So where the hell have you been? Its been almost 3 months since I wrote a blog post and you might be wondering what I’ve been up to. :)
Nope, haven’t gotten married/kids/kidnapped/etc. I’ve been taking a tour/vacation of the next wave to hit IT and you’ll probably all heard of it by now — SDN. Hell, even networkworld.com has a section dedicated to it now!
The interesting part about all this is unlike most things out there — there are few book, if any — on this topic. This wave that is hitting IT is so new there are a few places where one can get the knowledge. It might be years before a book is even written on this, and when it is — you’re too late, the wave has hit. Years back I tried to “catch” the new wave with Cisco’s UCS and Nexus product line. Unfortuantly, I was actually catching the tail-end of that wave and by the time I got into the market, the skill (although still hot for recruiters) was out for a few years already. Not just that, there was a problem of getting a hands on with the equipment. I made a YouTube video a few years ago on what you can use to study for these exams and get hands on. It’s one of my popular videos on YouTube (you can see there is a demand for it versus R&S).
Which brings me to my other “lightbulb moment”. It’s no secret I’m reliavitly new to this industry. I’ve been in networking for about the past 4-5 years (another few years as a Windows Admin) which isn’t that long considering we get some netwokring gurus out there who have been doing this field for 10-15+ years. So what am I to do? Get a jump on the newest, hottest skills that even the veterans need to learn. In other words, let’s level the playing field!
So let’s quickly go over a few of the new hot topics thats sweeping out industry that I’ve been diving into the past few months. I can honestly say “Wow, I feel like I’ve been taken to a whole new level”.
So let’s start at the beginning — what is SDN anyway?
SDN is basically a way to make your network programmable. New demands in our industry (the Google, Facebooks, YouTube, Twitters of the world) have found regular cookie-cutter solutions from vendors are not cutting it for their shops. Thus, they’ve started making their own tools in order to get the fast, efficient, and a uniform way to get what they need out of their network. No longer can we wait forever to get the network guy to do what he needs to do — just like server/developes have been pushed to make their app “faster to market”, us network guys are under the same pressure now to “make it happen yesterday!”
Unfortunately, the old CLI we’ve been so used to the past 20+ years just isnt doing it. 20 years ago, we could of never imagined the burst in size of the internet, Skype, YouTube, Facebook, Azure, AWS, all these things might of not even have been a though in people’s heads. I see old movies in the 70s and 80s with people sitting in their desks with either no computer or one of those old Tandy/Wang PCs. Nowadays, its almost a requirement to have a PC or Mac on your desk!
Oh Hi-Performance Tandy 1000 SX, why do you tease me with your 348K of RAM?
Which brings me to the 200s. About 10 years ago we started seeing a rise of sites like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace (how many times will I say these company names in this article? :) which started collecting a massive amount of data. As internet speeds started getting faster and more reliable, we started streaming videos (like Netflix, Hulu) and uploading videos and pics on our Myspace/Facebook pages.
Then the App Store was created by Apple, and Google followed with their Play Store. Then we had cloud service companies like Carbonite, iCloud, etc. We also now have gaming systems like the Playstation and Xbox having online multiplayer gaming off their gaming networks. Let’s not forget the massive amount of information now on the internet, never in history have we had as much information at our fingertips that we have now. Don’t know how to install those shower curtains? Google it. Want to order a movie? Buy a digital copy online — or want to get movie tickets — get it online too. Want a taxi — use Uber? Want a cheaper alternative to a hotel — use AirBnb.
To beat a dead horse, we as networking professionals can’t use the tools we used 20 years ago to face the challenges we are now finding in our shops. Our VHS player just won’t do with the demands of blu-ray discs. Try as hard as you want, that VHS Player’s got to go!
So as networking professional, what are the new tools of the trade we’ll need? Good news is alot of the old skills we’ve had will still be relevant. However, we’ll need to pickup a few new skills in order to keep up with the industry. Management now wants for networking the agility and testing it has for its inhouse server applications. Why do I need to wait to get the networking piece working before my developers can test? It’s slowing me down!
The CLI wasn’t built for the world and apps that we run today. It’s great to configure everything manually, but we want things done in a faster, efficient, and uniform-fashion. This is where the term DevOps comes in. We can use some of the tools that the server/developer guys have been using for the past 10+ years. So what are these tools?
3. [Puppet | Chef | Ansible]
5. REST calls
7. VXLAN (an open standard that many vendors are starting to adpot)
These skills are career in it of themselves. Thats like saying your a Security guy, or R&S guy, or wireless guy. Good news is we don’t need to be complete masters of each, but as time goes on, you’re bound to get better at one thing over another. There’s a reason the network gurus have been doing this for 15+ years, it takes time. When was the last time you heard of a network guru with a few years of experience?
So where can we start to learn to take advantage of these new tools? Well thats what I’ve been doing the past few months, going back to the basics of Linux, Python, APIs, REST, JSON, slowly putting the pieces together. Luckily I’ve been studying Linux and Python on and off since December 2014, but to actually do something with it has been different. Now that the term is starting to catch some buzz, like SDN did, we got learning vendors out there like the CBTnuggets, INEs, Linux Academy starting to post up videos on these topics.
Unfortunately, theres no direct “heres how you program a network switch using Python” out just yet. There are some books out there but alot of it assumes you know the basics. This field is fairely new, so don’t expect a video or book to feed it to you. Alot of what I’ve personally been doing is — and if you’ve been attending our Python meetups, starting with Python from the beginning. It’s a big challenging since all the books phrase things in terms we’re not familiar with as we’re not developers, but eventually it sticks.
I’ll start making blog posts on each technology and how to best learn it ,but I wanted to give everyone a starting point for picking up these new DevOps skills and the journey I took to start to learn them.