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Networking panels at Interop conference cover gamut

Interop networking track chair Tom Hollingsworth talks about the topics he believes are most important to today's networking engineers.

Networking sessions at this year's Interop conference in Las Vegas will tackle everything from the Next Big Thing to the steps engineers must take today to ensure their careers remain relevant in a quickly changing industry.

Networking track chair Tom Hollingsworth said those trends are unfolding in an environment that's beginning to embrace practical applications of technologies that extend beyond software-defined networking (SDN), such as SD-WAN and the Internet of Things (IoT).

"And that's great, because when businesses can use these technologies to make their profits higher, that is when you are going to see more widespread penetration of those technologies. Just like every other technology development in the world, when there is a lot of [research and development] work being done on it, they aren't sure [of its viability and utility]. But once they see there is a way to make their lives easier, then there is a land rush to dive into the technology," he said.

Interop conference: Old technologies and new pressures

To that end, Hollingsworth said he architected the networking track so that it includes sessions devoted to both new trends, as well as legacy networking -- reflecting the multifaceted roles many engineers play today.

SD-WAN will certainly be a topic of discussion -- along with the overheated IoT market-- but so will more prosaic tasks, such as change automation, IPv6 and the evolution of Ethernet.

But perhaps the most significant panels will address a subject most dear to those attending the Interop conference: the future of network engineering and how engineering jobs are fated to change. Hollingsworth said he wanted to have at least a few sessions specifically talking about networking careers at this year's Interop.

"The challenge that engineers face today isn't SDN taking your job; what is going to happen is that the stack will eat your job," Hollingsworth said. "IT organizations are beginning to examine the DevOps culture and doing continuous improvement [and] continuous deployment. And if that's the case, they're also saying, 'Why do we even need an IT department any longer?'"

That type of thinking is gaining traction, Hollingsworth said, as companies construct cloud-based compute and storage platforms -- instead of a physical network -- to deliver applications and services.

Engineers in a lurch?

SDN started the wave of what my job is going to look like, but SDN is now the harbinger of the transformation of IT and networking, in general.
Tom HollingsworthInterop networking track chair

That type of transition will leave today's engineers -- at least those without DevOps skills -- in a lurch, Hollingsworth said. "SDN started the wave of what my job is going to look like, but SDN is now the harbinger of the transformation of IT and networking, in general," he said. "Networking has avoided it thus far, but storage and compute engineers" -- whose ranks have been decimated by the move to the cloud -- "now understand where things are going to land."

Events such as the Interop networking track are playing a more important role in allowing networking engineers to get an objective view of the forces changing the industry, Hollingsworth said. "You can give a holistic picture to all IT people; when you go to a Cisco Live, for example, you don't get a viewpoint from a Juniper or VMware. It's important to have a neutral meeting ground for everyone to sit down and hear from independent folks who are doing things every day. What's missing from user groups is a community feeling; it's not just a marketing engineer reading me the document. This is what happens when you really [deploy a new app or system] live."

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