Sudarshan Krishnamurthi is a product manager at Cisco Support.
Like many products and services we enjoy today, the Internet’s origins rest within the halls of government.
The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, which laid the technology foundation for how the Internet works, was originally funded by the Defense Department. Just a few decades later, that foundation has been built upon to create an entity only the most visionary thinkers could have imagined: the Internet of Everything.
IoE is an interconnected web of systems that brings together people, processes, data and things. There are currently over 20 billion connected devices, representing less than 1 percent of physical objects. Cisco predicts that by 2020, 50 billion devices will be connected.
IoE’s ubiquity and scale are even now producing data-derived insights that promise gains in productivity, new revenue streams and cost savings.
However, these changes cannot occur without a new breed of trained IT professionals.
1. Analysis is Key
With IoE, the network will play a more crucial role than ever. It will need to be more secure, agile, context-aware, automated, dynamic and programmable. The realms of mobile, cloud, apps, and big data and analytics will all be interconnected in IoE. Security will be of particular concern; with so many devices all connected, the attack surface will increase exponentially, and security breaches could become even costlier.
The amount of data generated by and exchanged among this ever-growing number of devices will require analysis. The role of the data scientist will therefore be crucial in terms of converting this data into usable information.
Government agencies stand to gain dramatically from the improvements in data gathering and streamlined workflows. In short, IoE is about connecting people, process, data, and things; ensuring the connections are secure; and making the network programmable so information gathered from data can be more intelligently applied to devices rather than having to configure and manage them manually.
2. The Network is Expanding
IoE makes important connections that reveal actionable insights, but it also will create significant challenges for the workforce -- in terms of both security and data handling issues and adequate training. Getting prepared for IoE will require the existing workforce -- especially in areas such as manufacturing, safety and security, utilities and transportation -- to understand IT networking to a greater degree.
At the same time, IT networking professionals need to better understand manufacturing-control systems and industrial networks as IoE will cause these operational technologies to converge with IT. And lastly, it will be vital for the current generation of students coming out of college to have the networking skills that will enable them to address this convergence.
The traditional networker’s view is expanding to include many new technologies, and the networker’s responsibilities are expanding to include many new duties. For example, the increase in connected things requires network professionals to maintain a strong security posture across the expanded attack surface.
Also, the ability to analyze big data and turn it into actionable information is needed to drive business outcomes. There are many emerging roles in the future for IoE: business-transformation specialists, cloud brokers, network programmers and data scientists. Cybersecurity becomes more pervasive and the networking career becomes much more specialized.
3. Training is Only Half the Battle
The transition to IoE is not only desirable but inevitable, and the people best suited to lead that transition are those with fundamental networking experience. That is because they are equipped with the knowledge to build the bridge from network infrastructure to the application environment. Agencies will need to work with industries throughout the world to create the pathway for IT networking skills and talent development. Continued efficiency and productivity gains will depend upon it.
Training current IT employees is half of the battle. The other half of the educational battle is to prepare youth from the beginning to understand the network and its underlying connection to everything. It is incumbent on IT companies to work with universities, secondary schools, networking academies and learning partners to develop curricula to ensure rising talent is well prepared to understand the functioning of the network and how it makes IoE work.
Because IoE will eventually affect all government entities, employees of those entities must be properly trained in managing the network as IoE’s basic platform. The evolution is already well under way, and the demand for networking talent is already being felt. Beyond understanding network deployment and operation, those at the forefront of the change will be taking the network in new directions, using 21st-century skills in the process: critical thinking, complex problem solving, data analysis, and communication and collaboration.
4. New Workers Ditch the Traditional
Students’ needs and preferences regarding where and when they will get training are changing, along with what they are learning, because of new bring your own device policies, and ubiquitous access models of education. Students no longer prefer traditional delivery modalities. Instead, they want mobile, video-based, game-based learning that not only is an evolution of traditional delivery but also helps remove barriers to education by making it easy, fun, accessible and effective. A 2013 survey of Cisco-certified professionals revealed a strong preference for hands-on practice labs, simulations, and video-based training. Rather than attending a class on each of these subjects, this core knowledge set will be available in real time on an as-needed basis to aid in decision-making.
It is incumbent upon government agencies to strategically forecast the needs of their constituents and develop plans to best meet those needs. The network demands of IoE require a shift in how the current and future workforces are educated to fill critical gaps. With a properly equipped staff of network professionals, agencies will be able to fully realize the benefits of IoE: faster and more efficient services, greater productivity and cost savings.