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Cloud and Building Abstract

How Australia got its head in the cloud

Cloud technology doesn’t mean the end of employment. In fact, things are looking pretty bright.

When people think of Amazon they think of retail. But there’s an entire side to Amazon that most customers don’t even see: Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS is the company’s cloud-based platform, and it’s changing the fundamental infrastructure of the internet. You probably use it unknowingly every single day.

AWS is actually a huge slice of Amazon’s overall business model, accounting for about 40% of the company’s entire revenue in Q1 last year (that’s a lazy $6.1 billion). The tech is used to power all sorts of things, from basic cloud-based storage to Netflix streaming, tracking koala genetics and helping Qantas fly from Sydney to New York.  

So why is AWS growing so quickly? And more importantly, what does the rise of cloud-based technology mean for Australian jobs?

Enter the Cloud

Amazon Web Services is one of several cloud-based platforms. There’s also Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. Together, these three account for about 70% of all cloud activity on the web, and that’s a very lucrative market to corner. In the last five years, cloud services have become one of the fastest growing technologies in the world. Forty two per cent of Australian business are already using paid cloud services (up from 31% in 2016). This adoption has resulted in a productivity benefit of around $9.4 billion dollars to the Australian economy over the last five years.

Harder, better, faster, stronger

The Cloud isn’t just a collection of data centres for storing all your personal videos. It’s essentially a way to amplify computing power and crunch huge volumes of data, scaling businesses all over the world, regardless of location. It’s the fundamental tech underpinning machine learning, voice recognition and Blockchain security systems. It’s elastic and flexible, which means businesses can easily ramp up productivity and storage, or shrink down if necessary. And, of course, it’s much much cheaper than traditional computing solutions. More than half Australian cloud-based businesses identified cost as their biggest adoption driver.

Cloud vs Humanity

The short answer is: it depends. There’s some concern that I&O operations jobs might be threatened by cloud technology. Forrester analyst Ted Schadler has pointed to the so-called “blue collar IT” fields, like admins who maintain IT systems, as being particularly at risk. Since cloud tech is basically supercharged automation, it could put the squeeze on routine operational tasks. But there’s another side to this story, which is the rapid growth of cloud-based jobs. As more and more companies migrate to the cloud (Gartner expects the local market to double to $1.2 billion by 2022) there’s a growing skills gap for specialist cloud technicians. In fact, 48% of companies that have adopted the cloud in Australia reported an increase in IT staff.

Get prepared

Faced with rapid cloud migration and a growing skills gap, universities have had to evolve. Sluggish, three-year Bachelor degrees are poorly equipped for cloud learning, since the technology evolves on an almost weekly basis. Disruptive specialist training programs (like Australian start-up A Cloud Guru) have also begun popping up, offering online certifications and fast cloud training programs. RMIT Online is doing the same: we’ve just launched two new Amazon Web Services certifications, Practitioner (our introductory course) and Architect (the more advanced program). There’s no better way to upskill and join the cloud revolution.

The future is bright

It’s easy to become pessimistic about the future of work, especially when you’re staring down the barrel of the cloud and all its associated automation. But most experts agree that the cloud doesn’t represent the extinction of IT employment – it’s more of a pivot. The median salary for cloud computing professionals in 2018 was $146,000. Companies like Oracle, Deloitte and Amazon are snapping up qualified cloud graduates like hot cakes. To remain relevant, employees need to upskill in fields like Java, DevOps and Amazon Web Services. With the right training, the cloud changes from an amorphous digital enemy into an ever-expanding opportunity. Over the next five years, more and more businesses are going to need people who understand the cloud. You can either run from it, or learn from it.

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This article was originally published on 9 October 2019