The future of IT networking jobs is being shaped in part by the current demands created by the way businesses handle the Covid-19 situation but also by the rapid change in the way networks are being built.
In particular the critical skillset network engineers need to stay on top of their career game is evolving at a hastened pace with an increasing focus on melding security and intent-based-software skills with business aptitude.
A glimpse into what that future means for IT networking professionals can be found in Cisco’s 2020 Global Networking Trends Report. It was completed before Covid-19 changed the way companies do business, but the predicted impacts have been hastened by the pandemic’s impact.
“It’s clear that these skills are even more critical now – the need for connecting and controlling corporate connectivity and security to home workers begs for new types of expertise,” said Joe Clarke, a distinguished services engineer at Cisco.
This is an evolving skillset for network engineers who are dealing more with the business managers and translating what they need into an IT vocabulary about setting policies, for example, and continuing to build the foundation of networking, Clarke said.
From the networking study, Cisco put forward a number of new or developing roles it expects to see in the future, including:
- Business translator: The business translator works to better turn the needs of business into service-level, security and compliance requirements that can be applied and monitored across the network. The translator also works to use network and network data for business value and innovation, and their knowledge of networking and application APIs will help them glue the business to the IT landscape
- Network guardian: A network guardian works to bridge network and security architectures. They build the distributed intelligence of the network into security architecture and the SecOps process. This is where networking and security meet, and the guardian is at the centre of it all, pulling in and pushing out vast amounts of data, distilling it and then taking action to identify faults or adapt to shutdown attackers
- Network commander: Intent-based networking builds on controller-based automation and orchestration processes. The network commander takes charge of these processes and practices that ensure the health and continuous operation of the network controller and underlying network
- Network orchestrator: This position translates business needs into network policy. It focuses on policy translation and automation, and policy alignment across network and IT domains
- Network detective: A network detective uses and tunes network assurance tools that employadvanced analytics and AI to ensure that the network delivers on business intent. They work with IT service-management processes and SecOps teams to identify network anomalies and close potential security holes. Like the network guardian, they use data proactively to identify faults and attacks
“These new jobs represent a growing tie between business and technology,” Clarke said. "Piece parts of these new criteria are handled by different people but what we are seeing is a need for a hybrid engineer to handle a blend of duties they don’t typically deal with today."
For example, the business intent might be high-quality video calls from a remote workspace that then might be moved from one place to another.
The network doesn’t understand that but an engineer can take a multistep configuration to make that happen. How you deal with security, control bandwidth, QoS and use analytics and automation together is part of an evolving role, he said.
“Many people are using cloud-based collaboration tools and file-sharing tools who’ve never used them before,” Clarke said. “All of this requires a fast-moving agile network that can quickly respond to new needs.”
Cisco has in the past year revamped a good portion of its critical certification and career-development tools in an effort to help network and other IT professionals address the emerging software-oriented network environment. For example it has launched a new set of professional certifications for coding, automation, application development utilising Cisco’s growing DevNet developer community.
The Cisco Certified DevNet Associate, Specialist and Professional certifications cover software development for applications, automation, DevOps, cloud and IoT. They also target software developers and network engineers who develop software proficiency to develop applications and automated workflows for operational networks and infrastructure.
Cisco says new network technologies such as intent-based networking, multi-domain networking, and programmability fundamentally change the capabilities of the network, giving network engineers the opportunity to architect solutions that utilise the programmable network in new ways.
And in the face of the test centers being closed in the current Covid-19 pandemic, Cisco recently said it would let those who are ready to, take Cisco certification written exams online. In addition Cisco said that active certifications as of March 16, 2020 have been extended for six months.