I started down the fancy Christmas lights path last year after seeing a 12-string CCR tree based-on LOR (light-o-rama) that this guy made:
LOR Technology is pretty simple and your IT knowledge will translate pretty well to get it setup. The gist is you're using a LOR network protocol over RS-485 (long-range serial) that itself is using CAT5/6 cable to work. This network needs a control node that's either a hardware device or (like most people) a computer running the LOR software package, both of which can work with an audio component.
The neat part about starting here is that there's translation hardware between LOR and the more widely used DMX protocol when you're ready to step-up to fancier shows. DMX gears tends to be cheaper because there's more of it (and more things you can control), but it'll also need a fair bit of comfort with stuff you can start-off learning by point-and-click in LOR. I've been playing with some DMX stuff this year that'll be in the show for December 2015, but didn't have the time to get it perfect on this go.
One thing to keep in mind: more fancy = more bandwidth. Single flashing strands don't use much traffic, but when you start looking at 150 LED strands where each pixel has RGB+intensity I'd recommend against going wireless.
Happy learning, and post a video!