More education needed to realize the Internet of Everything

The (IoE) is essentially about connections, bringing people, processes, data and things together in unprecedented ways. IoE delivers the right information to the right person (or machine) at the right time, and converts data into intelligence to make better decisions.

Organizations will use the connections made by IoE to transform our work and private lives, creating smarter products and services, more convenience for consumers and new forms of work-life integration. However, in order to capitalize on these connections, organizations will need well-trained staff. Cisco predicts that approximately 220,000 new engineers will be needed globally every year for the next 10 years to keep up with the technological surge of IoE. This is a gap that must be filled if the potential of IoE is to be realized.

Because the network will serve as the hub for the Internet of Everything, it will need to be more secure, agile, context-aware, automated, dynamic and programmable. CareerBuilder projects that five job roles in particular will be in high demand as a result: Cloud architect, cybersecurity analyst, data scientist, mobile application developer and network programmer.

All five roles are good career path choices, both for those still deciding on a major and for workers looking to make their next move. The online career community ITCareerFinder, for example, named mobile application developer as the No.1 “best computer job for the future.”

Here’s a closer look at the five hot categories:

* Cloud Architect. According to a November 2012 IDC report titled “Climate Change: Cloud’s Impact on IT Organizations and Staffing,” demand for cloud-related positions will grow by 26 percent annually through 2015, with as many as 7 million cloud-related jobs available worldwide. However, the report indicates that IT hiring managers were unable to fill 1.7 million cloud positions in 2012 because job seekers lacked the training and certification needed to work in a cloud-enabled world.

* Cybersecurity Analyst. Security will be of particular concern, as the attack surface will increase significantly due to IoE. All these connected devices will generate and exchange substantial volumes of data, as well. The role of the data analyst will therefore be crucial in terms of converting this data into usable information. Getting prepared for IoE will require the existing workforce to be re-skilled and the incoming workforce to be upskilled in order to understand IT networking to a greater degree.

As opposed to other network security roles that focus on “building the castle,” a cybersecurity analyst pays closest attention to “guarding the castle.” Working in a security operations center, the cybersecurity analyst monitors security equipment, recognizes attacks, and responds to security events.

The fact that retailers, banks, healthcare providers, and other organizations reported 167 data breaches in the state of California during 2013 underscores the need for greater security in the IoE era. The 2014 Cisco Annual Security Report predicts a shortage of more than a million security professionals across the globe during the next five years.

A few of the recent data breaches provides a prime example of the necessity for three key skills for the IoE era mentioned above: enterprise networking, cybersecurity and data analysis. In some cases, the weaknesses inherent in IoE enabled a security breach (imagine connected coffee pots, air conditioners, etc. being turned against a business).

The technology exists to connect everything, but unsecured connections can spell disaster. So, IoE requires people with the skills to deploy the infrastructure that connects things, data, people and processes, and build in security simultaneously.

IoE will require IT professionals who understand this connected infrastructure so deeply that they are able to proactively secure it from threats. Cybersecurity analysts will be needed to help determine where threats are coming from, particularly if any breach attempts are successful. These analysts will act as security guards for the network with their specialized skills and insights.

* Data Scientist. IoE is a major contributor to global IP data center traffic, which is already on the order of hundreds of exabytes per month. With all of that data swirling around, the role of the data scientist will be paramount. Data scientists search for patterns in data and analyze data trends, with an eye to learning about user behavior or improving user experience. They also look for potential storage failures or even security threats. As the third annual Cisco Connected World Technology Report indicates, “The data scientist combines creative imagination with IT skills to unlock the power of data.”

The third annual report, which was based on a survey of 1,800 IT professionals in 18 countries, reveals that in this IoE era—with its dramatic increase in new connections—the majority of respondents (73%) saw their big data strategy as needing to include data from digital sensors, meters, cars, video monitors, and smart devices. The survey also indicates that 40% were already using “data in motion,” that is, data in transit—from devices, sensors, video, and monitors—that a data scientist can work with in real time.

* Mobile Application Developer. According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2013-2018, by the end of 2014, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on Earth, and by 2018 there will be nearly 1.4 mobile devices per capita. The ongoing proliferation of mobile devices will continue to make the job role of mobile application developer highly important to IoE.

* Network Programmer. In the IoE world, leveraging programmable networks facilitates a gathering of information that, in turn, enables automation in the configuration of the IT infrastructure. As a result, information can be intelligently applied to infrastructure configuration, allowing the needed scale in the number of devices that can be effectively managed. Programmability helps ensure the correct level of automation, easing the pressure on the IT infrastructure, streamlining the identification and resolution of data bottlenecks, and thereby increasing efficiency.

It is the combination of deep network engineering knowledge and the ability to utilize a programming language such as C, Java, or Python that puts the network programmer in high demand.

Educating to Fill the Gap

The networker’s view and responsibilities are expanding to include many new technologies as well as duties. There are many emerging roles in the future for IoE – business transformation specialists, cloud brokers, network programmers and data scientists. Cyber security becomes more pervasive and networking careers becomes more specialized.

Application developers who are implementing SDN technologies, as well as those at the business application layer, will need a tighter grasp of the new world they operate in. With the convergence of operational technologies and IT on the horizon, engineers will need to become trained in IT and networking. Companies will need to work with industries throughout the world to create the pathway for IT networking skills and talent development.

In addition, students must be prepared 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 that rising talent is well prepared to understand the functioning of the network and its relationship to IoE.

Network training needs to filter down to grade school in order for the next generation to be equipped with critical thinking, complex problem solving, data analysis, and communication and collaboration skills associated with IoE.

Chart of cloud education

As students move to a Bring Your Own Device, ubiquitous access model, their needs and preferences regarding where and when they get training are changing along with what they are learning. Students now prefer mobile, video-based, game-based learning that not only is an evolution of traditional delivery but also helps remove barriers to education. 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.

Cloud education chart

Shifts in technology require us to consider not only how job roles are changing but also how learner preferences are changing and, therefore, how education is delivered. The good news is that the technology with connected devices and collaboration software can help make this happen, since the technology and infrastructure are there to move in this direction.

Harnessing the potential of IoE means a faster path to strategic insights and increased profitability; rapid delivery of differentiated IoE-enabled services and experiences; and security that helps enable IoE business because it’s integrated, open, continuous and pervasive. These create sustainable competitive advantage. In order to reach this goal, though, current and future employees must be properly trained. Organizations, educational institutions and industries must work together to instill the 21st-century skills needed to gather in the full harvest of IoE benefits that will improve all aspects of human life.

Krishnamurthi is a senior product manager of Security and IoT Education Strategy at Cisco Services.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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