As companies worldwide have shifted away from using onsite data centers and server rooms, cloud computing platforms have been in high demand. According to the technology news site TechRepublic, about two-thirds of large companies are moving business applications and data storage to cloud services. For more than half of those companies, the transition to cloud services is the top strategic priority for their IT departments.
Companies need highly skilled engineers to manage their use of the cloud, including application development, resource allocation and maintenance, and effective use of the features offered by the industry’s primary cloud services—Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure.
And because professionals with these specialized skills are highly valued, they are often well-paid. A cloud engineer’s average annual salary is more than $120,000, plus an additional $10,000 per year in potential bonuses. A key reason for the high salaries is a scarcity of talent. Roughly 90 percent of companies find it difficult to find job candidates with both the technology and business skills required to manage cloud services and other digital transformation initiatives.
However, what a cloud engineer does can vary significantly from one role or one company to another, says Tony Mullen, associate professor in the Khoury College of Computer Sciences. Here’s a look at the different day-to-day duties and responsibilities that a cloud engineer may have, along with some insight into how to become a cloud engineer with the right skills, experience, and education.
Top Responsibilities of a Cloud Engineer
Cloud engineer is less a specific job title and more of an umbrella term used to describe a number of cloud computing roles that focus on engineering, architecture, development, and administration, Mullen says. Here are some of the typical responsibilities of professionals in the most in-demand cloud computing roles.
Those in cloud engineering roles assess an organization’s technology infrastructure and explore options for moving to the cloud. If the organization elects to move to the cloud, a cloud engineer is responsible for overseeing the process, referred to as migration, and maintaining the new system.
Along with these technical skills, cloud engineering requires managerial skills. Engineers are often called upon to negotiate with vendors, coordinate with other IT team members, and communicate with senior leadership about the progress of a cloud migration project.
These roles focus primarily on assembling the cloud infrastructure, Mullen says. Within a cloud environment, there are numerous computing, networking, and security services that all need to be configured properly. Configuration serves two key roles: To ensure that the right users have access to the right services (depending on their role within the organization) and that the company doesn’t incur unexpected or unnecessary charges.
Contracts to use cloud services can be as concrete as charging to rent hardware to store data, or as abstract as charging to execute a function within a line of code, Mullen notes. This variability means architects need to pay close attention to the fine print of cloud contracts and compare that to how their organization intends to use a cloud-based service.
These roles are responsible for creating the functions, applications, or databases that run on the cloud. Many of the best practices—fast load times, support for multiple Internet browsers, using as little memory as necessary—are analogous to more traditional software and database development, Mullen says.
“But now, [these individuals] also need to understand the cloud environment, the tools, and how that’s different than working on a single machine or a private data center,” he adds. For example, these developers must understand how an application will respond when accessing databases in different locations or how to run functions or queries efficiently when renting hardware.
These roles are similar to the traditional system administrator function that manages an organization’s on-premise hardware and software, but with an emphasis on cloud-based services. Primary responsibilities include developing and implementing policies for the use of cloud services, managing requests for new technology, establishing a secure cloud environment, and ensuring appropriate availability of services, also known as uptime.
Security and availability require careful attention, Mullen emphasizes. The cloud platforms use a “shared model” where they guarantee for some but not all security measures. For example, an individual organization is responsible for building a firewall around the network that’s used to access cloud services with sensitive data and business applications.