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

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Mike: I'm doing a lot of VoIP work, and find the differences between data networking overwhelming at times. Any advice on books to help me better understand the telecom side of things? I would start with a book like this Voice over IP First-Step . It starts with a great description of the public telephone network and then crosses over to show the parallels in VoIP.

PhilB: We have issues with inbound congestion on our Internet connections and we do not have any QoS agreements with our ISP. Any quick ideas about ensuring that some inbound traffic definitely makes it? Well, it depends on what type of traffic you are trying to protect and from where. For example if you are using the Internet for WAN connectivity, it may be possible to use outbound QoS policies at your branch offices that will be fairly preserved across the ISP network. We have had great experience doing VoIP over the Internet for example by having outbound QoS policies only. If it's something else you are trying to prioritize, for example certain types of Internet traffic, that could be more difficult. If you have not already, take a look at this great design guide on QoS.

Moderator-Keith: Pre-submitted question: What could most companies do to better to improve their QoS implementations? Unfortunately, many people still just throw bandwidth at the problem and think that's good enough. My top advice to them is, great, so your network has more bandwidth the next time a worm propagates and your meltdown will happen exponentially faster than the last time. QoS is not just for prioritizing voice traffic. You need to think of QoS as a general protection mechanism. It can protect voice traffic, it can also protect your network using techniques such as worm mitigation control.

DSLguy: Which Cisco Network Certification holds the most weight in today's ever-changing global workplace? Well, CCIE has always been the most prominent. However a couple others are gaining steam including: CCDE - Cisco Certified Design Expert, and either CCSP or CCIE-Security, and CCVP or CCIE-Voice.

Moderator-Keith: Pre-submitted question: I've heard that anomaly detection is a poor way to detect security problems because it is darn near impossible to get a true baseline. The more stuff you baseline, the more "everything" falls within the normal range. If you don't baseline enough, you can't really grasp ok, but not typical, patterns. What are your thoughts on this? This can be problematic. But with attacks taking literally seconds to flood network pipes, it's still one crucial component to understand. You should always have some level of visibility into your network and understand what "normal" looks like, so that you can detect what is not normal. Visibility is key. "Normal" will fluctuate for sure, but what you are looking for are obvious anomalies, such as large traffic spikes from segments of your network that typically are not there.

Mike: With Video and Voice over IP becoming so prevalent do you think QoS is going to move to the forefront or will we still need to just get more bandwidth? Even with VoIP, we learned early that bandwidth isn't the solution by itself. One of the main reasons is that applications use available bandwidth, so more doesn't necessarily protect voice. Also, if you have security threats such as worms and viruses, bandwidth actually makes these propagate faster and have more resources at their disposal. QoS as we know it is about to undergo a fairly dramatic "upgrade" for video. Most current QoS strategies think about video as a singular app, like videoconferencing. The QoS policies of the future must be able to distinguish many forms of video applications and prioritize them accordingly among each other first, and then with the rest of the network.

Mike: As a CCNA should I go with the CCNP track before moving to CCVP? Yes, I would definitely recommend a bit higher level along the networking track before pursuing the voice track.

Moderator-Keith: Pre-submitted question: Application performance management has become something the network has to solve, even though, often times, it is caused by applications that can't deal well with wide-area networks. Is this a reasonable way to solve the problem? Will SOAs make app performance issues eventually disappear? I don't believe SOA's by themselves will address the problem. The real problem is WAN bandwidth is not keeping pace with application bandwidth consumption. Many companies are upgrading bandwidth, and bandwidth is getting cheaper. But it's also important again not to just consider it a bandwidth problem. It's also an application latency issue. One of the key technologies to consider are Wide Area Application Services (WAAS), which brings a suite of application performance tools to the problem, including compression, TCP Flow Optimization, and others. Our customers have seen between 20-50% bandwidth savings, and up to 10 times application speed improvements with WAAS.

Trish: Is IPv4 not sufficient now for IP addressing? Wow, that's a can of worms...LOL. Some people believe and are saying that IPv4 is good enough. Others do not think so. I would personally say that IP addressing is only one small factor in IPv4 vs. IPv6. It is true that there are many, many more IP-enabled devices coming on the network, and there definitely could be more severe address conservation issues. However, there are other aspects of IPv6 that are perhaps even more compelling, such as the improved multicast and "built in" encryption capabilities that will likely make the case for IPv6 eventually.

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