22 Feb 2023 - by 'Maurits van der Schee'
You probably have heard about cloud engineers and what they do. In short they take your servers and put them in the (public) cloud using benefits that only the cloud can bring. These cloud providers belong to large corporations, such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft or even Oracle. What I expect to see become mainstream in the coming years is the role of "cloud exiteer" (a term cleverly coined by my friend Mark), which is exactly the opposite of a cloud engineer. Cloud exiteers are not working to bring a company "into the cloud", but help them quickly move "away from the cloud". The companies employing cloud exiteers strive for "cloud neutrality", which means that they can effortless switch from one cloud provider to another. Note that "cloud neutrality" is a much stronger goal than "multi-cloud" which is not as clearly defined and brings less benefits.
Cloud does not mean the use of virtual machines and/or container orchestration. Actually it is all about the move from CapEx to OpEx for your IT infrastructure.
Capital expenditures are major purchases that a company makes, which are used over the long term. Operating expenses, on the other hand, are the day-to-day expenses that a company incurs to keep its business running.
This leads to the following changes in IT infrastructure management:
Often people say that the cloud provides the following (managed) services:
Ideally the cloud does all of these, so that you don't have to hire (as many) expensive Site Reliability Engineers (SREs) to manage your infrastructure.
In order to fully appreciate what a cloud exiteer does you must understand the goal of "cloud neutrality" that is pursued. Cloud neutrality is defined as an independence of cloud providers. Neutrality is reached when the time to migrate is lower than the typical service window (or otherwise acceptable downtime) and the migration costs are negligible.
Not all IT infrastructure can be made cloud neutral at low costs. Some companies choose to use vendor specific cloud services to run their business. This makes it hard or even impossible to switch cloud providers. A cloud exiteer can identify such risks and guide your company away from them, without actually changing cloud providers. The cloud exiteer can replace vendor specific services with popular open-source implementations.
A company that have taken cloud neutrality into account can have optimal advantage of the "Economies of Scale", guaranteeing better Return On Investment (ROI) when provided with additional funding.
David Heinemeier Hansson (aka DHH) wrote an inspiring article on how he saves 7 million by "leaving" the cloud with his email product "Hey.com". That is interesting, but I doubt that many readers find themselves in his situation. Not only because they don't run a similar sized business, but also because DHH must have been leading the company towards "cloud neutrality" for a while (probably from long before he announced that he would leave the cloud). Thanks to this strategy his negotiation position must have always been quite good. I believe that this is why he saves "only" 7 million (and not a magnitude more). I'm sure that he employs some very good cloud exiteers that have helped him to steer away from vendor specific cloud solutions. And they did a marvelous job, congratulations!