Being a network administrator in 2020 often requires skills far beyond what are often considered “core skills”. These disciplines typically focus on routing, switching, WiFi, remote access, and basic hardening of network devices. But for those who have mastered the basics, many wonder what areas they should specialize in that will be not only interesting but also highly
sought-after skills. Let's take a look at six hot areas of business networking that aspiring professionals can consider pursuing.
While many IT professionals are looking to acquire a wide range of IT security skills spanning the entire IT infrastructure, you may instead choose to specialize only in the area of network security. As the field of computer security continues to expand, it becomes more and more difficult to truly become an expert in everything. Instead, the best option may be to focus on the tools and processes that protect the network, the edge of the network, and all the data that passes through it.
Network automation, integration and interoperability
Until recently, network administrators required little programming skills. Since most corporate networking hardware and software was proprietary in nature, administrators were limited to configuring systems only as the manufacturer intended. Less than a decade ago, however, customers began to research open source alternatives that were much more flexible in terms of network device integration, automation, and interoperability. Cleverly, the major network vendors identified this trend as a threat to their bottom line and began to open up the ability for end users to program critical parts of their software. Network professionals finally had a way to granularly tune network hardware and software to increase performance, share information with other network components, and automate many tasks that required previously human intervention.
Advances in unified communications (UC) technologies are developing at a tremendous pace. Whether it's migrating unified communications from on-premises deployments to the cloud - to advancements in video streaming, collaboration tools, or customer experience (CX) -based integrations. 'AI - the need for professionals who understand unified communications while having a solid background in corporate networks is extremely high. What also makes unified communications more attractive in 2020 is that many of us can largely avoid having to understand legacy telecommunications technologies such as POTS lines and T1 circuits. Instead, these have been replaced by Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunks that operate over IP.
Most network administrators have mastered the basics of network monitoring. The use of SNMP, syslog, and NetFlow / IPFIX helps administrators reconstruct a basic view of a decentralized intelligence network. However, even with these tools, large visibility gaps can form and mask significant network performance or security issues. There are two approaches to gaining additional visibility - and both are great skills to learn. The first approach is to use modern network analysis (NA) tools that extract highly granular network state information from multiple sources on the network. This method is ideal for those who plan to work in traditional network environments where routing and switching intelligence is designed to be distributed across all network devices, hop-by-hop. Modern NA tools use artificial intelligence (AI) to sift through mountains of collected data to select relevant information that gives administrators a “one-pane” view of the network that was previously unobtainable.
The second way to gain network visibility is to migrate to a network that centralizes intelligence in a single control plane. Whether it is a solution based on software-defined network (SDN) or intention-based network (IBN) architectures, the result is a single source of end-to-end visibility.