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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.

"I think, contrary to popular belief, that entry-level, network troubleshooters who have expertise only on specific devices will suffer," Shah says.

"What makes an elite networking person special is the ability not just to troubleshoot, but to see the larger network topography, to understand how and why processes are automated, and to perform complicated heuristics to quickly get to the root of the problem," Shah says. "These guys have both a breadth and a depth to their skill set; they know not just how to design and deploy an automated network but also how to troubleshoot and fix problems at the command line. That's valuable."

Kurt Marko, an author, networking consultant and analyst, agrees with Shah's assessment.

"The low-level command line expert's going to go the way of the shell-scripting Linux wizard, or the DOS guy who was really good at writing batch jobs — in other words, extinct," Marko says.

"With SDNs, networking devices are becoming so much more programmable with higher-level languages, and the networking guys are going to have to reskill to learn automation tools, scripting languages and the like," Marko says.

A First Time for Everything
There's some uncertainty involved in making such a huge shift, and the technology and hiring decisions may be different for each company, Citrix's Shah says. That's where having a DevOps strategy, even if it's vague, can be helpful.

"Many times CIOs are encountering the need to hire DevOps folks for the first time, and there's by no means one simple way to go about fulfilling this new demand," Shah says. "Businesses should be asking, 'Where do I put them? How do I find system administrators who can write code? Or programmers who understand the larger IT landscape? We have ERP or CRM programmers on staff already - do we go with what we've got, invest in additional education for them, and promote them? Or should we hire some hard-core programmers and try and teach them the business side?'," Shah says.

Many organisations are asking these same questions, says Mondo's Fermin. While some of Mondo's clients are looking to hire DevOps professionals, Fermin says, many are simply in the early stages of assessing whether or not such positions will be valuable to their business.

That said, the sudden spike in interest from clients has Mondo predicting a strong demand for SDN-related skillsets and DevOps professionals into 2014.

There's no right or wrong approach, says McGarrity, so for now Mondo is tackling the issue from both sides: counseling candidates on how to beef up existing skills or add new ones that are applicable to these kinds of positions, and on the hiring side advising clients on which skills to look for, or how to identify and mold talent from within, she says.


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