You’d think that the last thing we need in Ireland is more cloud, but as far as Information and Computer Technology is concerned, that is no longer the case. Cloud Computing will transform the way business is conducted internationally and will bring scores of exciting new opportunities to those with the skills and the savvy to take advantage of them.
The new sector’s burgeoning economic potential has been duly acknowledged by Microsoft Ireland, who put forward some staggering figures in a sector forecast for 2014. The company suggests that, providing Ireland fully embraces the new technology, it could be worth up to €9.5 billion to the domestic economy and create as many as 20,000 jobs here. Such noises have been heard loud and clear by the government, which has begun to invest heavily in the area. In April 2012, for instance, €1.2 million was invested in the Cloud Computing Technology Research Centre (which comprises a group of researchers from higher education institutions). A further €5 million has gone towards DCU’s Centre for Cloud Computing and Commerce. Such injections of capital help illustrate the concerted attempt currently being made to position Ireland at the forefront of cloud technology research and development.
This, of course, represents a major challenge. As cloud computing is still in the embryonic stages of its evolution, a surge of rapid growth can be expected as new players enter the market, bringing with them new practices. The UK technological thinker Simon Wardsley has referred to this period of flux as the ‘war’ stage of a technology’s development. It is a period during which early action is essential for success – something that Richard Bruton, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, has encouraged, telling attendees at the Cloud Capital Forum 2012 that: ‘Early mover advantage is critical … we need to make sure Ireland exploits these opportunities’.
Luckily, there are some excellent postgraduate courses that will allow us to do so, one of which is Cork IT’s MSc in Cloud Computing. This part-time programme is run over a period of eighteen months (equivalent to three semesters). Naturally, the cloud plays a central role in the course’s delivery. ‘All lectures are streamed live over the Internet and each session is captured and stored in the cloud for later retrieval’, explains Tim Horgan, Head of CIT’s Centre of Excellence in Cloud Computing. ‘This facilitates lecture review and revision and enables students to access lectures and labs anytime, anywhere, on any device by simply using a web browser.’
Horgan describes this process as ‘learning about the cloud in the cloud’. The strategy’s effectiveness was given clear recognition when it received a nomination for Gradireland/AHECS Postgraduate Course of the year 2012. Of course this was as much a commendation of the course’s content as it was for its delivery method. ‘The MSc in Cloud Computing is one of the world’s first cloud computing degrees, it was the first to identify the real skill needs and to deliver a set of modules to address these needs,’ says Horgan. Among the mandatory modules students take are Cloud Strategy, Planning and Management, Cloud Security, and Cloud Storage Infrastructures, all of which have been developed by industry leaders and academic staff. For Horgan, such a level of co-operation is crucial to the success of the course. ‘This partnership has fostered true engagement, where industry specialists from IBM, Dell, EMC, VMware, and SpringSource teach on the MSc programme along with staff from CIT’s Computing Department. As a result, graduates from this programme are given the cloud computing skills so desired by industry.’
Another institution that has developed a Cloud Computing course to meet the growing demands of industry is the National College of Ireland. In order to ensure that students receive the highest level of tuition in cloud technologies, the college has established a state-of-the-art Cloud Competency Centre. From here students are provided with the guidance and tools required to investigate cloud potential and negotiate their ways around the cloud environment. The college’s MSc in Cloud Computing can be taken either as a full- or part-time option, as can its Postgraduate Diploma.
A more business-oriented option is the new one-year MSc in Management (Cloud Computing and Commerce) provided by DCU. Along with classroom-based coursework, students also gain practical experience working on projects for real clients. Though the course does deal with the technical side of things, its main focus tends towards developing a high level of expertise in the strategies, services and business models enabled by cloud computing technology.
NUI Galway provides a further business-focused option in the guise of its MSc in Cloud Computing Research – a course designed by the J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics at NUI Galway in conjunction with Hewlett-Packard Galway’s Cloud Services Innovation Centre. Such collaboration has allowed for the development of a programme that meets the needs of companies moving into cloud space. Priority is afforded to the business-related aspects of cloud computing such as security, privacy, online collaboration and user behaviour. The course may be taken either as a one-year full-time option or as a two-year part-time one, and is most suitable for those with related industry experience or an IT-based qualification.
Graduates without a background in computing are catered for too, however, as specially designed conversion courses offer them the chance to upskill to meet industry requirements. Cork IT offers two such courses: the Higher Diploma in Science in Cloud Computing and the Higher Diploma in Science in Cloud and Mobile Software Development. Students of these spend their first semesters building a solid IT foundation to work from before going on to specialise in an area of their choosing in the second semester. As with the MSc in Cloud Computing, lectures are generally delivered using online-based cloud technologies. Second-semester work placements provide students with an additional opportunity to obtain valuable practical experience.
Whether full or part time, diploma or Msc, cloud-computing is a postgraduate area that offers students excellent employment prospects and exciting opportunities.
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