Want to lock in some job security in IT over the next five years? Then make sure you're poised to move into cloud computing or mobile application development. That's where the IT jobs are expected to be, according to 2,000 IT professionals recently surveyed by IBM.

IBM's annual global Tech Trends survey identified cloud computing and mobile application development as the hottest tech trends and most sought-after IT skills for the next five years. An overwhelming majority of survey respondents (91 percent) expect cloud computing to overtake on-premise computing as the primary IT delivery model by 2015. More than half (55 percent) of survey respondents believe that in the same amount of time, the need to develop applications for mobile devices (such as Android, iPhone, iPad and PlayBook) will far surpass the need to develop software for traditional PCs and servers. These trends will impact IT jobs and the skills needed to do them.

New IT skills for data centre workers

Because cloud computing changes the way users access IT systems and because it automates much of the installation, configuration, administration and maintenance work that traditional data centre employees do, data centre workers will need to learn a host of new skills if they wish to remain relevant and employed in the age of cloud computing, say IBM executives. 

"Users in a private cloud will request access to IT system and application 'services' through a service catalogue, and business and technical workflows will automate the assembly, configuration and delivery of those services," said Bob Getchell, IBM's worldwide channel sales manager for cloud. "The need for skills related to installing technology and applications or bolting together hardware and software will decline with cloud." 

Consequently, traditional data centre workers will need to learn to design service catalogues, define service offering templates, populate service offerings into the service catalogue, and write business and technical workflows to automate the request process, added Getchell.

"I see IT data centre managers acquiring skills to act as cloud solution advisers for their firms and as cloud application managers who specialise in the assembly and life cycle management of cloud application services," he wrote. "Others will also specialize as cloud deployment professionals - skilled in designing, deploying and maintaining the new technology and software necessary to manage the cloud."

New skills for application developers

Mark Hanny, IBM's vice president of independent software vendors and developer relations, told in a phone interview that traditional software developers will have to understand how various mobile platforms are built and how to make applications run on those mobile platforms. He adds that understanding the user experience is even more important when it comes to developing applications for mobile devices since those applications are much more user driven than traditional enterprise software. Another important skill for traditional application developers looking to make the leap to mobile application development: knowledge of HTML5, according to Hanny.

Other hot IT career opportunities

Besides cloud computing and mobile application development, IT professionals polled by IBM expect social media and business analysis/intelligence technologies to offer opportunities for IT career growth and job security. They see telecommunications, financial services, healthcare and energy as the industries with the greatest potential for IT career development. Notably, nine out of 10 IT professionals believe industry-specific knowledge is critical even in their technical roles, yet only 63 percent say they possess the industry knowledge they think they need to remain competitive.

The findings from IBM's Tech Trends survey corroborate the results of other IT skills surveys, including one's sister publication Computerworld conducted over the summer.

IBM developerWorks conducted the Tech Trends survey online in August and September of 2010. IT professionals who work across 87 countries in systems administration, network administration, software development and architecture, QA, project management and business analysis responded to the survey.