Will SDN Make Me Homeless?

An Interop New York panel tackled the anxieties -- and opportunities -- that SDN and network virtualization present to network engineers, architects and administrators.

Andrew Conry-Murray

October 25, 2013

3 Min Read
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Software-defined networking and network virtualization won't just have repercussions for the data center network, but for the professionals that build and manage those networks. Will SDN create new opportunities for network engineers? Will it sideline some workers? Will it make traditional skill sets less valuable? What's the future going to look like for a network engineer?

Interop New York hosted a panel session to address the impact of SDN on network professionals. The session's title -- "Will SDN Make Me Homeless?" -- was a tongue-in-cheek exaggeration of the anxiety that this new technology sometimes causes.

The hour-long session ranged over a host of issues, including how SDN will require more cooperation across IT silos, whether network virtualization will tilt the balance of power toward the server team, and what network professionals need to do to take ownership of SDN, including developing new skills.

The panel was moderated by Eric Hanselman of 451 Research, and included Brent Salisbury, Greg Ferro, Michele Chubirka and Ethan Banks. Here are highlights of the panelists' commentary, and an excerpt of a video recording of the session.

[Some argue that SDN will drive down the cost of network gear. Greg Ferro says it's a bit more complicated in "SDN Doesn't Mean Cheaper Networking."]

Ethan Banks remarked on how SDN will compel disparate IT teams to work more closely together--and that's a good thing. He spoke of his own experience of working with a server expert on a blade server project.

"The time that we spent to hammer out all the details, to learn each other's lingo, how we think about the problem, what redundancy meant for him vs. what it meant for me, and to finally come to an understanding, was incredibly productive. But the effort it took on my part was going to him and saying, 'Look, you can't just send me a ticket and say light up some ports for me.' We've got to sit and design this thing and figure it out."

Michele Chubirka voiced some frustration about the walls that different IT teams can put up, when everyone would be better off in a more collaborative environment. "You know what bothers me? When people throw 'separation of duties' in my face. 'Separation of duties' doesn't mean we don't collaborate."

Greg Ferro spoke up for network engineers and architects who are being told that the network is now the sticking point on new projects. "Everybody's saying the network isn't keeping up. The answer is, servers have finally broken free of their own limitations, and now it's our turn to take the next step forward."

Brent Salisbury closed the panel with a call for networking professionals to step up and get their hands on the new technologies. "Do something. Write about it, learn about it, tweet about it. Code it, deploy it, lab it. Just do something to evolve."

For more comments and conversation, check out the video excerpt.

What's your take on how SDN and network virtualization will affect the networking profession? Are these technologies going to sideline engineers or create new opportunities? You can keep the discussion going in the comments section below.

About the Author(s)

Andrew Conry-Murray

Former Director of Content & Community

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