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The Growing Cloud Skills Shortage: Q&A with Couchbase's Rahul Pradhan

IT executives are struggling to source skills that enable cloud and edge adoption, which has been the largest barrier to deploying cloud-based technologies. To help address the problem, Google announced in October that it will help more than 40 million people build cloud skills. With this pressing issue in mind, Rahul Pradhan, head of cloud products, engineering, Couchbase, recently reflected on the impact the skills shortage is having on DevOps teams, and how organizations can address the issue.

Pradhan has more than 16 years of experience leading and managing both engineering and product teams across storage, networking, and security domains. Most recently, he led the product management and business strategy team for Dell EMC's Emerging Technologies and Midrange Storage Divisions to bring all flash NVMe, cloud, and SDS products to market. Before that, he was a principal software engineer at Nortel Networks.

What are the challenges that organizations are facing as they transition to relying more heavily on the cloud?

RahulPradhan CouchbaseThe global business landscape is increasingly competitive and, in order to improve the customer experience and stand out from the competition, more and more organizations are adopting multi-, hybrid, and edge cloud technologies, which has given rise to the concept of distributed cloud architectures. With distributed cloud architectures, modern enterprises are better able to build innovative, dynamic, responsive, and always performant applications that meet the demands of today’s global consumers.

IT leaders understand the importance of cloud adoption. By 2026, Gartner predicts public cloud spending will exceed 45% of all enterprise IT spending, up from less than 17% in 2021. Additionally, Gartner’s recent “2021-2023 Emerging Technology Roadmap” survey found that cloud deployments are a top priority for IT executives. However, many organizations face major hurdles when transitioning to the cloud. The same report found that a lack of cloud expertise is keeping organizations from adopting emerging, cloud-based technologies such as databases, edge computing, analytics, storage, serverless, and machine learning. To address these challenges, Google recently announced that it will invest in training more than 40 million people to build cloud skills.

What is the problem?

In order for applications to take full advantage of the cloud, DevOps teams have to consider refactoring architectures—which requires a complete rewrite of the application. This is a complex and resource-intensive approach to cloud migration, but it can significantly help with long-term benefits, including scalability, ROI, and business agility. Refactoring should be done incrementally, or piece by piece, to make the transition as seamless as possible. This includes dividing up an application, a core concept of microservices. Unfortunately, this can be an uphill battle, given the skills shortage. In addition, Couchbase research has found that 48% of architects are currently under high or extremely high pressure to deliver digital projects, compared to just 19% pre-pandemic; and 61% report that past technology decisions have made completing digital transformation projects more difficult.

Moreover, microservice adoption comes with its own challenges, including having the technical know-how to transition monolithic applications into microservices, successfully scaling microservice-based applications, and monitoring microservice-based applications to identify the root cause of performance issues. 

What is making this so critical to get a handle on?

Increased investments in digital transformation efforts as a result of the pandemic have made cloud adoption a priority. Without modernizing, enterprises aren’t able to seamlessly make data-driven decisions, which puts them at risk of falling behind the competition. In fact, Gartner found that cloud computing adoption is growing exponentially, with enterprise applications migrating to the public cloud and organizations becoming more cloud-native in their deployments. With data and analytics increasingly being used as competitive differentiators, it’s been forecast that 75% of all databases will be in the cloud by the end of this year—driven largely by databases used for analytics. 

In addition, the rise of the distributed cloud enables enterprises to move data and compute closer to where it’s being used, making applications faster and more resilient by eliminating dependencies on distant cloud data centers. That’s why hybrid, multi-cloud and edge environments are growing and setting the stage for new distributed cloud models. Multi-cloud architectures empower organizations to distribute their workloads across multiple cloud environments so they can future-proof applications, optimize ROI, while ensuring low latency and service availability for a better end-user experience.

How is the skills shortage affecting overall digital transformation goals?

Without the right skills, deploying and maintaining emerging cloud-based technologies is a daunting task for any enterprise. In addition to the skills shortage, organizations’ existing IT and DevOps teams simply don’t have the bandwidth to upskill themselves or transform and adopt new processes and procedures that they’re unfamiliar with. As a result, some organizations have to delay or stop digital transformation initiatives—putting them at risk of hurting the customer experience.

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