With the constant push towards a software defined world, a question I get asked a lot is what do engineers need to focus on understanding and being skilled at in the current jobs and business market.

For a long time the network engineer was all that was required, and developers stayed within the boundaries of application development. But SDN (software defined networks) means the ability to code and program is now required, so network engineers are no longer needed right ? I would suggest the answer is no ! Let’s see how Cisco has handled this recently, being one of the biggest network engineering development houses in the world (yes I’m thinking about my CCIE and its modern value !) with a review of the Cisco Live 2019 Melbourne session on Lessons Learnt from SDx.

At the start of 2017, Cisco decided to make a change. They had a stack of great network engineers, and were really starting to bring in large teams of software engineers as program-ability and SDN was really becoming key in the market.

They asked themselves – what do we need of the network engineers in the team ? This slide shows the different components that they come up with to define what a modern engineer needs to have skills across (its a big list!)

This is a good list of skills to have, and highlights the drive to the SDN world and away from hardware and CLI based networking.

Now Cisco needed to work out how to bring both software and network engineers together into the same SDx engineer. How?

  • For the software engineers – give them network engineer training.
  • For the network engineers – give them software training.

Easy right ? Sounds simple… Here’s the process they then embarked upon:

And from all reports, this engineering change over the last 2 years is now working well across many parts of the Cisco business. All future engineers who join Cisco will be expected to join as SDx engineers, rather than software or hardware only roles.

One of the interesting requirements for the existing engineers training – was that any time they work on an environment with more than 3 routers – they are required to use automation and programming to configure them. Its a great training method ! Force people to have no other way to achieve the result, and it will drive them to learn whats needed.

So Cisco has chosen this path towards SDN, and I know of other large corporate’s that are also heavily moving this way, with in reality it being the best way to future proof engineers and make sure that the exiting tech and new tech can be combined and designed/build/supported within the same teams.

So, anyone up for a python crash course ?

This topic was presented at Cisco Live! Melbourne 2019, as:

Transforming Infrastructure to SDx (ITMGEN-2132)

The future of engineering – network engineers or software engineers ? Cisco SDx
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