The five hottest skills for your networking career

Neil Anderson, enterprise network expert and author, addresses career and technical questions in a live chat transcript

Cisco's Neil Anderson, an enterprise network expert and author, was a recent guest for a live Network World chat. 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.

Moderator-Julie: Welcome and thank you for coming. Our guest today is Neil Anderson, co-author of the best selling book, Cisco Networking Simplified. When not writing books, he is the Director of Enterprise Systems Engineering with Cisco Systems. Hello, happy to be here!

PhilB: 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.

Cliff Samuels Jr: 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.

PhilB: 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% 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.

Harry 20K: 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.

Cliff Samuels Jr: 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 like on Network World. 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.

Moderator-Keith: Pre-submitted question: Hi Neil, I have been maintaining LANs since 1999. I have never sat for any certification exams. Which is the best and quickest way for me to prepare for and earn a CNA certification? Many thanks. Abraham There are quite a few online tutorials and experience from previous test takers, including practice tests. I would also highly recommend this excellent book co-authored by my co-author Jim Doherty: CCNA Flash Cards and Exam Practice Pack.

TomSmall: Do you think that SIP is going to be replaced by something else for use with VoIP? If so what do you think is most likely to replace it? I would say that SIP adoption hasn't hit its peak yet and probably has a ways to go. As far as a replacement, I could foresee the need for something that is more media ready. Future applications will contain multiple media streams coming in and out of a session. I could foresee something eventually replacing SIP that can handle such collaborative media sessions.

Moderator-Keith: Pre-submitted question: Hi, I viewed the Cisco CCNA TV on VLANs, great video! After watching/reading, I have a simple question -- why would someone not turn on VLAN pruning as a matter of practice? Good question. I don't have a lot of experience with VLAN pruning and I cannot say it has come up frequently with the customers I speak with regularly. However, I do recall that pruning can be a bit troublesome. Sometimes one network component expects the VLAN to be there and perhaps VLANs are mapped to it, and if its pruned somewhere there is obviously an issue. I can't answer this completely, but if you provide some contact information I would be happy to discuss further with some of the Cisco switching experts and get back to you with a more complete answer.

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