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Expensive (and Scarce) Operational Skill Sets

Skills shortages are not restricted to the supply side of the industry. The growing complexity of networks is pointing to increasingly scarce operational skills. After all the investment has been made and the training courses run, it is up to the network operator to deploy skilled personnel to actually run the network. The skill set required for running networks is increasingly broad and includes knowledge of a wide range of different technologies. These technologies are not restricted to a single layer of the OSI model; they include devices that support the following:

  • ATM

  • FR

  • Gigabit Ethernet

  • Optical technologies such as SONET/SDH, DWDM, cross-connects, and multiplexers

  • Access

  • Transport

  • MPLS

  • IP

  • VPN

  • VoIP

  • SAN and NAS

  • Firewalls, load balancing, servers

Added to this is possibly more than one management system, particularly for complex networks. So, the operator needs to have a reasonable understanding of the various management systems. The types of skills needed by network operators are:

  • Deploying and configuring devices

  • Setting up and enabling routing and signaling protocols

  • Partitioning layer 2 and layer 3 networks

  • Billing and accounting

  • Planning, including capacity planning

  • Performance

  • Provisioning of LSPs, PVCs, and so on

  • Traffic management

  • Backup and restore of NE firmware and configuration databases

  • MIB browsing

  • Trap management

  • Security

  • Modeling what-if scenarios

  • Understanding application trace files and debug facilities

Just as for developers, this is a complex skill set. Vendors can greatly assist network operators by providing high-quality solutions in both the NEs and NMS. Network operators should also try to keep up with new technologies by studying the relevant standards documents.

Multiservice Switches

We have made much mention of the migration towards a packet-based infrastructure and its relevance to enterprise network operators. We have also noted that enterprise networks usually contain much legacy equipment. Enterprise network operators typically want to:

  • Reduce the payback period for new purchases

  • Maintain and expand existing network services

  • Reduce operational costs associated with multiple networks, such as telephony and LAN

MPLS provides a way of filling these needs in conjunction with multiservice switches. These switches allow specified levels of QoS and traffic engineering for the following technologies:

  • ATM

  • FR

  • TDM

  • IP

It is anticipated [MultiserviceSwitch] that these technologies will be deployed on multiservice switches once the relevant standards have been finalized.

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