Monday, September 26, 2016

Do I need to be programmer before learning Automation, SDN and NFV technologies?

Network Engineers are worried about the skills required to learn about the next generation technologies like SDN and NFV. Every time when someone talk about SDN and NFV, I always think that do I need to learn any kind of programming language like C, Python, Perl, SLAX, RUBY etc.? Does my CCNA, CCNP, CCIE, JNCIA, JNCIS skills are no more required? There are lot of questions comes in my mind about job security also. At times, I assume will companies hire or retain only those engineers who understand programming better than BGP or OSPF or ISIS.

Automation is the new buzz word in the industry. Every customer wants to automate their entire infrastructure without understanding how does it work. As per my understanding automation means is to shorten the completion cycle of current job by writing some scripts or loops. But as industry perspective, we think automation means programming and without having its knowledge how someone can automate any kind of job.

In IT industry, automation was being used since long. Ansible is the right example of IT Automation industry. But in networking automation was also used since long. The best example of automation is to run a script in the night which normally takes the backup of the current configurations of network elements. Second best example of automation in networking is Network Management System (Vendor Specific)

In Network we are already decoupling control and data plane by implementing route-reflector functionality.

Now the question arises if automation, SDN etc. technologies are already there then why we all are worrying about it. Is it something different of what we are already doing? I would say: Automation, SDN and NFV are bringing customer on boarding faster time to market. Earlier these technologies are only locked with specific vendor but not multi-vendor is required. Now a days if you require route-reflector functionality, in that case you need to order a dedicated router. The same functionality can be leverage by using route-reflector VNF. Route-Reflector VNF has full fledge functionality of route-reflector what we usually get in hardware router. The only difference is that in earlier case hardware and software were tightly coupled together but now it is decoupled.

Again the question is not answered what skills are required for multi-vendor SDN and NFV. Let’s examine the route-reflector example and it will help us to understand what kind of skills are required.

The above example in figure shows if we have to spin up VNF of virtual route reflector, in that case close integration is required among Compute, Networking and Storage. To get the integration done one must understand the below as listed:-
1. Linux OS Fundamentals
2. Basic Scripting or Programming to automate the stuff
3. Networking
4. Storage
5. API Calls
6. GIT
7. Orchestration tools like Pupper, Chef, Ansible and Salt Stack etc.
8. Open Stack

So it’s not all about programming to become Automation, SDN and NFV engineer. It’s all about how do you embrace these technologies with multiple skill set knowledge. It’s jack of all trade and master of none or one. All you need to understand how does the process works and how do you link each and every step with other.

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