Network Certifications Following
by William Flanagan, Publisher
IBM Analysts' White Coats
Chatted with another consultant recently about Software Defined
Networks (SDNs) and how the central controller programs the
connection paths into routers and switches across a network.
It dawned on us that the day of the "router jock" sitting at the
command line interface (CLI) is about to end.
Remember when the main frame computer was king? The people who
managed the computer and the communications to terminals were
"systems analysts" who wore white coats, like doctors. Perhaps
it was just to keep warm as they did their writing and network
sketching behind the glass walls of the super-cooled computer room.
There are many parallels between the system analyst and the
successor router jock.
Both were created by companies that dominated the industry and
market, often with FUD.
Each has a distinctive uniform: white coat vs. jeans and
a t-shirt (with interesting graphics).
They dealt with an arcane, exacting, and unforgiving interface which
required extensive training to master and constant usage to keep 'in
After surmounting the barriers to entry, the 'guru' enjoyed high
status and a high salary.
The work itself could be repetitious, tedious, and never-ending (Is
that COBOL update ready?).
As a network person, I can't claim inside knowledge about
mainframes. But I do know that while they remain at the top of
scale for computing power, they have changed:
Among the aspects of virtualization is an openness, even a need, for
automated tools to track instances of software, manage licenses,
assign work loads, and isolate problems. It's too much going
too fast for manual methods.
- got physically smaller,
- dropped proprietary communications protocols for IP and
- opened to other operating systems and software,
- virtualized the computing environment.
Automation in networks has been increasing in importance for
years. A series of increasingly sophisticated management and
monitoring systems made it easier to watch over large numbers of
routers, switches, firewalls, and other communications
equipment. Configuration from the network management system
has improved steadily, but much configuration remains at the command
line interface (CLI). In many cases it is more flexible, more
capable, and faster to use (if you really know how) than the
graphical workstation or web interface on a device.
Too much, too fast has come to networks. Fortunately the
concept of Software Defined Network offers a way to herd the bits to
the right places--more or less without being touched by human
When the central controller takes routing and path finding away from
the routers, and configures the forwarding tables in switches that
don't run spanning tree, what is left for the CLI? It
seems: not much.
When isolating bugs and finding really obscure configuration errors
the CLI expert may still prefer that interface. I expect that
the number of such opportunities will shrink faster in the
future. There may be almost no new openings after a
while. What ever became of the telco guys who ran wires over
the main distribution frame?
So, still planning to take that vendor-specific training course
where you'll learn more about their specific CLI? Looks less
and less like a good investment. I'd suggest a broader
education in areas such as network management tools, security,
Internet of Things, SDN, and network architecture.
If your computer room is too cold for you to study in, you can find
any kind of white coat on eBay. Looks good over a
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