Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mirv's "Greatest Hits" of 2011: Planning your cloud education

This post was originally published on ThoughtsOnCloud.com on Oct. 26, 2011.

As with any new technology, there is a learning curve, and cloud poses some unique challenges when it comes to determining the right training path. There are so many different cloud offerings right now, and so many education resources, that it can be difficult determining exactly what type of training might be needed by the people working on your cloud project, and just where to start.
You want to seriously consider your training needs. A lot of organizations skip this step, and that is not a good idea, especially if you consider how much of an investment you are making in the technology and in your staff. Making the wrong choices can cost you time and money. You might think that you cannot afford training, but if you don’t have the right skills to implement your project, you cannot afford not to train. Besides, a lot of good cloud education resources are out there and are free!
Without knowing more about your project, I can’t give you a detailed and exhaustive education plan right here and now, but I can give you some pointers and guidelines for finding useful resources, no matter what technologies you are using.

First things first

First, look at the scope of your cloud project. What software and systems are involved? What job roles are involved? How much time do you have? What is your training budget? What delivery format (classroom, online, self-paced, blended) do you prefer? There are course offerings and learning resources available to fit any budget, from high-level overviews to in-depth hands-on training.

Just the basics

If you don’t know where to start, start at the beginning with a basic overview of cloud computing. This overview will help give you a context for further developing your education plan.
This knowledge path on developerWorks provides a simple outline, and a number of links to resources that cover basic concepts, terminology, benefits, risks, and considerations when moving to the cloud. And, it’s free.
The ZS009 Fundamentals of Cloud Computing self-paced virtual course offering covers the fundamentals of cloud computing in detail, including key concepts and terminology, delivery models, deployment scenarios, security considerations, IBM cloud reference architecture, and IBM cloud offerings.

Custom-tailored to fit

Much of the IBM formal training offerings are aligned with specific product offerings, and are built around particular job roles, such as system administrator, application developer, system architect, and so on. The IBM training finder is a good starting place for finding education about a particular technology area or job task. You can also specify various skill levels, delivery types, and other criteria, such as free versus fee-based training.
You can build your own customized IBM training catalog here, based on similar criteria, and if you still have questions about what to include in your training plan, you can request a complimentary training plan from IBM.
If your budget is really tight, and your time is really short, give the IBM Education Assistant a try. It provides a large collection of presentations, some with audio, on specific products and technologies, in Flash and PDF format. There are also demonstrations of specific tasks, tutorials, and other resources available. The topics are organized by brand.

Alternative channels

A lot of channels on youTube are worth exploring; these are only several of my favorites:
  • The IBM Cloud channel on youTube has a short series of videos for getting started with cloud computing.
  • The IBM WebSphere Education channel on youTube provides a sampling of content from their course catalog, as taught by IBM instructors. There are over 25 videos available covering WebSphere Application Server system administration, SOA, BPM, and more.
  • IBM Education Assistant also has its own youTube channel here.

Conferences and events

Technical conferences and other events provide excellent opportunities to train on the latest technologies. You can often cover a wide range of topics, and get an in-depth view of new products in only a few days at a conference. There has been a huge proliferation of “cloud-computing conferences” around the globe – one only has to search that phrase to find them. Also, check the IBM schedule of events here. IBM technical universities give you a “deep dive” into IBM systems.
Perhaps an even better alternative to a conference is CloudCamp. CloudCamp is an interactive event open to cloud IT professionals, vendors, and users, to encourage open discussion and the exchange of ideas. It follows an unconventional format – Open Space Technology – where initially, there is no agenda. The attendees propose the topics and sessions they want to cover. It doesn’t cost anything to register, and there are many confirmed dates and locations to choose from.

Join a community

One of the best (and free) ways to learn is to get involved with a group of people interested in the same thing. The Global WebSphere Community, or WebSphereUserGroup.org, is a very active social network, with local branches all over the world, that meets regularly to discuss various WebSphere topics. The website features blogs, white papers, presentations, webcasts, and other media, and has a forum dedicated to cloud computing.
The Cloud Computing Central developerWorks community has been active since 2009 and is still going strong. There, members can post messages, blogs, bookmarks, and more about all things cloud-related.