SDN. Who’s going to run it?

Big credit goes to @cloudtoad for putting together this thought provoking-post over at

He makes some very interesting comments and observations, none of which I can actually disagree with.

SDN is a business dream; Where they can buy commodity hardware, do away with high priced router-jockeys, stop paying a premium for mid-range value products, and just focus on whatever their core business actually is.

Unfortunately, I think there’s a lot more to this discussion that I haven’t seen a lot of people address yet. I’m not saying I have any answers here, but I do have a few questions. Hopefully, some of you will post in the comments as to how you see this playing out, because my crystal ball is getting pretty foggy these days. 🙂

1) Skills Gap: It’s been 20 +/- years since the fallacies of distributed computing were laid out. And yet, we’re seeing the past repeat itself again and again. I was asking about the DevOps trend with a customer a few weeks ago and he laughed at the question. They had already tried it he said.

And it failed miserably.

These guys are a startup doing some pretty impressive stuff with BigData ( Hadoop ) and they have a lot of talented coders on staff. This really got me curious. So I asked him “Why?”

His response, which I think applies equally to SDN as it does to DevOps, was the following

” It took you 10-15 years to become a really good network guy. It took them”
pointing over shoulder
” 10-15 years to become really good programmers.”

” I’ll guess you aren’t a good coder, but I can TELL you that they aren’t good network people.”

This has been racing around in my brain for weeks now. Other than the odd exception like @lynxbat

( check out his awesome VMware cloud demo here

I think it’s safe to say that 99% of the network engineers I know are capable of nothing more than rudimentary scripting, and most of that is regurgitated code from examples downloaded off the Internet.

I have a hard time calling someone who downloads a perl script and hacks in a couple of locally significant values a programmer, And yet this is very much the world we are all talking about moving to.

So where are these new breed of GUI-jockeys going to come from? With the hybrid of both coder and network knowledge that they will deliver us from our current state of one-protocol-per-problem. Because sadly, I see a shortage of good network folk in general, let alone good network folk with coding skills.

We’ve been slowly automating out all the jobs that green networks kids used to cut their teeth on. So where are these new wizards of SDN going to get their network experience to learn the valuable “just because you can…” lessons that all of us have over the years?

More than likely, they are going to make some snide comment, as the young are prone to do, on how our ipv4 knowledge, just doesn’t apply here anymore. Offer us a piece of tin can with a string, and offer to write us a new protocol.

all I can tell you for sure?

“Not on my network.” : )

Is it just me? does anyone else see this as a problem? And if so, what are you doing to prepare yourself for the coming divide?



Through the eyes of a child

Wrote this last summer and apparently didn’t publish. Still amazes me.

Listening to the packet pushers podcast there was a listeners question on studying and learning. Coincedently, I had just had one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I had just watched my 6 year old son ride his bike alone for the first time.

We’ve been working on it all summer, and he was more scared than anything else. It was late September and he was discouraged and didn’t want to practice anymore, and I literally had to force him back on that bike. But I knew that this day was the day.

And it was.

The look of absolute wonder on his face at his new, seemingly superhuman, ability to ride his bike by himself was awe inspiring. And it got me thinking just how lucky we are in this industry.

We have the privilege every day to learn. what a great job we have.