A couple weeks ago I had the honor of joining the Packet Pushers Podcast for a discussion on networking careers and the more general IT field. First of all, that was Awesome! I’ve been listening to Ethan Banks and Greg Ferro for going on two years and it was a blast to have the ear of these gentlemen when they’ve had mine for so long. Michael Sweikata and Ryan Booth of Moving Ones and Zeroes also joined in the fun. Together, those four engineers have on the order of 70ish years in IT, and I have four years, six if I include tech support. It felt great to have these 4 guys express interest and concern in my opinions. I came prepared with my thoughts and the input of many of my colleagues, who share in common my lack of tenure and wealth of questions about the future. These four packet pros in turn assuaged many fears and reinforced my love of all things IT. On to the Recap!
What’s a young network pro to do?
When I asked these engineers for advice aimed towards someone in my position as he/she considers a networking career Greg summed it up beautifully: “don’t.” He wasn’t being short or fatalist; instead he and the other 3 addressed my fears that networking is dying. In short, yes, it’s dying. Not the career of building the paths on which data travels; data will always need mobility. Instead, the Network is evolving from a sum of a million parts just barely glued together into essentially a giant mainframe, with some exceptions. With Ethernet speeds shaming the rest of the system one would first think “wow, I’ll be able to transfer this file so fast.” but in reality, why would you move the data to a weak host when those time sensitive bits are already sitting in a bare metal beast? This mentality has driven progress in computing for about the last ten years. Networking, on the other hand, is finally tuning into the speed IT. Most of the networking field is likely to move into either automation. We all wanted a better way to provision a vlan on 200 switches in a moment, right? Well, it’s finally coming. Add in cloud-integrations, server-centric thin-client workstations, and wireless everywhere and there simply are not as many cables being run at businesses.
But like I said, Data still needs to move. Be it in a hypervisor or a controller, networking pros will still have to lay down paths between hosts, instances, and containers. The rise of automation is simplifying that process, but we still have to make all of the interconnections. Are the jobs going to go away? They say, and I say, No. But the amount of time networking pros spend in front of an SSH terminal is going to steadily decrease in exchange for time spent banging out python, tuning your puppet/chef/ansible deployment, or learning the new SDN solution designed to do it all in a distributed manner.
Cisco, certs, and the future of IT learning.
So what does this do to beloved Cisco? Well, they are going to have to get flexible. Cisco has spent many years conforming the industry to itself, but now we have options. Not just Juniper or HPE, but options to make a network from scratch or from the opensource compilations of many other network pros who want to break the vendor bonds.
So if companies are branching out, what does that do to the cert environment? Nothing, as Ethan Banks explained in the podcast. Cisco’s training arm is a profit model which has adapted over the years to the changes in technology. Quite simply, Cisco is likely continue revamping their cert system to reflect the industry while also seeding a Cisco preference into those certified by Cisco.
But obviously Cisco, Juniper, HPE, etc., are not going to write a “OpenStack Associate” certification. The open and whitebox communities instead going to pull a greater variety of skills for network support. Soon, more job listing will include “Python/Java preferred” or “Security Experience” under “CCNA certified.” Computer science and IT sec are re-entering the network and the jobs will follow that trend.
Let there be Gripes!
If you haven’t ready my post about my attempts at ICND2, check them out. I was incredibly relieved to hear Ethan Banks say he would have trouble passing the CCNA. I’m not going to beat that dead horse, as my mind is geared towards passing the revised ICND2 by Valentines day.
There’s a great bit of conversation on the lack of vendor accountability, insight, and integrity and how that’s driving customers away from the traditional vendors. I don’t have the experience to speak on that topic, but the conversation was still fascinating.
This is just a bit of what was pertinent to me, as a lot of the conversation was above my experience and understanding. All in all, this was a great conversation that addressed much of my aspirations and worries. Link below, check it out, and I recommend the Packet Pushers to any IT pros who want a view beyond their own data-center.