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Career Switch to Computer Network and Cloud Computing

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated just how important computer networks and cloud computing is. Not only social networking, virtual meetings and virtual teaching and seminars, but also cloud computing services built around the Internet of Things (IoT) and the deployment of large data collections large data gathering applications together with associated machine learning AI (Artificial Intelligence) initiatives.

Good entry points into careers in this area are provide by studying for Cisco's CCNA and DevNet qualifications.

The CCNA qualification is one of the most widely sought qualifications for those interested in setting up, maintaining and administering computer and computer telephony systems. It used to be made up of several separate components that could be taken separately, but, recently Cisco has consolidated it into one integrated qualification that takes into account the dramatic developments in computer networking in the last decade. It includes not only classical computer networking and TCP/IP but also security, security applications and devices, and, most importantly virtual networks and the basics of network automation.

The DevNet qualification is a very new Cisco qualification that has grown out of the rapid rise in network size and complexity and the need to automate all aspects of networking deployment, configuration, monitoring and management. This is a really interesting qualification because mastering the topics that it is made up of provides a comprehensive and wide ranging professional level introduction to many technologies including;

  • Linux architecture command line tools and utilities and Bash shell programming
  • Python programming
  • Network devices - switches and routers
  • Cloud computing and the deployment of applications in the cloud
  • TCP/IP and TCP/IP applications
  • Application deployment and security
  • Network infrastructure and automation

Over the last decade cloud computing has developed very fast with a whole ecosystem of "Something as a Service" such as the following widely known aaS offerings:

  • SaaS - Software as a Service
  • PaaS - Platform as a Service
  • DaaS - Data as a Service
  • NaaS - Network as a Service

Cloud computing architectures require not only access to considerable Computer Hardware and Computer Network resources, but, also, Virtualisation and Containerisation technologies such as VmWare and Docker, and sophisticated distributed software frameworks. An early and very successful provider of cloud computing services was Amazon with its AWS offering. Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform appeared some years later. An important open source cloud computing platform is OpenStack, developed at NASA.

Other large multinationals such as Google, CISCO and IBM have also entered this arena. There are plenty of career opportunities in this rapidly expanding sector and it is possible to get started without a degree in Maths or Computer Science.

Traditional IT skills are still needed in the cloud. A very high percentage of the machines deployed in the cloud are Linux based. Hence Linux skills such as Linux/Unix command line tools and utilities, Linux system administration and Bash programming are needed, probably, more than ever. Databases running in the cloud require database administrators, database programmers (SQL skills are as vital as ever). This includes both open source databases such as MariaDB and PostgreSQL, and proprietary databases such as Oracle and Microsoft's SQL Server.

Network system administration skills are also in great demand, and so the new unified CISCO CCNA certification is well worth considering as large cloud infrastructures depend critically on well configured networks of switches and routers. Additionally, networking technology now includes virtualised networks and software defined networks (SDNs).

The setting up and control of large cloud infrastructures is ushering in a new era of automation, where automation scripts are developed in shell scripting languages such as Bash, or Microsoft's Powershell, or in a programming language such as Python. CISCO's DevNet technology is an example of their approach to network systems automation. The CISCO DevNet associate certification is one of the new family of network automation qualification certifications, and embraces mastery of Linux command line tools and utilities, Bash shell programming, Powershell programming and Python programming together with mastery of basic networking technologies, security and automation technologies.

One of the other key areas associated with cloud computing is the collection, processing and analysis of very large quantities of data coupled with the use of Machine Learning techniques to explore and mine that data.