Like most other people in the networking industry, I’ve been struggling with answering the question as to whether or not Network Engineers need to become programmers. It’s not an easy question to answer and after a few years down this SDN journey, I’m still no closer to figuring out whether or not network engineers need to fall into one of the following categories
Become Full-Time Software Developers
For those of you who don’t know @dave_tucker, he was a talented networking engineer who choose to make the jump to becoming a full time programmer. Working on creating consumption libraries using python for the HP VAN SDN Controller, contributing to the OpenDayLight controller, and now joined up with @networkstatic, another great example. and @MadhuVenugopal to form SocketPlane focused on the networking stack in Docker.
Gain some level of proficiency in a modern programming language
One of the people that i think has started to lead in this category is @. Jason is a CCIE who glimpsed what the future may hold for some in our profession and has done a great job sharing what he’s been learning on his journey on his blog at http://www.jedelman.com/. Definitely check it out if you haven’t already.
This is also where I’ve chosen to be for now. The more I code, I think it’s possible that I could go full programmer, but I also love networking too much. I guess the future will tell with that one.
For this category, this will mean putting in extra time on nights and weekends to focus on learning the craft. As someone once told me, it takes about 10 years to become a really good network engineer, no one can be expected to become a good programmer in a year, especially not with a full time day-job.
On the bright side there are a lot of resources out there like
Coursera.org – Just search for the keyword “python” and there are several good courses that can help you gain the basics of this language.
CodeAcademy.com – CodeAcademy has a focused python track that will allow you to get some guided hands on labs as long as you have an internet connection.
pynet.twb-tech.com – @ has put together an email led python course specifically for network engineers over at He’s also got some great blogs that discuss how to use python for different functions that are specifically related to network engineers day-to-day jobs. Having something relevant always helps to make you’re live easier.
Gain the ability to think programmatically and articulate this in terms software developers understand
I don’t have any really good examples of this particular category. For some reason, that has so far eluded me, there just isn’t many network engineers in this category. If you know of any great examples, please comment below and I’ll be happy to update the post!
This is where I was a coupe of years ago. I knew logic. I could follow simplistic code if it was already written, and I could do a good enough job communicating to my programming friends enough to ensure that the bottle of tequila I was bribing them with would most likely result in something like what I had in my head.
Stay right where they are today.
The star fish is one of the few creatures in the history of evolution that went “ Hmmm. I think I’m good! “ This isn’t a judgement, but you need to decide where you want to be and if Star Fish is it… you might find your future career prospects limited.
As I get back into actually posting, I’m planning on sharing some of the simplistic code that I’ve been able to cobble together. I make no claims as to how good this code is, but I hope that it will inspire some one else reading this to take some classes, find a project, and then write and share some small script or program that makes their life just a little bit easier. Guys like Jason have done this for me. I recently hit a place where I finally have enough skills to be able to accomplish some of the the goals I had in mind. My code is crap, but it’s so simplistic that it’s easy to understand exactly what I’m doing. And that’s where I think the value comes from sharing right now.
Comments or thoughts? Please feel free to comment below!