What does a cloud network engineer do?

To implement hybrid and multi-cloud deployments, enterprises need experienced staff to connect disparate IT environments. This makes the cloud network engineer job enticing.

Before applying for the job, evaluate each prospective cloud network engineer role. Take a closer look at the position’s daily tasks and expectations, as well as the education, skills and experience you may need.

Cloud network engineer roles and responsibilities

Generally, a cloud network engineer is a network specialist who bridges the gap between established enterprise LANs and emerging private cloud and public cloud implementations. Most cloud network engineers report to senior IT staff or a business liaison, such as director of cloud operations. They are responsible for the implementation, configuration, maintenance and support of a cloud network, as well as various other cloud services. Duties often include the following:

  • Design. Apply a comprehensive understanding of network technologies and concepts. This includes routing, switching, firewalls, and network monitoring and management. Develop, test and upgrade enterprise network architectures within major cloud platforms, such as AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure.
  • Administration. Upgrade, patch and maintain the overall network infrastructure upon which the private or hybrid cloud operates.
  • Monitoring. Monitor the utilization, performance and availability of the cloud network infrastructure and its services.
  • Documentation. Work with engineers, architects and IT support teams to establish guides, procedures, training and other documentation for audits and compliance and to sustain the cloud network and its services.
  • Security. Support the architecture, design, implementation and compliance efforts for effective cloud network security.
  • Integration. When required, perform network integration work to support hybrid or multi-cloud models, such as connecting a private cloud with AWS.
  • Troubleshooting. Identify and resolve network problems. This task often extends into disaster recovery operations and involves 24/7 on-call rotations to ensure constant networking support.

Education and certifications

A qualified cloud network engineer should hold a mix of formal education and industry certifications. A bachelor’s degree in computer science or IT is the foundation for any cloud network engineer role. Postgraduate degrees are helpful but typically not required.

While degrees are often expected, prospective employers increasingly focus on a variety of industry-recognized certifications. Cloud services and resources constantly evolve. Thus, ongoing education and certification are major job requirements. Invest the time — and money — in appropriate certification courses and exams. Cloud network engineers frequently possess professional certifications with an emphasis on cloud, network or security topics, such as the following:

  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
  • Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
  • Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) from (ISC)²
  • Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE)

Some employers that use specific public cloud providers favor network or architectural certifications from these providers. Examples include the following:

  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect
  • AWS Certified Advanced Networking
  • Google Cloud Professional Cloud Network Engineer
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert

Finally, cloud network engineer job listings might call for certified expertise in industry standards that are relevant to the employer’s line of business, such as the following:

  • Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)
  • Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (COBIT)
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)

IT job experience

Cloud network engineer is not an entry-level role, nor does passing a certification exam replace time spent in the field. Employers seek candidates with demonstrated experience and expertise in the design, deployment, management and troubleshooting of local and cloud networks. As with many networking professions, the role demands a strong background in data center system administration. Expect to demonstrate competency in audit logging, incident management, virtualization and Simple Network Management Protocol. Candidates often bring more than five years’ experience as a Windows Server — or other major OS — administrator.

Time spent in networking roles is valuable. Highlight your work connecting and directing traffic between LANs and WANs when you apply. Prospective employers typically seek a cloud network engineer with at least three to five years of experience implementing, configuring and supporting complex network infrastructures.

Prospective employers ask candidates about experience with the following:

  • WAN circuits
  • virtualization and virtual LAN
  • internet connectivity
  • cloud services
  • VPN technologies

Showcase your detailed knowledge of core networking concepts and technologies, such as TCP/IP, DNS, HTTP, wireless and distributed networks. In addition, expect to cover specific router protocols, such as the following:

  • Interior Gateway Routing Protocol and Enhanced IGRP
  • Routing Information Protocol (RIP)
  • Open Shortest Path First (OSPF)

Cloud network engineer applicants must also demonstrate expertise in network security architecture, protocols and practices. Candidates should be versed in security controls, including the following:

  • firewalls
  • physical controls
  • encryption
  • authentication and authorization
  • Secure Sockets Layer
  • vulnerability scanning and remediation
  • intrusion detection and prevention system management
  • security monitoring

A cloud network engineer should know how to deploy and manage cloud services and integration. Brush up on public cloud APIs and protocols that enable hybrid clouds. Some employers expect hands-on experience with the public cloud provider they use or plan to use.

Interview questions for cloud network engineers

An interview for a cloud network engineer role can cover an astonishing range of topics. A typical candidate can expect to field questions such as the following:

  • Which cloud network monitoring or cloud security systems have you used in previous roles, and why?
  • What are the most important components of a public cloud platform? This question might relate to a specific platform in use at that organization.
  • Have you dealt with security breaches? How have you prepared for security attacks?
  • What is a cloud computing hypervisor, and which types have you used?
  • What are the different data center deployments of cloud computing?
  • What is a multi-cloud strategy? What kinds of multi-cloud strategies have you worked with?
  • How is cloud computing related to edge and fog computing?
  • Can you tell me about your experience with some aspect of networking technology? The interviewer might choose general networking technology or dig into specifics.
  • What is your background supporting DevOps projects?
  • How do you architect for high availability in the cloud? What can you do if availability demands go over budget?

Cloud network engineer vs. network engineer

The primary difference between network engineers and cloud network engineers is scope. Both roles focus on networks; network technologies, such as routing and switching; and network security.

A network engineer generally focuses on local data centers to create, secure and maintain the physical LAN that drives the business. They select, deploy, configure, and troubleshoot physical networking hardware and interconnections and connect the LAN to a WAN, such as the internet.

In its purest form, a cloud networking engineer role focuses entirely on cloud networking. The engineer architects, deploys, and manages the cloud resources and services needed for a network environment upon which a cloud workload operates.

Fundamental network issues are almost identical in each role. But cloud network engineers theoretically don’t work with the underlying network hardware. Instead, their expertise covers cloud services. For example, a cloud network engineer might deploy and manage Amazon Virtual Private Cloud or AWS Network Firewall, while a network engineer uses a VPN and firewall for the data center. In reality, roles can overlap to a significant degree, with cloud network engineers tackling work on the LAN and network engineers handling network tasks in the cloud.

Network engineers and cloud network engineers never operate in a vacuum. They are all members of a larger team of architects, engineers and administrators that creates and runs the organization’s IT environment. Collaboration and communication are vital for success.

How to go from network engineer to cloud network engineer

The move from network engineer to cloud network engineer is primarily a matter of additional training and expertise in cloud resources and services. A network engineer typically possesses the fundamental education and certifications for network jobs. The move to cloud network engineer takes a relatively straightforward addition of cloud network skills. This direct addition of skills is what makes overlap between the two roles so common.