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Network Jobs: Hot and Cold | IT Infrastructure Advice, Discussion, Community

Network technology is constantly evolving. New tools and approaches arrive as others are replaced or discarded. The same can be said for managers, engineers, developers and other network pros, many of whom wake up one morning to discover that their once prized and sought-after talents are no longer as popular as they used to be.

For many years, network fundamentals remained relatively unchanged. This is no longer true, and many network pros are now beginning to feel the impact of possessing a dated skill set. “With advancements in SDN, cloud, segment routing, automation, and many other technologies, it’s an exciting time to be in networking,” said Justin Ryburn, head of solutions engineering at network analytics company Kentik. “There are great opportunities out there for any network engineer, operator or architect who is willing to invest the time in learning these new technologies.”

But which network skills are the best bet for future growth? To help you stay on top of what’s currently in demand, and what isn’t, here’s a rundown of today’s hottest network jobs and those that are on the path to zero bits per second.

Comfortably hot

Cloud network architects are currently in high demand, Ryburn noted. “As more enterprises shift their workloads to the cloud, they are finding the underlying network to be a critical piece of the success,” he explained. Cloud networking, however, is much different than traditional infrastructure networking, so it requires a new skillset, Ryburn added.

Steve Pace, head of HR at network management firm Forward Networks, predicted that cloud networking skills will begin to replace traditional on-premises network admins as more activity migrates to the public cloud. “There will be fewer boxes to install/configure/manage/maintain locally,” he observed.

The hottest networking job today is a network automation engineer, asserted Pace. “In recent years, there has been a major shift to automate many repetitive network IT tasks with programming and orchestration tools,” he noted. “This has been exacerbated with the convergence of DevOps and network operations. Network automation engineers are seeking to optimize workflows, reduce MTTR (mean time to resolution) and improve test methodologies.”

Network engineers, in general, are facing the need to improve their programming and scripting skills in languages such as Python and Perl, Pace said. They also need to begin learning a wide range of emerging orchestration technologies, including virtual networking, Kubernetes, SD-WAN orchestration, Ansible, and Puppet. “Glassdoor is currently showing an average nationwide salary for a network automation engineer of $86,588 versus an average salary for traditional network engineer of $72,946, reflecting the more advanced programming, workflow and orchestration skills required,” he observed.

Any IT pro that participates in the adoption, migration, integration, and automation of software-defined networks, and network functions that are virtualized in support of workload mobility, has a hot job, said Greg Jacobs, director, network and security product engineering at disaster recovery firm Sungard Availability Services. “This includes both public and private in the context of hybrid workloads,” he noted. “This also includes key DevOps integrated roles, such as an automation developer/architect or product owner and product management.”

Security analysts and engineers are “extremely vital employees,” observed David Armendariz, general manager of the technology division at executive search firm Lucas Group. “They are responsible for the education of employees on computer and network security, along with monitoring network breaches and responding to attacks to the network,” Such skills are invaluable, as security breaches can cost enterprises millions of dollars. “Security engineers are on the front lines keeping all data and technical systems safe, ensuring that security breaches do not happen,” he said.

Not so hot

As long expected, automation’s impact is beginning to reverberate across the entire network job market, making many manual network management tasks obsolete. “One clear example is WAN networking, where SD-WAN solutions have been widely adopted to manage most of the dynamic changes required of WAN networks,” Pace said. “This is extending to software-based policy management of Wi-Fi networks as well,” he added.

Telecom specialists, meanwhile, are becoming an endangered species. “As technology evolves, we’re shifting away from traditional telecom roles,” Armendariz said. For decades, traditional PBXes were a communications mainstay. “Now we’ve evolved into VoIP, and with the ease of administration on the VoIP systems we’re seeing more of a traditional network resource handling the telecom aspect of the network.”

Automation also threatens the job stability of traditional network engineers. “Leveraging scripting or automated tasks is preferred in a rapidly changing and dynamic network environment,” Jacobs warned.

The market is shifting toward transformation enablement, Jacobs observed. “Networks are becoming more abstracted through virtualization front-ended by APIs,” he explained. “I expect to see more roles opening up in the automation and network development space as organizations adopt concepts such as shared virtual infrastructures, software-defined networking—both SDN and SD-WAN—hybrid connectivity and shared horizontal infrastructure services,” he said.


The network job market will continue to be hot for the remainder of 2019, Ryburn predicted. “Between service providers and digital enterprise, networking continues to be a fast-growing segment of the IT market.”


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6 Hot Tech Trends That Will Impact the Enterprise in 2018

The start of a new year always brings a flood of forecasts from technology pundits for what might happen in the next 12 months. For some reason, 2018 triggered even more prognostications from tech experts than usual. We received dozens of predictions for networking, storage, and data center trends that IT pros should expect to see this year.

After sorting through them, we noticed a pattern: many experts predict more of the same.  The trends and hot technologies from 2017 such as machine learning and automation will continue to influence IT infrastructure into 2018, but the pace and intensity of innovation and adoption seems likely to increase.

“It’s no secret that AI and machine learning are driving a lot of the innovation across the various ecosystems and technology domains that IT cares about,” Rohit Mehra, program VP of network infrastructure at IDC, said in a webcast on the firm’s 2018 predictions for worldwide enterprise infrastructure.

In fact, the rapid incorporation of AI into the workplace will mean that by 2021, more than half of enterprise infrastructure will use some form of cognitive and artificial intelligence to improve productivity, manage risk, and reduce costs, according to IDC.  

To be sure, 2018 will another year of rapid change for IT infrastructure. Read ahead for six key tech trends that infrastructure pros should keep an eye on in the months ahead.

(Image: alleachday/Shutterstock)

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5 Hot Enterprise Backup and Recovery Vendors

The backup and recovery market has become a crowded space, with hundreds of vendors vying for market share. At the higher end of the market, the enterprise data center segment, the bar is higher and the result is that just a handful of software vendors command most of the sales.

With most tape drive vendors exiting the market, support of other backup media has become essential to maintaining a vendor’s business. Most initially pushed for hard disk-based backup, but the latest trend is to offer cloud storage solutions as well.

In what had become a somewhat stale and undifferentiated market, both HDD/SSD and cloud opened up new opportunities and something of a “space race” has occurred in the industry over the last few years. Backup and recovery vendors have added compression and deduplication, which can radically reduce the size of a typical backup image. This is important when data is moved to a remote storage site via WAN links, since these have lagged well behind compute horsepower and LAN bandwidth.

Many backup and recovery packages create a backup gateway that stores the backup at LAN speeds and then send it off across the WAN at a more leisurely pace. The benefit is a reduced backup window, though with some risk of data loss if the backup is corrupted prior to completing the move to the remote site.

Today, the target of choice for backup data is the cloud. It’s secure, very scalable and new low-traffic services cost very little to rent. The backup gateway encrypts all data so backups are hack-proof, though not necessarily deletion-proof, which requires action by the cloud service provider to provide storage types with only a well-protected manual deletion path.

Continuous data protection (CDP) is one of the hot backup services today; it manifests as either server-side snapshots or high-frequency polling by backup software for changed objects. Using these approaches reduces the data loss window, though it can hurt performance. SSDs help solve most of the performance issues, but daytime WAN traffic will increase.

Noting that access to backup storage tends to occur within just a few hours of the backup itself, some of the newcomers to the space offer a caching function, where data already moved to the remote site is held in the backup gateway for a couple of days. This speeds recovery of cached files.

With applications such as Salesforce, MS Office and Exchange common in the enterprise, optimizations capabilities to enable backup without disrupting operations are common features among the main players in datacenter backup. Many vendors also now offer backup for virtual machines and their contents and container backup will no doubt become common as well.

There is a school of thought that says that continuous snapshots, with replicas stored in the cloud, solve both backup and disaster recovery requirements, but there are issues with this concept of perpetual storage, not least of which is that a hacker could delete both primary data and the backups. Not paying your cloud invoice on time can do that, too! The idea is attractive, however, since license fees for software mostly disappear.

Readers are likely familiar with “old-guard” established backup and recovery vendors such as Veritas, Commvault, Dell EMC, and IBM. In this slideshow, we look at five of up-and-coming vendors, in alphabetical order, that are driving innovation in enterprise backup and recovery.

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Hot Storage Skills For The Modern Data Center

The world of data storage is evolving faster than dinosaurs after the asteroid struck. Much of the old storage “theology” is on the block as we move to a world of solid-state, software-defined, open source, cloudy appliances and leave RAID arrays behind. That inevitably means that the skills needed to be a successful storage administrator also are changing.

Let’s first look at some timelines. Solid state is already mainstream and 2017 will see a massive jump in usage as 3D NAND hits its stride. With the industry promising 100 TB 2.5 inch SSDs in 2017, even bulk storage is going to change from hard-disk drives. Software-defined storage (SDS) is really just getting started, but if its networking equivalent (SDN) is a guide,  we can expect to see it gain traction quickly.

Open source code, such as Ceph and OpenStack, is already a recognized business alternative. Cloud storage today is mainstream as a storage vehicle for cold data, but still emerging for mission-critical information. This year, we can expect OpenStack hybrid clouds to transition to production operations with the arrival of new management tools and approaches to storage.

Coupled with these storage changes are several transitions under way in servers and networking. The most important is the migration of virtual instances to the container model. Not only do containers impact server efficiency, the ability to manage them and integrate data and network storage resources across the hybrid environment is going to be an in-demand skill in the next-generation data center.

One poorly understood but important issue is how to tune performance in the new environment. We are still getting the wheels to turn in so much of this new stuff, but at some point the realization will hit that a well-tuned data management approach will prevent many of the ills that could arise in performance and security.

In this environment, demand for many traditional storage skills will decline. With cloud backup and archiving rapidly becoming standard, anything to do with traditional backup and tape libraries has to top the list of skills on the way out. Tape has been declared dead regularly for decades, but now the low prices and built-in disaster recovery benefits of the cloud make any tape-based approach impractical.

RAID-based skills are in the same boat. Array sales are dropping off as small Ethernet appliances make for more flexible solutions. In fact, the block-IO model, which struggles to scale, is in decline, replaced by REST and object storage. Skills ranging from building Fibre-Channel SANs to managing LUNs and partitions will be less needed as the decline of the traditional SAN occurs, though IT is conservative and the SAN will fade away, not instantly disappear.

NAS access is in many ways object storage with a different protocol to ask for the objects. While the file model will tend to stick around, just as block-IO will take time to go away, increasingly it will be offered on an object platform, which means that a NAS admin will need to become skilled with object storage approaches.

Continue on to find out what data storage skills will be in demand in the years ahead.

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9 Hot Trends For 2017

Predicting even the near future of storage is a pretty complex issue right now. For anyone who hasn’t noticed, we are in the middle of a storage revolution, with more change in the next year than any time since the RAID array nearly 40 years ago.

Many technology transitions are occurring, both in hardware and software. Some, such as hyperconverged systems, impact the very structure of the server box- networked storage array model we’ve grown used to over the last three decades.

The cloud is reshaping the data center, too, while SSDs are the tipping point in usurping HDD roles. With all of these changes together, storage buyers will get much more for their money, while finding that fewer servers or storage boxes are needed in tomorrow’s data center to get the work done.

With all these changes, storage revenue seems to be dropping, at least by IDC’s numbers, but there are some underlying trends which indicate storage is in fact much healthier, though not necessarily thriving, and that this trend will continue into 2017.

IDC shows 3Q revenues dropping for the storage segment by 3% year-over-year. A deeper dive shows that, while most traditional vendors such as Dell Technologies show drops in the 10% range, the ODM and other categories actually increased by 6 and 8% respectively. This masks the unit growth for these two categories, since they typically use a low-cost model that brings the price of kit into the 50% or less range compared with the typical traditional OEM.

This has been a pattern for the last couple of years and it reflects the “Linux-ization” of storage as COTS and standard drives at internet prices take over the storage base. This trend will accelerate in 2017, reinforced by the rise of software-defined storage and storage service software unbundled from proprietary solutions.

Continue on to find out more about storage trends that are poised to impact the data center next year.

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