How to Become a Cloud Architect

Susan Asher | Thursday, March 30, 2023

How to Become a Cloud Architect

One of the most in-demand positions in today’s IT world, one that holds enormous potential for professional fulfillment and financial reward, is the role of the cloud architect. With the business world increasingly moving to the cloud as an IT delivery vehicle, cloud architects are becoming mission-critical specialists whose expertise opens the door to greater recognition and partnerships within the upper echelons of a company.

Before getting into specific How-Tos, let’s look at the reasons why someone would choose to become a cloud architect.

The Future of Business Technology is in the Cloud

In today’s intensely competitive global economy, cloud computing provides a company or organization with a robust digital infrastructure featuring unprecedented agility and scalability, which allows for rapid expansion and flexible deployment options. For companies with new and legacy systems running hardware and software from different vendors, the cloud facilitates their integration and management across a variety of computers, operating systems and databases. In some cases, cloud computing eliminates or reduces the need to purchase and maintain expensive equipment and software, saving IT resources (including staff) and operational costs.

Consequently, a cloud architect enjoys a high degree of job stability and an accelerated earnings track. In a recent survey of IT leaders by Cloudreach and Amazon Web Services (AWS), 90% of respondents identified the cloud as “essential for both survival and innovation.” The same survey listed “the growing talent crisis” in the cloud world as one of the category’s top six trends. According to ZipRecruiter, the average starting salary for U.S.-based cloud architect in 2023 is $84,850. Glassdoor listed the average salary for a cloud architect in the U.S. at $124,152, while cloud architects with advanced skills and experience typically earn well over $200,000 annually.

What does a cloud architect do?

While the benefits of cloud computing ― scalability, flexibility, integration between disparate technologies and legacy systems, cost-savings and operational efficiencies ― are manifest, building a cloud-based infrastructure tailored to a company or organization’s specific needs is a dauntingly complex task. The cloud architect is responsible for designing and implementing the cloud infrastructure for maximum application performance and data security. In making the leap from a traditional IT environment to cloud computing, the company and its cloud architect (or team) face a number of challenges:

Making the business case for the cloud. The cloud is not a one-size-fits all solution. Some businesses have security and privacy concerns, which mandate a hermetic, on-site IT infrastructure. Some companies will reach the conclusion that the cost of and disruption caused by cloud migration outweigh the benefits of the project. As an employee or consultant, the cloud architect usually plays a crucial role in crafting a company’s cloud computing strategy.

Choosing the cloud model (private/public/hybrid/multicloud). Once the commitment to building a cloud-based infrastructure is established, the most important decision is choosing the best cloud architecture for the job. Without delving deeply into technical details, a private cloud is often the top choice for enterprises, such as financial services providers, for which data protection is of paramount importance. The downside is that a private cloud is more expensive than other options and requires advanced IT skills (and possibly additional IT staff) to implement and manage. A public cloud is significantly less costly but lacks the same level of data security found in a private cloud environment.

Companies are increasingly opting for a hybrid cloud model, which combines public and private cloud capabilities (including on-premises functions) linked over the internet and by virtual private networks. Many very large and multi-national enterprises are opting for a multicloud architecture, which incorporates more than one cloud deployment of the same type (public or private) sourced from different vendors.

Choosing a cloud services provider. Businesses can choose between multiple cloud services providers including AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, while niche providers cater to industry verticals. In the case of a brand new deployment, the cloud architect can guide the company to the best provider. The selection process hinges on numerous factors including certifications and standards; data security, governance and business policies; service-level agreements and partnerships; reliability and performance record; migration support, vendor lock-in and exit planning; total cost and complexity of the implementation.

Determining what gets migrated. Some companies will deem certain systems, applications and processes as too important or sensitive to move off premises. Some legacy systems will require extensive modification or development before they can run on the cloud. Some applications and systems may be rendered obsolete by the cloud deployment. Devising a migration strategy, which accounts for these and other factors, requires input from a savvy, experienced cloud architect.

Becoming a Cloud Architect

Once you’ve chosen cloud architect as a career path, crucial job requirements and steps to take include:

Working in the cloud today and tomorrow

Cloud technology offers functional capabilities across an array of operations, some of which are in the early stages of development and rollout, including big data and analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), cybersecurity, backup and disaster recovery, and DevOps. In the near-term, as global companies, in particular, focus on sustainability, they will be driven to cloud computing in part by its significant energy usage reduction.

A cloud architect’s position could be full-time or brought in as an outside consultant on a singular project basis. A cloud architect could be a one-person operation or a supervisor or member of a large team. The position often reports to a senior IT manager, but otherwise might report directly to the chief information officer (CIO) or chief technology officer (CTO).

Becoming a professional cloud architect requires a serious commitment to specialized training in an evolving technological field. It demands the pursuit of technical certifications over an extended period of time. The best news is, the reward will be well worth the effort.

About ExitCertified

ExitCertified has been providing IT training and certification since 2001 and was one of the first L&D providers to offer courses on the many aspects of cloud computing. As cloud technologies and their adoption grow, ExitCertified expands its course offerings to deliver training on virtually all commercial and open-source cloud technologies and work processes. We offer cloud-oriented classes and certifications, as well as many other resources to help with your cloud architect career development.

Learn more about the next steps to becoming a cloud architect

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