I have been in the networking and network programmability world for more than three decades and every year as the year changes people talk about the demise of some portion of the networking industry or the changing of the guard in network operations. This can be a little scary; especially if your position is in the bullseye of the changes.
Over the past few years, I have noticed a trend that is now coming to a head. That trend – yesterday’s network engineers have to become tomorrow’s network programmers. This isn’t a major shift, to be honest, but something that has been emerging and evolving for several years.
As just one example, over the past few years, I have seen more and more engineers filling up sessions at Cisco Live! to learn how to use Python to automate network management. It still amazes me how packed to overflowing these sessions are with every kind of networking professional. I don’t think this is writing on the wall kind of thing; it’s evolve or die. Instead, these network engineers are seeing the need for programming capabilities as an important addition to their toolkit of skills. They know that the network is a living and breathing automation machine and they have to plug into that to continue to help drive business objectives. The network engineer needs to become a network programmer.
Another example of the evolution of network engineers is Cisco’s DevNet Certifications, what was once a standalone certification has grown to include elements like service provisioning and automation driven by network programmability.
With more skills comes better innovation and advancements in helping to drive next-generation networks. Also, learning these skills will help with upward career momentum.
Long gone are the days when professionals just needed to know the CLI to do things. Automation is driving most of this today, so much so that engineers need to know programming from basic scripting to full-blown languages. CLI scripting is not programming. You have heard me say it over and over again: to truly be able to automate you need to tie everything you do to NETCONF and YANG.
Without a doubt the network is growing faster, the amount one could do with yesterday’s methods won’t cut it tomorrow. The complexity is growing faster and each person in the network has to do more. The only way to scale up and do more with the same number of people is to automate using network programmability. The best way to achieve network programmability is, yep you guessed it, learn how to program.
By learning these new programming capabilities, network engineers will have the skills organizations want to pay top dollar for. By staying relevant in this fast-paced world they will quickly become the point person in helping solve major networking challenges. The network engineer will have become the network programmer.