What is a cloud architect?
As I’m sure you know, just code is not enough these days to make full solutions to real-world customer problems at scale. most enterprise-grade solutions are a combination of cloud computing solutions, third-party SAAS products, open source tools, as well as custom code stacks that require robust, scaleable hosting solutions. A cloud architect researches a variety of technology solutions and makes plans to combine these different tools to solve business-specific problems. So let’s discuss what a cloud architect is, what a cloud architect isn’t, and finally what the job looks like in real life.
I think one of the most confusing things about the “architect” title is that there are different types of architects. the two types of architects you hear about most often are cloud architects and solutions architects. so to understand what a cloud architect does, I think it’s easier to compare and contrast with a solutions architect.
solutions architects generally work for a cloud solutions provider. for example, you will find solutions architects at AWS, GCP, Azure, or any vendor that sells their software as a service to other companies or consumers. solutions architects are at the end of the day still trying to help companies build solutions, but most of the time their role is to suggest a solution using the product the company they work for sells. I like to think of solutions architects as an extension of sales for SAAS companies.
in comparison, cloud architects generally work for the company that is potentially buying the product from that vendor. In my role as a cloud architect, I will often find myself in meetings evaluating solutions from cloud vendors that have been proposed by solutions architects. my job is to compare the many different solutions offered and be the technical advisor for my employer.
After evaluating the proposed solutions, I make a technical recommendation on the approach that I feel will work best, keeping in mind all of the business objectives my employer has. including long-term maintenance, performance expectations, and licensing costs.
Beyond just evaluating cloud solutions, it is also the cloud architect’s job to think about the business-specific technical implementation details. This ensures the company gets exactly what they need to solve their problem without leaving out any details in the design that the vendor simply may not have known about. Cloud architects need to be deeply knowledgeable about the tools and infrastructure a company already has. Nobody wants to buy something twice or buy something we could have built for half the cost.
Being a cloud architect is more than just reviewing solutions and designing interconnected systems. Cloud architects need to also be able to take their plans and communicate them in multiple ways. I think communication skills might be more important than technical skills in this role. I mean, what good are an amazing plan and awesome architecture diagrams without having others in the company have any idea what the heck any of this stuff is?
I like to think about my types of communication being broken into two different styles. communication designed for engineers and communications designed for stakeholders
I spend about 20% of my day talking to different stakeholders about solutions to their business-specific problems. In these types of meetings, it is important to listen carefully to the requirements and translate them into well-fitting technical puzzle pieces. After gathering details and designing a solution, it’s then the job of the cloud architect to explain the solution in a way that doesn’t get too into the technical weeds while still covering all of the parts that solve the problems as originally stated. I will often create high-level architecture diagrams that don’t have a ton of detail just for this audience. I will also discuss in detail the cost of the solution or a comparison of multiple approaches and the tradeoffs involved so they can make an informed decision. I will also give them a 30-second version of the solution that they can use as an elevator pitch when talking to others who may take an interest.
In contrast to communications with stakeholders, a cloud architect needs to communicate with engineering in a highly technical manner. When talking with engineers, they are going to be the ones making the thing that I designed. If I miss any of the finer details, it could cause major delays down the road. It’s also important to treat engineering meetings as more of a discussion and less of a presentation. Keep in mind that the cloud architect may be a walking tech encyclopedia, but is certainly not an expert on most topics. Receiving feedback from engineers about unforeseen technical flaws in a design and making revisions based on their feedback is critical.
ok, honestly I could keep talking on this subject for days, but this is supposed to be a quick overview of the job so I’m going to leave it here. until next time, happy coding.