The five hottest skills for your networking career

Cisco expert discusses skills, certs, QoS, VoIP, IP video and more

Cisco's Neil Anderson, enterprise network expert and author was recently interviewed. In this transcript, he answers questions about the hottest skills, the impact of voice and video on the network and the Internet, how QoS technologies will evolve, stomping out worms and tips for passing your next Cisco cert.

What do you consider to be the latest career trends in networking?

Networking used to be much more about moving bits, traditional routing and switching. Today and in the future the two challenging trends I see for networking professionals are: technology breadth and applications. Networkers need to understand security, mobility, unified communications, as well as how the network adds value to applications like Oracle and SAP.

What are the five top hottest Cisco skills to learn today to stay ahead of the curve in a networking career? Is it VOIP, IPV6...

I would say the absolute top five are: security, mobility, unified communications/VoIP, video over IP, and application acceleration.

Why do you say video is among the top five networking skills we need to know to stay ahead of the curve?

Video over IP will probably have by far the largest impact to networks in the next few years. A study we just completed even surprised us at Cisco that in 2007 video traffic on the Internet eclipsed the entire amount of Internet traffic in 2000. Our studies on our own corporate network indicate that video is already up to 40-50 per cent of network traffic. Video applications will increase exponentially as collaboration increases in the next "wave of productivity." This is why I say it's essential to understand. It's not just videoconferencing on the network, it's many video apps: conferencing to the desktop, telepresence, IP video surveillance, streaming broadcast, digital signage, and on and on. It's just beginning.

Neil, in your top five Cisco skills you don't make any mention of wireless technology, my company is very high on wireless as a way of saving money (i.e., don't spend on running wire everywhere), would you consider wireless technology in the top six?

I think wireless is a core technology everyone should have. The question was more geared towards the next set of technologies. I believe wireless needs to be a default part of basic networking....its's's prevalent....and it's a fairly known quantity. The "next waves" to get on top of are really the five I mentioned previously.

A follow-up to my previous question is what is the best method to acquire those skills if your current employer is not using any of the Top 5 Cisco skills in their network deployment -- i.e. local/ state governments strapped for cash?

Very good question. So there is always the book learning route. There are plenty of books out there. Another good source is join forums and discussion groups. You can learn a ton by seeing what the relevant issues people are discussing are about. I would also watch for Cisco seminars in your city. We regularly do kind of "mini networkers" days in many cities where we give free training just to get interest in particular technologies like security and wireless. Finally, I would say acquire whatever used or available gear you can creatively acquire and play with it. Learn anyway you can. Finally, go to the Web site. There is a TON of information you can learn. Start here at this Web site where we compile design guides on every technology.

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