Network managers: master project management to get better salaries
Network technicians will need to learn project management skills if corporate rollouts of wider and more advanced networks are to be successful, according to attendees at the Cisco Networkers 2008 this week.
IT managers currently involved with deploying wireless local area networks, combined voice and data and unified communications said networks had become the focus for delivering business services and demonstrating budgeting and scheduling skills were essential to be seen as valuable by management.
Martin Godfery, network and telephony manager at the University of Plymouth, is in the process of deploying a converged data, voice and video network for 30,000 students and 3,000 staff.
He said forecasting the amount of bandwidth the business will use in five years time, as new applications are deployed on the network, would be a key skill to learn to ensure right investment in network hardware was made today.
“Management will give IT a fixed budget to last over a period of time. But network managers need to be able forecast how introducing new applications could change bandwidth requirements,” he said.
Godfery said managers needed to be able to draft budget proposals which made this clear, so that if the business case changed, funds could be allocated. He said that deploying network services such as wireless was needed to ensure the University stayed current in attracting students and more applications would be deployed in the future.
Raymond Mohr, director of IT at Balfour Beatty’s rail division in Germany, said that network managers should train in scheduling work if they are involved in larger and ad-hoc rollouts.
He said he regularly needs to set up reliable wireless networks for construction and repair teams quickly, so being able to draft and plan schedules was skill network managers needed to master.
“They also need to master contingency planning if there are delays to projects or if the business needs a network deployed at short notice. If they can demonstrate this kind of planning to the business then they will be able to get higher salaries” he said.
According to Yankee Group, an IT research analyst company, network design experts are no longer involved in hands-on configuration, but rather in strategic design and architecture. Mastering project management and business skills will become essential as they come under the management spotlight.
“Networks are strategic and the role of a network designer is becoming much more important,” said Yankee Group research analyst Zeus Kerravala. “People who take on design roles impact the strategy of their organisations.”
Cisco, Tesco and next generation networks
Cisco will embed standards based software that delivers advanced voice and video communication features within its network hardware as it predicts demand for advanced network services in business will rise. The company is already in talks with Tesco about deploying a next generation network.
Chris Dedicot, President of Cisco Europe, said at keynote speech in Barcelona today that next generation networks – networks which can handle a mixture of data, fixed and mobile voice and video across a single infrastructure – will become a standard requirement of businesses within the next five years.
An example of a next generation network could be a wireless network in a hotel that detects a customer’s mobile phone and assigns a key code to the guest’s handset to open a room door. Dedicot said that Cisco was in talks with Tesco to deliver a next generation network throughout its business to enhance its operations.
Dedicot outlined that Tesco was looking to offer enhanced inter-staff communications, training and CCTV store monitoring using a next generation network.
“Traditionally, IT was there to support the business strategy. The reality today is that IT is creating new business models. Advanced video services and the ability to collaborate is central to this,” said Dedicot.
Forrester analyst Christopher Mines said that Cisco will push its collaboration software as voice and video services are more visible – and therefore, more valued – by the business than a piece of hardware like a router or a switch could be.
“However, in these software-dominated arenas, it will face much stronger competition than the “seven dwarfs” of the network business,” he said. Businesses thinking of buying into a single hardware and software technology stack from Cisco should try and negotiate discounts because of the strong competition in the market for collaboration software.
Cisco told business users at its Networkers 2008 conference that it will release more network management hardware and software under its Data Centre 3.0 product suite to speed the delivery of enterprise software applications.
Analysts said the release of these tools aim to strengthen Cisco’s hold in data centres by providing the underlying network infrastructure, in addition to providing standards based applications such as videoconferencing, voice communications and collaboration to run over the network.
Cisco announced several new optimisation products at the conference in Barcelona today. These included the Cisco ACE 4710 appliance, which allocates the computing power of virtual servers to run specific applications faster; and Cisco WAAS mobile software, which provides application acceleration for mobile workers.
Ram Velga, senior director of data centres for Cisco, said deciding how to make the best use of bandwidth when applications needed more processing power was the main challenge for network managers in the data centre.
“The ongoing trend of consolidation – people pulling more network applications into a tighter space – and the ongoing trend to virtualise servers and storage increases the bandwidth required and changes the addressing schemes network managers must have in place to make sure their applications run,” he said.
Cisco is slowly becoming a software company. Why is that?
The network is changing; it is not a means of shipping data anymore. It is more like a central pool of shared services – in other words, a mainframe. People I’ve spoken to here at the event say that network software, rather than desktop software, is where things are headed.
Cisco has already sewn up the hardware end of network infrastructure, but it needs to get a foothold in network services like video conferencing – why else did it buy Webex?
Services like video conferencing, voice communications and collaboration are sexy, and most of all, visible to the people that matter. A router or a switch, not matter how well designed, is not visible to the boardroom. The contribution of hardware to a business’s bottom line can be marginalised and Cisco is looking to raise its profile through software.
But while Cisco has been the dominant player in network infrastructure, it is fairly new to software, unlike IBM and Microsoft.
The key question here is: will Cisco’s software be up to scratch for enterprise customers to take seriously and if it isn’t, how well will its hardware integrate with its competitor’s software?
Are the days of misleading broadband claims and bad service finally coming to an end?
Not according to our readers. Here’s what one had to say:
The prime minister, Gordon Brown, has hired ex-Ofcom chief Stephen Carter as chief of strategy and principal advisor.
Broadband is rising up the political agenda and you can help with a bit of direct action.
Oh dear. Why is it so hard to make sure people get the broadband speeds they pay for?
Dozens of Computer Weekly readers have written to say how their connection speeds never reach the holy grail of the advertised “up to 8 mbps” figure and yet operators are allowed to continue charging and advertising against illusory headline rates.