These days, every multinational corporation with its head screwed on has at least one cloud architect shaping its computing strategy. In our increasingly digitalised world, the position is a necessity for all corporations, regardless of size and industry. But what exactly is a cloud architect? What’s their role and how do you become one? We unpack everything you need to know about this integral new role and why it’s such a fulfilling position.
What is a cloud architect?
A cloud architect oversees a company’s cloud computing systems, from front-end platforms to data storage to servers. Sounds simple, but it truly isn’t - as our online infrastructure becomes increasingly complex, the role of cloud architect has become niche and specialised. In the last twenty years it’s become crucial that the data of an enterprise is responsibly managed, so a cloud architect may be tasked with designing and implementing new cloud systems to make sure no one messes with your business. This makes cloud architects protectors, if you will, or guardians of the cloud who ensure all data solutions are organised, secure and efficient.
What is cloud architecture?
With its roots in software development, cloud architecture is the planning and designing of cloud environments that provide structure to any kind of cloud-based project or concept. These can include cloud networking and front and backend systems, as well as server management and storage.
Cloud architecture is more than just managing storage - it requires an understanding of the continuous, fluid necessity of secure storage systems and the ability to identify which is best suited to a project. Each business will have its own technique and strategy for tackling this challenge, and each cloud architect will have varying expertise to apply to the role.
Cloud environments in action
Pinterest, for example, has lived its whole life in the public cloud. Raj Patel, Pinterest’s Vice President of Infrastructure and Production Engineering, calls their approach ‘infrastructure Buddhism’ because in losing one sense (i.e. private cloud environments), their other senses are heightened. Without the added pressure of managing a decentralised data system, they have time and space to create and innovate their public solutions.
Evernote, on the other hand, went a different route to Pinterest. Their architect Alexei Rodriguez seems to enjoy managing multiple data centres, and calculated that keeping their workload in public cloud solutions would cost four times as much as managing it within a decentralised system.
And Netflix, lord and saviour of 2020, actually made (tech) headlines when they switched from a private data centre to Amazon Web Services (AWS). This was a big deal because it was an outrageously complex project, seven years in the making, that provided a blueprint for other businesses looking to do the same.
So as you can see, cloud architecture comes in many different shapes and sizes. Just like clouds.
Skills required to be hired as a cloud architect
A cloud architect does more than implement bullet-proof storage systems - they’re researchers, developers, designers, leaders and problem solvers. The role is complex and multi-faceted - so here are a few points to include on your CV to stay ahead of the competition.
1. A degree in Computer Science
Most companies will hire candidates with a degree in Computer Science. That’s because they’re looking for people with a background in computing architecture and construction, as well as knowledge in the art of engineering and design.
2. Software development experience
A cloud architect is likely to have started as a developer, even if they began as a junior. The experience you gain as a developer - from project management to data analysis to identifying cloud technologies - all plays a part in the role of a cloud architect.
3. System design experience
Experience in designing systems, ideally cloud ones, will put you heads and shoulders above other candidates in the field. Perhaps you specialised in this during your degree, or had some experience working alongside infrastructure engineers in a previous role. If so, expand on these skills in your application - it’ll go a long way, trust us.
4. Experience with cloud databases
Brush up on your cloud databases prior to your interview. Make sure you know your PostgreSQL’s from your Cloud Datastores, and your Dynamo’s from your Cosmos'. In-depth knowledge of these environments and their various functionalities are a must-have for this role.
You’ll need your creds, too. Certifications from AWS, IBM, Google, and others will help get your foot on the cloud architect ladder.
Essential skills of any in-demand cloud architect
Most hiring managers looking to fill cloud architect roles will be seeking candidates as analytical as they are curious and as creative as they are organized. An expansive knowledge of cloud technologies is a must, yet a willingness to learn and explore new cloud solutions and ideas is just as important.
1. Fluency in key programming languages
2. Networking and security
In your role as a cloud architect you’ll be expected to use services such as Route 53 (DNS), CloudFront (CDN) and others to design public and private cloud networking spaces. Don’t underestimate the complexity of these networking services - an understanding of them is integral to creating secure and scalable cloud-based solutions.
3. Data storage
Software architects need to compare different capabilities, performance and prices for various storage facilities, and decide which storage solution is most appropriate for each project as well as the company.
Strong communication skills are crucial to the success of a cloud architect, both as a team lead and as a specialist. Being able to explain complex cloud systems in digestible, jargon-free terms will help your entire company get on board with your environments and ensure they’re using them effectively and sustainably. This will save your company time and money and make you look really good, too.
As a cloud architect you won’t only be leading a team of developers, you’ll be spearheading the technical direction of your company. As a result, strong leadership skills that demonstrate a clear vision for the company will be a big part of the job.
You’ll likely be working alongside engineers and developers in your role as cloud architect. Developers should try to understand why certain solutions have been chosen, and in turn the architect should have a grasp on the technical direction of the developer. Working closely in this way will ensure you can call on each other for support to make sure fewer errors are made. Who doesn’t want to work in such a unifying environment?
Your duties as a cloud architect
So we’ve covered the do’s, don’ts, haves and have-nots of this role, but what does the day-to-day of a cloud architect look like?
Especially in a newly-created role you’ll spend a lot of time debugging systems and ensuring all existing cloud programs are secure and protected. It might seem tedious, but there’s no better way to get to know your company’s current systems than with a month’s worth of debugging.
Testing and troubleshooting improvements
This process is vital as it ensures all changes and improvements have been implemented. Some might slip through the net, so you’ll need to keep a beady eye on those results.
Just like our pals over at Netflix, some cloud-based projects may take months or even years to implement. Just strap yourself in for some long-term planning and set yourself short-term goals to keep those motivation levels high. Remember, long-term planning means long-term success.
Leadership and overseeing
Cloud architects are likely to have a team of junior developers to oversee, so leadership and management skills are key - even when you’re really, really, really busy.
How much do cloud architects get paid?
Salary.com says the average annual salary range typically falls between $123,299 and $160,146 in the US depending on level of experience, certification, and location. Now that’s not a salary to be sniffed at!
There are many facets to the ever-changing role of a cloud architect. There’s the in-depth knowledge of cloud systems, software languages, coding, and network platforms. On top of that there’s the leadership, communication and collaboration skills too. But with all this complexity comes a job that is as rewarding as it is challenging - and is guaranteed to make a true impact on the shape and direction of a business.