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SDN adoption puts DevOps pros in high demand

Sharon Florentine | Oct. 18, 2013
The shift toward network automation and virtualisation offered by Software Defined Networks will increase demand for DevOps professionals. If you have both technical expertise and business acumen, you may soon have new IT career options.

As Software Defined Networks (SDNs) start what some say is their inevitable takeover of the data centre, businesses will need to reassess their networking staff's skillset and will need to add DevOps professionals with both programming expertise and business acumen.

"We are seeing clients looking to hire a lot more DevOps people, because they need folks not just with a tactical, technical skillset, but with the ability to collaborate and coordinate business efforts across different departments," says Laura McGarrity, vice president of marketing for Mondo, an IT recruiting, hiring, and consulting firm.

"Our clients are hearing the terms 'SDN' and 'DevOps' a lot, and they want to find out what DevOps means, how and where to place these positions in their organizations, and whether to hire from outside or to mold talent from within," says Felix Fermin, senior technical recruiter at Mondo.

SDNs essentially automate networking functions. By removing the intelligence from traditional networking hardware and delegating network decision-making capabilities to the server, the data layer (the actual information traveling on a network) is decoupled from the control layer (the technology that determines how, when, and where that information flows), and each layer is automated.

This means independent control of each layer is possible without either the expensive, complicated hardware and software (e.g., routers and switches) or the highly skilled professionals who manage those devices, says Steve Shah, senior director of product management, of the Netscaler group at Citrix.

This push toward automation is a crucial element of SDN technology and one of the main reasons DevOps experience will be in high demand, says Shah.

"The kind of expertise you'll look for is no longer a hard-core, specialized programmer who focuses on individual devices and pieces of the network, but someone who can write code or scripts to automate processes and actions," Shah says.

"You may have to let people go in order to add new folks with the right skills. You may have to look long and hard, and spend more money to find experienced DevOps people, because you're looking at folks with a programmer's salary and with senior experience." —Steve Shah, senior director of product management, of the Netscaler group at Citrix.

"You need programming and scripting expertise, yes, but also folks with the broader business knowledge to see the entire data center topography and where inefficiencies and bottlenecks are happening - DevOps," Shah says.

Say Goodbye to Network Troubleshooters
What kind of people have these skills? Higher-level networking pros, middle management types and DevOps people, Shah says. While the conventional argument is that low-level, junior network troubleshooters are all that's needed to keep an automated network running, Shah says the opposite is true.


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