Most of you who've been following my blog in the past, or even most of you who've stumbled upon it by randomly looking for "some Cisco stuff "on Google, are aware that this blog was originally designed as my personal notebook while moving towards the CCIE certification. It's been a while since I started, and I even had an unsuccessful attempt to become a CCIE a few months ago (April 2014). Yeah, yeah, it made me stronger and all... but I was a bit dissapointed because I got the Troubleshooting part which I considered more complex, and failed the configuration part which I was convinced that I was passing. As I'm getting familiar with the CCIEv5 blueprint and planning the next attempt for December, a single 3 letter acronym keeps challenging my motivation. As you probably guessed, I'm talking about the SDN (Software Defined Networking).

[Update, Nov2014] Got my CCIE number, #45370 :)

If you're a Network Engineer, you would have to had lived in an isolated box if you haven't heard of SDN, ACI, APIC, NSX, OpenFlow, OpenDaylight and so on. Clients keep asking us about it, Vendors keep pushing the "where we stand" presentations on us, Blogs and Networking magazines are simply flooded with the separation of Control and Data plane, and the question that comes to mind is - should I proceed my CCIE preps?

Recently I was assigned an R&D project that involved a current market research and a proposal of a Major Upgrade of Clients entire Data Center Infrastructure (12 Data Centres). The requirement was simple - build us a scalable and elastic SDDC (Software Defined Data Center), while having in mind that we like term "Virtualization" a lot! Now I've been following the SDN Central, Network World, as well as various blogs and events for ever since I've first heard about it. Even so - there were just so many new technologies, acronyms and terms to investigate. And you know what the most interesting thing was? During the investigation, whenever an article I bumped into was more then 6 months old - it was obsolete and inaccurate. I was able to rely only on the articles published within the last few months.

So, who will win an entire SDN race?
I have absolutely no idea. No-one does, and no-one can have it at this point. Cisco has been throwing billions of dollars out of pure fear if you ask me, starting from Insieme acquisition, all the way to ACI architecture with the Cisco APIC "SDN Controller" launch. ACI seems like a pretty decent solution at the moment too, and it makes much more sense to me because some level of control is still left to the Switches. Maybe I feel this way cause I've been in the networking industry in the last 10 years, and viewing an entire Network Infrastructure as a end-to-end dumb tunnel (VMware's view) just doesn't seem feasible.
VMware has a completely different strategy. Martin Casado and Nicira (Network Virtualization company acquired by VMware) have an extremely different approach. Their strategy is - turn the network into a Software and run it over bunch of White Switches. My first reaction is - yeah, right, I'd like to see a Networking professional who tries to sell this to a serious client at the moment. But then again - you never know where the market will move towards. Maybe VMware can make this work! Yes, their idea is a bit... out there, and I can't picture a professional solution where an entire network is seen as a no-brain tunnel, but if Network Equipment Vendors, such as HP and Juniper, join the venture and find the way to "take care" of the NaaS, and if OpenFlow actually blooms into something a bit more decent - who knows what might happen.
On the other side there are hordes of vendors, such as Brocade, HP, Huawei and IBM, doing everything they can to take at least a part of the market Cisco has (almost 70% of Network Equipment out there is currently Cisco). Of course all of them will support and participate OpenFlow and OpenDaylight with everything they have, and support all the possible SDN solutions, in order to eliminate Ciscos' predominance. It's only logical.

Where does that leave us, the Network Engineers?
I guess we're all a bit sceptical about an entire SDN acceptance, it all seems foggy and not yet mature.
- Should we be ready for it?  Yes! By all means we should.
- Should we learn some scripting, Python or something similar? Maybe...
- Should we abandon out Networking careers, and simply switch to the SDN track, or something else? No! Networking professionals just cannot become obsolete, because the programmers simply don't have the TCP/IP, Internet and L2 knowledge. The SDN software will just be a new tool to achieve what we've been doing so far using our precious CLI.

I will most definitely pursue my CCIE adventure. I simply want to be a CCIE. Is that the only reason? Of course not. CCIE simply defines the class of a Networking professional you are. It defines your determination, ambition and knowledge. Yes, I have met many Networking professionals who are not CCIEs, even though their Networking knowledge is deep and simply - impressive.
What's the difference? It's simple... They need more time and a bunch of proving to do in order to convince their clients as well as colleagues that they are good enough to be entrusted with major projects. Sometimes you just don't have the time you need.

1 comment:

  1. You're right mate, "Sometimes you just don't have the time you need"...
    But I think you still need to make the time for it though. In my opinion, it is a great learning experience going through the CCIE lab process. I would love to add a few other tracks on the base R&S that I have, but again finding the time is a big challenge.
    Good luck!
    All the best


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