The vastness of the internet is reshaping the role of network engineers. When the internet was still in its infancy during the mid 90s, network engineers were the people who connected the world to itself. They knew what cabling to use and how far the signal could go. They knew how to configure a network card in order for any operating system to access the Web. Now? Network engineers have to know networks, security, storage, software, and more. They’ve been reshaped from a specialized field to a jack-of-alltrades, as it were, and that could affect the future of networking.
As a result of this broadened definition of a network engineer, they have to take extra time to learn all of these other aspects of networking, such as security and software, and can no longer can gain as advanced of a knowledge in a single area, such as the network infrastructure itself. So many things have changed this model of the network engineer: the cloud, web connected appliances and vehicles, and many, many more.
This doesn’t really weaken their role, though. Network engineers are still important, but they have become more of an IT “generalist.” They must know the ins and outs of how different pieces of hardware interact with each other over a network and how to make that network safe and secure from intrusion. It’s no longer only about getting the best cables for the strongest signal. There is still a high level of complexity in that regard, according to Keith Barker, who is an instructor and consultant at CBT Nuggets. “[At] huge companies like Google or AT&T, having a career as a fulltime network engineer, in the classical sense, is absolutely possible,” he says.
When it comes to smaller firms, they have the knowledge to build a reliable network, but they also have the knowledge and expertise to safeguard it from hackers, build website functionality (which could include writing code), and be able to troubleshoot issues in regards to various operating systems. Now, especially with cloud computing, there has to be a good network that allows communication between several machines that could be across the country or even the world. This communication has to be fast and reliable; the machines need to be able to properly send and receive instructions without causing issues. That can be a daunting task, but today’s modern network engineer is up to it.