3 Major Tech Trends Impacting the Role of Network Administrator

Students currently pursuing diplomas in network administration are entering a field that is rapidly evolving in the wake of several powerful technology trends.

Graduates must be ready to apply and adapt what they've learned in training, while continuously expanding their knowledge to accommodate new technologies that directly impact the way networks are configured, maintained, and protected.

Here are three tech trends that are changing the nature and scope of networking, and shaking up the traditional role of the network administrator.


Internet of Things (IoT)

Imagine managing an enterprise network that must accommodate a virtually limitless number of connected "things." Consider the growing number of industrial and personal connected devices, such as smart phones, smart watches, and other wearables—plus sensors and monitors used to track shipped goods, productivity, appliances and machinery, security systems, and much more.

A recent report by IDC estimates that by 2018, there will be 22 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices installed, driving the development of over 200,000 new IoT apps and services. Just think about how much data all of these devices will produce!

As the IoT grows, so will the responsibility of network administrators to manage and monitor the resultant explosion of data on enterprise networks. Some experts are predicting that the IoT will generate an almost incomprehensible 400 zettabytes of data per year by 2018 (a zettabyte is equal to a trillion gigabytes).

Network admins will face a number of challenges related to the IoT, such as:

  • adapting monitoring protocols to include more devices and servers
  • preparing for additional traffic
  • dealing with IoT devices with software written in unfamiliar languages, and which produce data in uncommon formats
  • dealing with Things that are designed for individual consumers, and don't integrate well with enterprise networks (or are simply poorly designed)
  • demand for new security and back-up strategies that will accommodate IoT devices that produce unprecedented volumes of data


Hybrid Cloud & the Emerging Role of "Cloud Administrator"

The term "hybrid cloud" refers to the combination of on-premises, private cloud services and third-party cloud services. Both clouds remain separate, but will have one or more touch points in common.

Many enterprises are adopting the hybrid model to overcome security issues, reduce infrastructure costs, improve anywhere/anytime access for critical applications, etc. But, transitioning from a traditional IT environment to a hybrid solution presents serious challenges to network admins—and these challenges vary depending on the type of organization you're working for (start-up, small-to-medium size enterprise, enterprise in a highly regulated field, etc.)

As you tackle the emerging role of "cloud administrator", some of the concerns you'll face include:

  • ensuring web services are properly connected to in-house operations (integration will take time and require testing and customization)
  • figuring out how much CPU, disk, and memory resources are needed to manage the hybrid cloud environment
  • ensuring the cloud service meets compliance standards for handling sensitive data (if you're working in a regulated industry)
  • ensuring data is secured and that access is effectively controlled
  • designing the network around the hybrid cloud (deciding which applications will live in the cloud, considering bandwidth usage, bottlenecks, etc.)


Adaptive Security Architecture

When leading IT researcher, Garnter, released their top 10 list of strategic technology trends last year, there was a strong emphasis on the exploding number of devices, endpoints, and data-sources enterprises must now accommodate in their networks—and protect.

And when it comes to network security, the complexities of digital business, and the growing hacker industry, Gartner warns that traditional cyber-security measures won't be enough (such as antivirus software, IDS/IPS and firewalls).

Gartner declares that "relying on perimeter defense and rule-based security is inadequate, especially as organizations exploit more cloud-based services and open APIs for customers and partners to integrate with their systems."

Instead, they say IT leaders and network administrators must add adaptive strategies to their traditional arsenal of cyber-security tools. What does this entail?

Gartner refers to tools like "application self-protection" and "user and entity behavior analytics" as ideal methods of predicting, blocking, detecting, and responding to attacks. They call for continuous, comprehensive monitoring, where results are constantly being analyzed for any indication of security breach.

Quite a tall order for the network admin! Especially since there is no single product that can provide this kind of complete security solution, which means integrating products from different vendors.

Nonetheless, Garnter (and others) predict that the adaptive approach will save time, effort, and money in the end, by helping administrators better predict and respond to threats, before attacks lead to data loss or damage.


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