What cloud computing means to your job

What cloud computing means to your job

Technology has been accused of making many a job disappear, like the production line or the accounting office. And it is not done yet.

A company often resembles its communication system. In the era of cloud computing that the tech industry is moving into, that seems to suggest that companies will have smaller departments, quickly analysing data and endlessly experimenting.

That means change is on the way at the many companies that will adopt cloud computing over the next few years.

“Technology shapes styles of work,” said Ed Lazowska, who holds a chair in computer science at the University of Washington. “One critical advantage of the cloud is that sharing becomes dramatically easier.”

A corporate organisational chart from 100 years ago looks like a factory, with little workers at the base like parts, assembled by managers into units that interact with or fit into larger parts. Layers of white-collar jobs died in the “corporate re-engineering” boom 20 years ago, after email and networking replaced middle managers carrying plans among departments.

In cloud computing, computer servers are pooled through management software. Power is dialed up or down depending on the workload, and the system is continually reconfigured. To see how this changes a workplace, look at the structure of the biggest cloud companies around.

“You learn to harness feedback,” said David Campbell, the head of engineering at Microsoft Azure. Early on, this means lots of “A/B testing,” or putting up two versions of a website to quickly see which the customers prefer.

That challenges management. “Instead of having a debate informed by decades of experience around whether a customer would want A or B,” he added, “we define a testable hypothesis, which we quickly try to validate.”

Checking expectations and hypotheses in real time, Campbell said, “takes hours, instead of months and years in the legacy world.” Over the previous quarter, Azure delivered a new feature or service every three days. Amazon announced that so far in 2014, its cloud division had created 60 percent more new products than it did in all of 2013.

At Amazon Web Services, which has built the world’s biggest cloud computing business, work is divided into teams of the smallest size necessary to figure out what the customer is doing with an important product. That team then quickly adapts the product to work better and looks for new insight.

“We run the entire organization as a federation of autonomous groups,” said James Hamilton, who is in charge of expanding A.W.S. “Top management can’t say ‘You must do this.’ It’s hard to give direction.”

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