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What Exactly is a Cloud Architect and How do You Become One?

Note from Editor: Readers can explore the latest trends in technical skills in demand for Cloud Architects using Cloud Roster™, the data-driven job role matrix updated weekly.

One of the buzzwords surrounding the cloud that I am sure everyone reading this post has heard of is “Cloud Architect.” In this post, I will outline my understanding of what a cloud architect does and I’ll analyze the skills and certifications necessary to become one. I will also list some of the types of jobs that are available if you decide to head down this career path.

What is a Cloud Architect?

Cloud computing architecture refers to the components and subcomponents required for cloud computing. These components typically consist of a front end platform, back end platforms, a cloud-based delivery, and a network. Combined, these components make up cloud computing architecture. Cloud solutions design is based on architectural procedures and methods that have been developed over the last 20 or so years. Therefore, this is the simplest definition that I can come up with to describe this role:

A Cloud Architect is an IT specialist who is responsible for deploying overseeing a company’s cloud computing strategy. This includes cloud adoption plans, cloud application design, and cloud management and monitoring. Cloud architects oversee application architecture and deployment in cloud environments.

What initial skills are needed?

If you are thinking of becoming a Cloud Architect you will ideally already have a strong background in a similar technical area. If you feel comfortable with most of the following concepts or at least some of them, then you are probably on the right track. Otherwise, I would recommend some initial study or work in these areas before you tackle the Cloud Architect role.

  • Good knowledge of at least one operating system: Linux, Unix, Solaris, Ubuntu, Windows. My preference is any LINUX flavored operating system (eg: Ubuntu or Red Hat) but prior experience as an administrator or architect in any of the well known operating systems is also helpful. As a Cloud Architect, you will be making decisions on whether you should be launching a 64-bit Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, a 32-Bit Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.1, or a Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 Base Machine Image. Therefore, you need to be familiar with these concepts and the pros and cons of using different operating systems.
  • Good understanding of networking: TCP/IP, IP addresses, HTTP, DNS. Is all this everyday lingo for you? Again, I suggest that you have some familiarity with these concepts before pursuing a role as a cloud architect.
  • Computer Programming Languages: You will need at least a minimal understanding of a programming or scripting language. This is probably not a must, but it will definitely help.
  • Security: Security in the cloud is important, and consequently, a high-level understanding of key security concepts is a must for a Cloud Architect. So, an initial knowledge of some basic security concepts such as firewalls is necessary.

The above list is by no means exhaustive. The point is that you’ll need a strong technical background if you are contemplating becoming a Cloud Architect.

The next step?
Assuming that you meet some of the aforementioned prerequisites, how do you now go about becoming a certified Cloud Architect?

Currently, the industry standard is the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification, which is provided by Amazon Web Services. This post details how to prepare for the exam and goes into greater detail about the resources available at Cloud Academy to help you succeed.

I’m a Certified Cloud Architect, now what?
Once you have passed the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Certification exam, this qualification opens up a lot of new job opportunities to you, some of which you have probably never even thought about. Some of the world’s most innovative companies in big data couldn’t accomplish anything without the help of AWS and more importantly AWS Certified Solutions Architects.

Some of the Companies currently harnessing big data in AWS are General Electric, IBM, SPLUNK, and the Weather Company. You may even find yourself working for a medical company and building a solution to map patients’ genomes to predict diseases. If you love to travel, you might land yourself a job at Expedia, which uses Amazon AWS to host its “Expedia Service,” a travel suggestion service. Let’s not forget one of AWS’s biggest customers, Netflix. Netflix entrusts Amazon AWS with highly-available and fault-tolerant content delivery of its films and media. Due to the sheer volume and fluctuating usage patterns of its customer base, Netflix relies on Amazon’s infrastructure capabilities for rapid scaling, server, and storage deployment. I can only imagine that they have employed hundreds if not thousands of AWS Solutions Architects.

The possibilities are endless. And, with continued exponential growth forecasted over the next few years, we think that becoming a Certified Cloud Architect is definitely a step in the right direction as both a career choice and as a chance to get on board with any new and exciting technologies that are bound to emerge in the cloud arena.

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Written by

Michael Sheehy

I have been UNIX/Linux System Administrator for the past 15 years and am slowly moving those skills into the AWS Cloud arena. I am passionate about AWS and Cloud Technologies and the exciting future that it promises to bring.

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