Despite so many optimistic predictions from Gartner, IDC and other surveys about the growth of cloud computing that they're almost an industry in themselves, there's no better indication of real interest from real companies than spending on a new technology.
And due to the collateral costs of hiring (benefits, space, power, travel, training) there's no better indication of a company's intentions than its plans to hire more people with specific skills, says Tom Kiblin, CEO of cloud- and location-hosting company Virtacore.
Data from Dice.com showing that the number of ads for full time IT jobs focused on cloud computing grew 344 percent between November 2009 and November 2010 should be a good indication of how quickly demand for those skills is growing.
The number was tiny in 2009 - only 378, but grew to 1,300 postings this year for jobs with titles like cloud computing architect and technical leader for cloud, says Dice.com's data.
Growth in demand for server virtualisation, a cloud computing precursor with much wider acceptance in the market, grew 78 percent between November 2009 and November 2010. That's nearly double the 40 percent increase in overall IT job ads the service itself saw during that time, according to an analyst from the company.
The IT market in general is just getting back to where it was during the fourth quarter of 2008 according to John Reed, executive director of Robert Half Technology, the IT recruiting wing of Robert Half International, which recently issued its latest quarterly IT hiring survey.
Virtualisation and cloud computing are among the most hotly pursued skills, but not at the top of the list, Reed says. Application developers and web specialists take those honours, largely because companies that put projects on the shelf when the recession started are dusting them off and relaunching them, he says.
Cloud and virtualisation skills tend to fall, among RHT's clients, with networking and security specialists, all of which are in high demand at companies that do IT for other people, engineering and consulting companies, law firms, outsourcers and management consultants, he says.
One reason virtualisation and cloud computing are among the hottest selling technologies and skills most sought on Dice.com is due to the way IT groups are organised, not the skills they need, according to Mark Bowker, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.
"Virtualisation migrations typically start with the server team and can run for quite a while focused just on consolidation and IT-driven workloads," says Bowker, interpreting data from an ESG survey of 463 companies that was released in November.
"Most companies are at that point, where they've finished the first 20 percent or 30 percent of a virtualisation migration, gotten the low-hanging fruit and now have to move outside IT where the technology is not the barrier to success."
Virtualising servers and applications that belong to business units - ERP applications and collaboration software for example, rather than firewalls, load balancers and other IT-focused apps - the IT people doing the migrations need more than just virtualisation skills. They need security, application development, business process management and soft skills like user management, Bowker says.
Even straight IT-owned workloads in virtualised or cloud environments involve so many skillsets that it's not practical to hire someone with just virtualisation skills, Kiblin says.
"Our guys have to be skilled in so many areas - OS, hypervisor, storage, routing, backups - you can't find them," he says. "In three to five years other people [companies other than service providers] will realise their people have to cross-trained to be an asset to an organisation, not just be a member of the routing team or a load balancing team or a SAN team or whatever."
The services industry is particularly strong in IT hiring right now, especially in business consulting, legal services, outsourcing and management consulting, Reed says. Also at the top of the list of hot industries are financial services and healthcare companies, both of which are IT-heavy and undergoing lots of overhaul.
The services industry is hot because, in the absence of a lot of IT hiring for the past two years or so, they've been filling in the gaps, he says.