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SDN changing the shape of networking, IT careers

Jim Duffy | March 28, 2014
Jobs are on the line as new training, certifications are required to keep pace.

"The networking professional must gain a greater appreciation of what's happening beyond the traditional networking silo, beyond physical connectivity and packet forwarding," says IDC's Casemore. "Context becomes critical now, and the context involves how the increasingly virtualized infrastructure supports the increasingly virtualized workloads."

But first thing's first. Before reorganizing IT and changing staff roles, everyone has to be comfortable with a new, software-defined IT environment.

"Most operations people will tell you they don't trust software," says Andy Brown, Group CTO at UBS, speaking at a software-defined data center conference last year. "So one of the things you have to do is win enough trust to get them to be able to adopt.

"When you think of all the other software abstraction we're trying to introduce in parallel, someone's going to cry uncle," he says. "So all of these things need to interoperate with each other."

Knowledge is key, according to Bill Hanna, vice president of technical services at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center."Educate your IT staff on SDN," he says. "You still need really smart people that are open to change."

Even then, some may fall by the wayside, Kindness notes.

"Some jobs will evolve and require a more sophisticated skillset; other jobs will disappear," he says. "For example, the automobile manufacturing assembly line is a perfect example of what will happen in networking. Automation and robotics took over a lot manual and repetitious work. While some parts of the assembly still required human assembly, the personnel started using more sophisticated tools."

But what's certain is that SDN and its concepts are changing networking and IT, so IT and networking professionals need to change along with it.

"The next era of networking increasingly will not necessarily be about network infrastructure sourced from a single vendor," Casemore says. "A solution stack is coming into being that has clear abstractions, multiple layers, and various vendors providing key components at each layer. Networking professionals should consider forward-looking third-party training programs that explore context -- the changing nature of application workloads -- the role of infrastructure, the overall solution stack, the evolving toolset of the next-generation network professional, and the increasingly collaborative nature of IT management."

"For too long networking professionals have been skating on their old skills for a variety of reasons," says Kindness. "In general, they were the only ones who understood the complex world of networking so no one pushed them to do things differently. SDN, in many ways, will change that power structure and empower other teams to use the network. Fundamentally, some networking roles and responsibilities will disappear or shift."


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