Open Source Jobs Report: Explosive cloud growth knocks Linux off top spot for desired skillsets

The Linux Foundation and edX's latest annual Open Source Jobs Report highlights an explosion of interest in cloud technologies that has bumped Linux off the skillset top spot for the first time.

"Much of the world is rebounding from the economically crippling lockdowns of COVID-19, and hiring people with the right skills is proving to be a challenge," Clyde Seepersad, senior veep and general manager for training and certification at the Linux Foundation, claimed in the report's introduction.

"Nowhere is this more true than in the technology sector. The talent gap that existed before the pandemic has worsened due to an acceleration of cloud-native adoption as remote work has gone mainstream. With talent shortages around the globe, training existing staff has become more important to meet the needs of migra­tions to the cloud and leverage open source technologies tied to those migrations."

The latest in the Linux Foundation's annual investigation series, the report surveyed hiring managers and open-source professionals between June and July with over 200 hiring managers - 47 per cent of whom were based in North America, giving the results a geographical slant - and 750 professionals offering their opinions on job market demand and trends.

Contain yourselves

By far the biggest area of growth in the report was Kubernetes, the open-source container orchestration system originally developed by Google and brought under the Linux Foundation in 2015 as a gift to the newly formed Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). According to the report's findings, demand for Kubernetes certifications rose a whopping 455 per cent from 2019 to 2021.

That growth likely caused something of an upset, having pushed cloud and cloud-related technologies to the top of the "hottest skillsets" list - bumping Linux development and administration to second place for the first time since the Linux Foundation began releasing its Open Source Jobs Reports.

On this front, the foundation appeared a little defensive. "While cloud-native technologies surpassed Linux for the first time in the history of the Jobs Report, it should be noted that it is essential to have at least basic Linux skills to deploy and maintain a robust cloud infrastructure adequately," the report warned. "It is also likely that fluency in Linux skills (as open source lingua franca) may be implied for many hiring managers when looking for cloud talent."

"The requirements I hear are that organisations want to flexibly deploy their applications without constraint; commercial, technological or otherwise," Martin James, sales veep at enterprise open-source database specialist Percona, told The Register. "Hence the combined growth of open source, the cloud, and Kubernetes is not a surprise.

"More companies now understand how these technologies can benefit them, and they need expert support from people and vendors who have the relevant skill sets. There are interesting projects in progress, such as the Data on Kubernetes community, which help to widen the talent pool, and empower people to work together to turn 'nice ideas' into practical approaches that anybody can use."

Finding those with the right skills is still challenging, however. 92 per cent of responding hiring managers said they had difficulty finding open-source talent, but only 88 per cent said they were willing to pay for certifications - and just 58 per cent said they were increasing training for existing employees, despite 92 per cent of employee respondents having requested more training.

Those figures, which suggest a divide between what companies need and what companies are willing to pay for, drove a clear conclusion in the report: a full two-thirds of developers need more training in order to do their jobs.

The findings also highlighted the impact of the pandemic, which saw in-person attendance at industry events and conferences knocked off employees' top priorities for the first time since the foundation began the report series. "COVID-19 has led to some permanent changes in open source workplaces," the report claimed, "and rightly so. In the war for talent, it is time to look closely at employee satisfaction and the impact of non-monetary factors in creating rewarding professional experiences.

"Regarding COVID-19's effect on workers, 30 per cent report that they experienced an increase in workload due to the pandemic. Other impacts include the 22 per cent who were forced at some point to reduce their hours, take unpaid leave, or lost their job (16 per cent of those who lost a job report they have not yet found a new one). Only 21 per cent stated that the pandemic did not affect their work."

A warning bell was sounded by the report on the topic of discrimination: 98 per cent of hiring managers claimed to proactively encourage diversity in hiring, up from 88 per cent the year before, yet 18 per cent of employees reported being discriminated against or made to feel unwelcome owing to personal characteristics - up from 11 per cent in 2020 and eight per cent in 2019.

"Reports of discriminatory activity or exclusion having more than doubled in three years could be related to increased awareness and willingness for individuals to speak out," the report suggested, "or it could be partly driven by a backlash against movements to advance equality in marginalised communities. To continue positive progress, the industry must take concrete steps to increase diversity and become more welcoming to all."

Despite this, the report's overall tone is upbeat. 97 per cent of responding hiring managers declared open-source talent acquisition a priority, while 50 per cent had increased their hiring this year over last. Oddly, while the overwhelming majority claimed to be focusing on open-source talent, only 44 per cent said they were after staff who have contributed to open-source projects.

"It is time for professionals to skill up by taking advantage of training courses and taking certification exams to prove their proficiencies," concluded the Linux Foundation and edX, both of whom offer training courses and certification exams designed to prove proficiencies. "The data in this year's report demonstrates that their careers depend on it more than ever.

"For enterprises, it means that they now need to be more responsive to training and certification requests from their staff - because competing firms are aggressive about making training, hiring, and retention a priority."

"The demand for open source skills demonstrated in the survey is no surprise and more proof that open source is essential across all of today's digitalised businesses," Amanda Brock, chief exec at not-for-profit open-source advocacy outfit OpenUK, told The Register.

"The need for people with experience of contributing back to open source projects is growing too as we see businesses follow the journey from user to contributor, which is particularly important when they want to have influence. It shows that contributing is becoming more important, which is a really significant element of the whole open source ethos.

"The UK is on the precipice of becoming a centre for open source that is globally unrivalled and just needs a few more steps in the skills and education aspects - from code to commercial to governance and security - for us to see this happen. Our Kubernetes community is a great example. Not only are we the 5th biggest global contributor to a critical project that makes the cloud work, but if you look across the Kubernetes and CNCF leadership a huge proportion are in the UK."

The full report is available to download now, while the raw data behind it has been published to data.world under the Community Data License Agreement - Permissive for those who want to dive a little deeper. ®

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