Why skilled developers will be even more important in the future with the cloud
There was a discussion about a year ago on Swedish blogs about why developers don't adopt new methods and technologies and whether these are bad developers or not. It was also discussed if this was because of managers who don't give the developers time to learn anything new.
Of course there will always be a need for people who know old technologies (like COBOL). If I wanted to repair a 20 year old car, I'd prefer a mechanic who is an expert on 20 year old cars of my brand. So there is a point in the opinion that not everyone needs to learn the latest things.
On the other hand a lot of work is done by consultants who are given almost no time for developing their development skills. Their managers demand they do nothing that isn't billable. A recent example I saw was consultants who had spent months (of billable time) developing what was already existing functions in SQL Server. Instead of spending months of development they could have spent a few days of learning. There are probably lost of cases like this where everybody is happy (as long as the customer doesn't understand how much money they have wasted).
What amazes me most is the lack of interest some developers are showing to learn new things. As leader of the Swedish SQL Server User Group I can't help noticing who participates in our activities or signs up to our newsletter. Some people (particularly from large consultant companies) seem totally uninterested in learning new things. It can't be blamed on that their management alone - even if the management demands 99% billable time, there is always time to subscribe to an occasional newsletter. Customers who only focus on hourly price tend to get this kind of consultants and probably pay for a lot of unnecessary hours.
So why is Windows Azure (and the cloud in general) making it even more important with skilled developers? I'd say that's because of the billing models within Azure. Basically you per for the resources you consume: CPU time, storage, bandwidth, etc. So a poorly developed solution would cost much more in day-to-day fees which will be very visible to the customer.
In other words: I think that the cloud will make customers much more aware of efficiency and quality of development work than they are today. It's like getting a more specific bill where you can see what causes the costs instead of just a lump sum. The consultants who survive in the cloud will be those that understand that you need to invest in your own competency.
The blog posts from last year