Ireland needs to have a future-proofed supply of cloud-ready graduates

28 Aug 2013

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The head of National College of Ireland's Cloud Competency Centre, Dr Horacio González-Vélez

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Ireland has the experience base and the critical mass of people to thrive in the burgeoning cloud economy, but the key is ensuring a supply of graduates who are future-proofed to take on a myriad of roles that don’t even exist yet. That’s the view of the head of the National College of Ireland (NCI)’s Cloud Competency Centre Dr Horacio González-Vélez.

González-Vélez told Siliconrepublic.com that he believes, based on the assembly of companies and data centres, Ireland is already the cloud computing capital of Europe, if not the world.

“It’s a great opportunity for Ireland and from an economic perspective, there’s a great story to tell already.”

González-Vélez joined NCI from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland. He is a recognised expert on cloud computing for the BCS, the UK Chartered Institute for IT.

Last year, businessman Denis O’Brien funded the new Centre of Cloud Computing at the NCI in Dublin. González-Vélez has been tasked with directing NCI’s cloud infrastructure, post-graduate programmes and research with a clear emphasis on innovation, education inclusion, and industrial partnerships.

He pointed to research from Goodbody that the cloud computing economy in Ireland will be worth €9.5bn by the end of next year and it will employ around 8,600 people.

“The entire business of cloud computing will be worth half a billion more than the entire corporate tax yield from financial institutions,” González-Vélez said.

“From the perspective of economic opportunities for Irish people, the nature of cloud companies is they will deliver jobs of a kind that have not yet existed and for that reason we need more flexible graduates, future-proofed to accept opportunities in fields such as analytics and data science, for example.”

Citing 100 jobs available on jobs sites on any given day in Dublin, González-Vélez pointed out that around 77 of those jobs are related to cloud businesses.

“These are real jobs within a 20-mile radius of Dublin’s city centre, covering mission critical infrastructure, cloud developers, senior operations staff, and cloud computing engineers.

“In particular, there is enormous demand for infrastructure as a service (IaaS) competencies and developers proficient in Ruby On Rails, Java or C++, as well as cloud administrators and software as a service (SaaS) people who are focused on users.

“What’s fascinating about Ireland at this moment in time is the experience levels and the critical mass of people who have already worked in some of the big-name companies. Companies like Twitter work with cloud providers typically like Amazon. Many of the reasons why Ireland attracts the top investments from big-name internet brands is they want to be close the data centres and also work with HR to attract the right human capital.”

The balancing act between theory and practice

González-Vélez said that in the creation of a master’s degree in cloud computing at the NCI, the college worked closely with a strategy group that included top US universities Stanford and Berkeley, as well as IT giants Dell, IBM and Microsoft.

He described coming up with a formula for ensuring relevant IT qualifications as a balancing act that ensures ensuing graduates are solid in theory and practice.

“It in general is a life-long learning process. The technologies we use today may not be used in 10 years’ time so you have to develop future-proof graduates and people who can easily adapt to the new technologies, languages and way of doing things. The key is understanding the advent of new business models and realising, in particular, that many of the graduates will be innovators and entrepreneurs who will in many cases not only create their own businesses but will invent their own jobs.

“For many new businesses, up to 70pc will rely on cloud computing infrastructure as a main accelerator. The cloud is the motor engine behind the creation of new enterprises that will span a variety of industries,” González-Vélez said.

On Thursday, 29 August, the National College of Ireland will hold a deep dive session as part of its Dot Conf series focused on XSS hack attacks.

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com