middle-wares, desktops etc. If you are in the open systems area, implementing Linux based solutions, I would recommend going with either Cloudstack or Openstack. Personally, I found Cloudstack easier to learn, implement and support. See my blog "Cloudstack who?" to learn about Apache Cloudstack.
Step 5 - Keep up with new and emerging cloud technologies. Cloud technologies are continuously changing and improving as new cloud providers emerge and new standards are built. Pick your favorite IT magazine and scan through their cloud computing sections (every magazine has that today). Here are a few sites I visit periodically to learn about emerging cloud technologies:
In addition to the above, if you plan to reach the cloud solutions architect level, then you must develop skills and understand the full spectrum of IT, from the high level requirements gathering, to building strategies and blue prints, to implementation and support. Its not important for a solutions architect to be able to perform detailed implementations (although a thorough understanding is needed). It is a must to be able to understand your clients requirements i.e. perform business requirement analysis and map it to the right solution. This means you need to continuously work outside your comfort zone and have generic knowledge of a broad spectrum of technologies and how to apply them to a business i.e. analyze current traditional IT delivery models and converting them to private, public or hybrid cloud models that provide the right value to the client.
Like I told my student, "cloudifying your skills" will require a change in your thought process. This means it will take time, and will require continuous effort in learning the technologies and how cloud computing is changing businesses.