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Networking pros: Justify your worth or risk elimination

Network professionals need to expand their skills in 2003 are prove their worth to avoid joining the ranks of the unemployed, according to the year-ahead forecast of site editor Susan Fogarty.

As the winter bears down on us, we turn our thoughts toward the year to come. Will 2003 bring threatening skies and cruel temperatures for the networking industry, or can we hope for a warming trend, with a few rays of sun peeking through? Tune in to our forecast to see what the prevailing winds are bringing your way.

Major flurries of activity expected on the wireless front

We've pooh-poohed wireless in the past, but this year the technology will be hotter than El Nino. It's not for every business, but for certain applications, like sales force data access and inventory management, wireless can't be beat. And it's gaining in deployments despite immature, conflicting standards and frightening loopholes in security. Watch for the IEEE and Wi-Fi Alliance to tackle these problems with a vengeance this year. In the long-haul wireless arena, keep tabs on Cometa, the recently announced brainchild of IBM, AT&T and Intel to shake things up as it pursues a nationwide wireless network.

Voice over IP weathers the storm

Turbulence in the market has helped VoIP -- with its promise of consolidation and cost savings -- gain a foothold. Look for vendors to standardize on Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), leading to interoperability and lowered equipment prices. Up-and-coming players will be ISPs that package Internet access with voice, fax and messaging capabilities for small businesses at a flat monthly fee.

IP storage blows onto the scene

Storage will continue its advance into the networking space as it moves inevitably toward IP. Emerging Fibre-Channel-over-IP and iSCSI products will make storage area networks easier to manage and negate the need for specialized staff. Expect enterprise storage to become part of your job as multiprotocol approaches take hold.

Networking pros face a high-pressure area with slippery conditions

We're now in the third year of the landslide affecting the IT job market, and the outlook remains gloomy. Robert Half Technology estimates that the starting salary barometer for LAN administrators will drop 3.5%, and competition for all positions will be fierce. Even if you think your job is safe, it would behoove you to take the initiative to expand your skills to keep your feet squarely planted in your chosen field. You may also have to assume additional responsibilities and be able to justify your network -- and your own job -- to the business' bottom line, more than ever before.


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