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How network automation scripts will affect veteran engineers

This week, bloggers look at how engineers will need to adapt to changes such as network automation scripts, offer projections for RSA 2018 and debate network transformation.

Ivan Pepelnjak, blogging in ipSpace, said as long as there is a need for networks designed from individual components, there will be demand for seasoned network engineers who can troubleshoot them.

Citing a podcast by Groupon engineering manager Alejandro Salinas that discussed the impact of network automation, Pepelnjak said network engineers who know what they are doing will have jobs for a long time to come, even in the face of network automation scripts. That said, network practitioners who don't know how to troubleshoot may face greater challenges.

Troubleshooting, Pepelnjak said, will remain relevant as long as well-documented technologies are in use, such as working with a leaf-spine fabric with OSPF or Border Gateway Protocol. Small organizations that migrate to the cloud will still have a network to troubleshoot, but it will be different. "Smallish" companies that rely on hyper-converged systems won't have anything to troubleshoot.

Even with network automation scripts, troubleshooting isn't the only job left for engineers. Professionals will still be needed to create and test virtual network designs, prepare sample configurations and add new capabilities to an automation platform. Pepelnjak concluded that good network engineers will be necessary for a long time, but anyone planning to work in the industry for the next 30 years will eventually need to deal with network automation scripts.

Read more of Pepelnjak's assessment of network engineering.

Looking ahead to RSA 2018

Dan Conde, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass., said the 2018 RSA Conference theme, "Now Matters," really means IT is feeling "urgency and pressure." Unlike holding off on a server upgrade, ignoring the now in cybersecurity can leave organizations with a dangerous and vulnerable attack surface.

Because security is intertwined with networking, it doesn't make sense to treat it as a separate topic. According to Conde, networks function as "plumbing" for most users, but they can also be both a source of vulnerabilities and cybersecurity insights.

Cloud platforms, Conde said, pose a particularly confusing situation for many users. Some believe they are safer because service providers hire high-level professionals and often develop custom infrastructure. However, others see cloud as lacking assurances, and they are also alarmed by breaches in SaaS systems believed to be secure.

Cloud issues will be a main topic at the upcoming RSA Conference. "I say [the conference will be] an evolution and continuation of the concerns and teeth gnashing of the past years, as the breaches continue to occur. But I hope we dampen the hype and get down to the business of how to deal with the issues now and not later (when it's too late)," Conde wrote in a blog post.

Read more of Conde's thoughts ahead of the 2018 RSA Conference.

Approaching network transformation

Gartner analyst Andrew Lerner touted a recently released Gartner report, "Seven Deadly Sins of I&O Cost Optimization and Transformational Investment," in a recent blog. The No. 1 sin: The transformation trap, Lerner said, citing fellow Gartner analyst Ron Blair, who authored the report.

"One person's transformation is another person's incremental upgrade. This definitely extends into networking because 95% of the time we hear a network vendor say the word transformation, it simply isn't transformational," Lerner wrote in a blog post, quoting from the report. To capture efficiency gains from new technology, networking teams need to focus on strategy, avoid siloing and prove results, among other actions needed to achieve desired outcomes.

Making the transition more challenging is the fact that terms such as transformation and software-defined are widely overused. As Blair wrote, the inconsistent use of these buzzwords can often be counterproductive for business leaders attempting to identify which investments to make.

Dig deeper into Lerner's ideas about network transformation.

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