I spent most of last week at Cisco Live. This is a large and well-known technology conference. While attending the keynote sessions, I kept wondering how many people take the time to future-proof themselves. I know we all have a lot of work just educating ourselves on the technology of today. However, I have to think that there are career advantages for those who attempt to look into the future and spend time preparing for technology trends.
This article demonstrates a method for looking at trends and determining relevant skills. Becoming familiar with the skills required in the future will prove valuable to your career. To expand on this process, we will look at several thoughts that were derived from trends discussed at Cisco Live. We will look slightly deeper than what was stated during the keynotes and identify important areas of interest for those in technology.
Topics from Cisco Live
Overall, there were three overarching thoughts or trends that I took away from Cisco Live. These are based on a lot of buzz created around the main theme at Cisco Live, Tomorrow Starts Now. By educating oneself on these trends, those in technology can determine skills that will likely be beneficial to them in the future. Let’s take a look at some of the trends that were mentioned at Cisco Live.
- Internet of Everything–a hyper-connected future where discreet devices communicate with other devices
- Datacenter–Challenges resulting in pooled storage, compute and virtualization use cases
- Flat Budgets–requiring technology groups to do more with less
When I look at those three trends, I have to ask myself, “What are some of the things an individual can do to prepare themselves to meet the challenges?” This is a question that everyone can ask in an attempt to prepare for their future. From that question alone, I quickly focused in on the following three technologies:
- SDN Technologies
So how did I go from trend (or buzz) to specific technology? As we are about to see, it’s actually not that complicated. We simply need to think about the technology that will enable these trends. First and foremost, I think the validity of what has been stated should be considered. Cisco stated that 1% of the devices that will be networked are connected today. That leaves 99% as potential growth. While I don’t believe we will network 99 times what is currently networked, even 2 or 3 times would be incredibly significant.
If the trend seems feasible (or as in this case least partially feasible), the next step is to think about what technologies it will require. Applying this thought to the announcements at Cisco Live, we can demonstrate the process of determining what technologies may be relevant. One trend Cisco discussed was the Internet of Everything. When talking about the Internet of Everything, Cisco described a hyper-connected future where many discreet devices will communicate in a way that is well beyond today’s scale of connectivity.
Those subscribing to this notion might find the following is a good question to ask–“What technologies are required to provide connectivity everywhere to many new types of devices?” The first thing that comes to my mind is addressing and connectivity. Any significant growth of unique applications requiring end-to-end connectivity would most certainly require the industry to start adopting IPv6.
The next thing that comes to my mind is wireless. With the expectation that many devices in the future will be mobile or simply cost prohibitive to cable, wireless will be deployed much more pervasively. Even though wireless is fairly well understood now, the demand for these skills will continue to increase as more devices need to inter-operate.
If we look at the remaining two areas of discussion, we realize the magnitude of the challenges created by Datacenter virtualization and budget constraints. Research into these challenges result in a deluge of information about Software Defined Networking (SDN), Openflow and some other interesting approaches to the constant reconfiguration of today’s complex datacenter networks. Everything covered in the Software Defined Networking umbrella is meant to help provide a holistic management ecosystem to the network. Consequently, these techniques should allow technology groups be more effient.
Simply looking at the needs of current organizations and the direction that the industry is going, provides several ideas on ways to get a head start on the future. Becoming familiar with technologies like IPv6 and SDN can allow an individual to set themselves apart in the future. While these trends will most likely not land exactly where anyone predicts, preparing in those areas would undoubtedly be beneficial for engineers and architects working in roles that are likely to trend this way.
The final thing that should be realized is that a particular trend or technology is not for everyone. Maybe an individual has no interest or the knowledge gap is too great. While IPv6, SDN and Wireless may be in high-demand in the future, everyone doesn’t need to specialize in those areas. This is where I would encourage individuals to follow the trends that are of interest to them. There are many ways to do this including following blogs, vendor announcements, and technology forums. Regardless of focus area or primary interests, there are a myriad of good resources to help stay current.
High-tech jobs are in continual flux. Staying current is probably more challenging than in any other field. By spending the time to understand the market directions and trends, those in technology can have a more accurate view of where they need to focus their continued education efforts. Furthermore, those looking to make minor or major career changes may attempt to meet the market demand with the appropriate skills. While predicting future technology will never be an exact science, it is much better to understand trends than to only focus on what is here today.