by August 2, 2008 0 comments

Whether you’re thinking of getting into networking or have already been a
part of it, you’ll find a bright growth path ahead of you. Starting with network
or system administration, career opportunities can open up in a lot of areas
ranging from security, storage, WAN management, wireless, data center
management, Unified Communications, and many others. Here’s what you need to
know about making it big in this exciting area

Anetwork is the basic foundation of every IT setup. A little glitch in the
network can bring the whole enterprise to a grinding halt. One can’t imagine how
an organization would carry its functioning without being dependent on a
network; from basic intra-office network to connecting to the Internet for
global business. And that’s what’s made it imperative for organizations to have
all-rounders who can take care of various aspects of network management
independently. Even though every organization can’t have a full-time network
administrator of their own, they can outsource network mgmt to a third party.
That’s why it won’t be wrong to say that a network engineer is one of the
primary drivers of an organization’s success. Networking encompasses a range of
technologies and areas of specializations. A network administrator has to have
specialized skills in one of the many domains and technologies of Networking.
They include Wireless, Mobility, Security, Storage, Server Consolidation, MTLS
VPNs, VoIP, Mobile IP and Optimization to name a few. A network professional can
specialize in any of these and shape his career. Network professionals are in
demand not only from enterprises where they are hired for LAN and WAN
administration, but they are also needed by consulting firms to audit and impart
consultating services to organizations for their networking requirements.
Service providers like ISPs and Telecom companies also demand a great number of
networking professionals.

What is required of network professionals?
Ensuring 99% plus uptime for users, delivering a faster ROI for the company,
and better utilization of available resources are just a few of the key
responsibilities of a networking professional. The job has only become more
complex and demanding with the advent of IP-based networks like VoIP and VPNs.
It has also added to the responsibility of balancing technology trends with
business objectives of the enterprise. The IT market changes so fast that what’s
in demand today may become obsolete tomorrow. For instance, the evidence of
changing technology can be seen in wireless security, where Wi-Fi Protected
Access (WPA) overtook Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) in a span of few months.
Thus it’s imperative for networking professionals to keep up with changing
technologies. Also, it becomes necessary to possess some sort of certification
apart from core networking knowledge. Enterprises seek professionals to have
solid understanding of the network techniques, network operating systems, backup
capabilities, as well as a fair understanding of network infrastructure issues
and cabling. Since networking has a diverse range of technology platforms —
Microsoft, Cisco, Unix/Linux, Novell, CA, etc., it becomes important for an
aspirant network professional to choose a platform early on.

Next month we’ll focus on
Careers in Storage. Do write to us at
for any comments or suggestions

Career path
In an enterprise, a professional will typically start his career as a LAN
administrator. Later with some experience he can take responsibilities of a
senior level network manager who will be into planning and designing of LAN,
including wireless and security. After acquiring some years of experience in
planning and designing the network, a professional can take the role of a
consultant as he would have experience in implementing the network setup and
also have knowledge of technologies and hardware requirements. But to grow,
he’ll have to enhance his skill set beyond the knowledge of LAN configuration
and administration, and look ahead to technologies that are part of networking.
A few of the specialized streams of networking domains, where network
professionals are in demand, include Storage, Security, WAN, Virtualization /
Consolidation, Wireless and Mobility. The networking domain has a plethora of
job titles, many of which refer to very similar and at times identical job
roles, like Network Engineer, Network Administrator, Network Analyst, Systems
Administrator, etc. Now with specializations coming into picture, new job titles
that are coming up in the enterprises include Security Analyst for network
security, Network Storage Administrator for storage management and Wireless
Network Engineer for a Wi-Fi consulting agency. Let’s have a look at various
specialized domains where a network professional can build his career.

New areas
Professionals can choose from either IT or Telecom to shape their careers.
Within telecom they bet on technologies like MPLS VPN, VoIP and wireless
technologies as these are the fields where networking professionals are in
demand. In IT, a networking professional can become a specialist in Security,
Storage, Server Consolidation, WAN Management, etc. Some hot areas where a
networking professional should try to improve his expertise in are:

Unified Communications: Convergence is touted as the mantra for future
communication. Various forms of communication are being unified to provide a
common platform that can be accessed or controlled by an array of devices
ranging from a desktop to a mobile device such as a cell phone or a palm top.
Voice over IP (VoIP) is one of the pioneering technologies in this field and
also gaining a lot of mileage these days. A professional who forays into UC
needs to have a thorough knowledge of an enterprise’s Call Manager, IP network
deployments, and configuration and deployment of UC solutions. There are
certification exams from Cisco for networking professionals that leads to an
enhanced skillset.

We interviewed Ram Kumar to
find out hot career opportunities for pros in networking. Here are excerpts
from the interview.

Ram Kumar, Executive Director,
Gemini Communication Ltd.

What is your advice for a beginner in
networking domain and what are the lucrative areas?
Networking domain is very wide and involves core networking technologies
and other network related fields. When we look into core networking
technologies, certifications in Cisco (Data), Nortel (Date/Voice) with
specialization in optimization will be helpful for beginners. After few
years of experience, they can enhance their skill set by specializing in
areas of Security, Storage, Virtualization & also in Wireless technologies.
In telecom, MPLS VPN, IP based voice, Wireless would be in demand.

How can a network professional build a
career as a Network Security Manager/Analyst?
Security focus is shifting from desktop to servers or Internet gateway
security. The sophistication of security appliances has increased. They are
viewed as a complex black box. The capabilities of a security appliance for
a given security requirement need special understanding of the problem. A
security analyst is expected to understand security signatures of various
appliances, with capabilities and operating protocols, including zero-day
security issues. The recent migration towards Wi-Fi, WiMesh and WiMax, SCADA
initiatives have opened up new avenues for networking professional. The
fixed/portable broadband wireless equipment market (sub-11GHz) has grown
from a $430 million market to $562 million. It is predicted that, the fixed
Broadband wireless market will pass the $ 2 billion mark by 2010. Networking
and the security professionals are expected to handle these requirements.
Thus there is a career path available for such professionals since the
threat landscape is dynamic and new security appliances are emerging.

What areas or domains of networking will
be the hot-spots and what would be the future demands for such networking
WAN traffic management, traffic engineering, WAN and LAN security, Wi-Fi,
WiMesh and WiMax security, Wireless BOTs identification and management,
Patch management, Risk and threat mapping, Threat mitigation, Business
continuity planning, disaster recovery, etc. are some of the hotspots where
professionals will be of high demand.

Wireless technologies: The wireless domain encompasses technologies
that are coming up in the mobile telecom arena as well as technologies
pertaining to satellite communication, VSATs, RF, Microwave, etc. A professional
can look forward to expertise in niche areas such as VSAT or Microwave as career
options. WiMax and 4G are other new technologies that are coming up in the
cellular space. A professional with interest in telecom and communications can
choose to be a wireless expert or a Wi-Fi consultant by gaining knowledge on the
latest wireless technologies. Another hot technology today is Radio Frequency
Identification (RFID). It’s a complex networking model of tagging, tracking and
identification of objects based on the attached RF chips. RFID finds massive
usage in industries such as logistics, retail, manufacturing and warehousing.

Networking is perhaps the only
career that opens you up to such a large number of areas

Security: A network professional who has honed his skills in intrusion
detection systems and firewall maintenance, can look forward to becoming a
security expert. A security analyst reviews the abilities of a security
appliance and operating protocols that will be used. Security is not just about
wired networks but also entails the complete wireless network as well as the
communication mediums like secured VoIP systems. With more and more security
appliances coming up to meet the ever increasing threats, a career in Security
is the need of the hour.

Storage: Storage professionals take care of daily storage tasks such
as provisioning, storage connectivity, storage allocation, problem solving and
change management in the storage infrastructure. They are involved in planning
and designing of the best storage facilities and also need to have the ability
to solve problems pertaining to servers, storage area networks and associated

WAN: A networking professional with good knowledge in routers,
switches, firewalls, VoIP, VPNs, etc and with relevant certifications, can foray
in this field. That’s not all, there’s WAN optimization that’s growing into a
completely new domain and involves efficient utilization of WAN bandwidth by
compression, load balancing, caching, etc. WAN acceleration too is a hot trend
to boot. The knowledge of products from Cisco, Radware, Juniper, Citrix,
Riverbed etc. will only add to feathers to a network professional’s credentials
to be a WAN specialist.

A valid certificate from a particular vendor acts as a value-add to all the
on-job experience a network professional gains. Certifications for core
networking include Microsoft’s MCSA/MCSE/MCP, Cisco’s CCNA and CCDA, Novell’s
CAN/CNE, and specialty certificates for storage, security and VoIP. Also there
are OS-specific certifications for professionals who would be working on
Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. Certifications only authenticate your skill. So,
excessive certification don’t guarantee a successful career. A network
professional needs to choose certifications at the right stages to boost his
career and also match his experience level. For a beginner it makes more sense
to gain some experience before going for advanced level certification such as
Microsoft’s MCSE or Cisco Certified Security Professional. Within the diverse
networking domain, the growth prospects for a networking professional are very
high. Enterprises increasingly seek specialists for their high-end technology
solutions and network professionals can secure their future with the right
choice of specialization and certifications to compliment their core networking
skills. The table on the next page shows the various certifications available
from different vendors.

Certifications for Networking Pros

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