Digital Transformation
Jul 5, 2024

Talent Shortages Shouldn't Kill Your Cloud Native Journey

B. Cameron Gain
5 minutes

An often-overlooked factor in digital transformation is that the initiative’s success — or failure — hinges on having talent qualified to spearhead said initiative. And it can be very difficult to access those skills: A full 63% of Spiceworks’ 2024 State of IT survey respondents say their organization struggles to find the right IT talent. Also, more than a third of respondents in a new Spectro Cloud study say it’s difficult to find Kubernetes experts to achieve cloud native goals — and they expect adoption of Kubernetes and other emerging technologies to double within two years.

Andela's white paper "How DevOps Skills Are Evolving to Deploy Kubernetes in the Cloud" includes data on IT hiring trends

DevOps has been the standard for enabling a cloud native migration, but more recently, platform engineering has emerged, extending DevOps by creating a “golden path” to adopting and scaling Kubernetes. By the end of 2024, 80% of large engineering organizations will have adopted internal platforms supported by platform engineering, according to a Gartner survey.

Not being able to find the right people for your cloud native team can delay your project, creating undue stress and even panic. Fortunately, there are things you can do to identify what kinds of talent will help your team the most and improve your chance of finding qualified candidates.

Source: Andela’s “How DevOps Skills Are Evolving to Deploy Kubernetes in the Cloud

What the Platform Does

Platform engineering improves the developer experience by automating and offloading tasks and processes. It allows developers to focus more on software development than tool selection, providing advantages such as improving the cadence where software delivery meets business goals.

The platform sits between the developer’s frontend and the backend. It uses automation and infrastructure as code (IaC) so that the developer does not have to be a Kubernetes expert to design and maintain Kubernetes nodes and clusters — although knowledge of how it functions is always helpful.

The developer platform must address a long list of functionalities yet remain transparent to the end-user developer. Also, the underlying structure of platform engineering for cloud native environments using Kubernetes requires talent with very specialized skills and experience.

What to Look for in Cloud Native Leaders

A cloud native environment consists of the Linux kernel and extends in a highly distributed way across the cloud and to some extent, on-premises environments. While orchestrating containers and microservices is an important aspect of Kubernetes, focusing too heavily on Kubernetes as a container and microservices orchestrator may miss the point.

Rather, Kubernetes has transformed cloud computing by providing powerful APIs and functionality. This has had a profound impact on data and application management and distribution for containerized environments: Containerized Kubernetes cloud native environments increasingly run on hybrid cloud services. This adds new support, skills and expertise requirements to the platform engineering team.

It’s critical for the cloud native team to include Kubernetes management experience, including working directly on the Kubernetes API and related skills such as CI/CD pipelines and microservices architecture, says Andela, a global private talent marketplace.

At the start of your cloud native initiative, look for project leaders with many years of experience in DevOps management and cloud maintenance, selection, and storage. They should also recognize that a Kubernetes cloud environment is required to meet scaling needs, fully support the organization’s decision to get started, and be eager to learn.

Site reliability engineers (SREs) can also play a crucial role. One part operations management, one part the creation of infrastructure to support developers, SREs for cloud native platform engineering create the platform infrastructure that maintains the functionality of the Kubernetes cluster. This platform paves the golden path to improve developer productivity and cloud native application delivery.

It takes a lot of work for an SRE or platform engineer to acquire Kubernetes management experience or certification. Certification requires a year or more, with people often working at night and on weekends to prepare for the exam. But certification alone does not guarantee that someone can manage or even participate in a cloud native shift.

Key Skills for Cloud Native Team Members

Andela looks for skills including the following when hiring for cloud native teams:

  • Expertise in Kubernetes and containerization technologies, including a deep understanding of Kubernetes architecture, API resources and tooling.
  • Proficiency in automation and IaC, with the skills needed to deploy, scale and manage containerized applications and expertise in tools like Terraform or Ansible.
  • CI/CD pipeline mastery, with experience setting up and optimizing continuous integration and delivery pipelines to streamline development and deployment processes.
  • Cloud platform knowledge, including familiarity with at least one of the following cloud providers — AWS, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud — and the know-how required to leverage their services to enhance Kubernetes deployments.
  • Collaboration and communication to effectively communicate complex technical concepts to non-technical stakeholders.

As cloud native adoption accelerates, Andela also sees a greater need for specific programming skills to support these environments. The days of hiring script developers to create and manage functions using Bash commands, shell languages (like PowerShell) and TypeScript are waning in favor of application-development programming languages, such as Java, Go and Python.

Programming skills are increasingly seen as pivotal to the next phase of aligning development and operations to eradicate barriers between legacy Dev and Ops functions, Andela reports. This is very good news for developers, who get more freedom and responsibility to shape services and outcomes. They have the opportunity to create and maintain the applications that support the organization’s business model versus the more narrow and mundane tasks involved in writing scripts.

Where to Start

Finding the right talent for your cloud native transformation initiative is a tall order. Before beginning your talent search, thoroughly assess your organization’s DevOps and IT team and all its complexities. Some of your team members might already have some of the requisite skills. You might even find that some are already studying for Kubernetes exams or have completed sandbox projects. These people can start paving the way to shift your infrastructure to cloud providers on Kubernetes.

When looking for talent outside the organization, consider working with a talent acquisition partner with a strong background in cloud native hiring. They will have the experience to match the required skills and know-how with your needs to make the cloud native shift.

Andela uses AI to scale the talent search and filtering process globally in a way that humans can’t reach on their own. Andela’s community counts 5 million technology specialists, but its talent recruitment process narrows that pool within its private marketplace to approximately 150,000 vetted, qualified and usually certified cloud native and AI specialists, Renato Sugano, a cloud matching specialist at Andela, said in an interview.

Often, when a company migrates into a cloud native environment, they discover that their DevOps team lacks the expertise to complete their cloud native journey smoothly. “Their environment is not working properly and has not been configured to use resources the way they should,” Sugano said. “They come to us and say, ‘We need help. We need at least three great senior DevOps engineers to help us.’”

To begin helping the company stabilize its environment, Andela delves into “what they understand, what they need and what the problems are,” Sugano said. “We define which skills are required, and the actual matching process starts. I [use Andela’s] platform and network to find the best technologists we have. We work with talent from more than 135 countries all around the world, so we have no boundaries,” Sugano said.

Once he identifies the candidates with the requisite experience, he begins vetting them more closely. Each candidate undergoes extensive interviews and tests to make sure they are highly qualified, and those who pass are shared with the client. Sometimes the client wants to interview them; other times, they ask Andela to manage the process.

Once a candidate is selected, there are several ways they can join a company’s team. In managed services, the company wants Andela’s talent to work inside the organization, and they pay for the technical services delivered by the team. In staff augmentation, the Andela talent joins the team and is supported by Andela’s delivery team, which ensures a successful engagement. Other companies want to manage Andela’s talent and oversee their work, but Andela manages the contract to ensure quality delivery for the clients.

Wrapping Up

Adopting Kubernetes for cloud native environments introduces significant complexity. Success in digital transformation largely depends on finding the right people to lead these initiatives. Platform engineering extends DevOps by using automation to facilitate adopting and scaling Kubernetes.

Article originally published on The New Stack.

About the Author

BC Gain is founder and principal analyst for ReveCom Media. His obsession with computers began when he hacked a Space Invaders console to play all day for 25 cents at the local video arcade in the early 1980s. He then started writing code for very elementary games on the family Commodore 64 and programming in BASIC on the high school PC. He has since become a long-time and steadfast Linux advocate and loves to write about IT and tech. His byline has appeared in Wired, PC World, CIO, Technology Review, Popular Science, and Automotive News.

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