Not Interested in Network Automation? No Problem (for now)

In the Business Impact of Network Automation podcast Ethan Banks asked an interesting question: “what will happen with older networking engineers who are not willing to embrace automation

The response somewhat surprised me: Alejandro Salisas said something along the lines “they’ll be just fine” (for a while).

Let me recap his argument and add a few twists of my own:

As long as we’re designing individual networks, and building them from individual components, there will be a need for seasoned networking engineers who will be able to troubleshoot the network.

Note that:

  • This reasoning applies to engineers, not to what I would call network practitioners (people who never moved beyond google-and-paste). If you don’t understand how things work, you’re useless when it comes to troubleshooting.
  • Troubleshooting will remain relevant as long as the building blocks of the solution you’re using use somewhat-documented technologies. Troubleshooting a leaf-and-spine fabric using OSPF or BGP is doable, troubleshooting QFabric would be way more fun, trying to figure out why a controller-based product using undocumented dancing unicorns to configure the forwarding tables failed is Mission Impossible.
  • Small organizations will move into the cloud. There will still be a network to troubleshoot, but it will be different. You’ll have to learn new skills no matter what.
  • Smallish organizations will probably rely heavily on (hyper)converged solutions. Not much you can troubleshoot there – it’s like the modern cars. It’s great as long as it works, if it breaks you’re solely at the mercy of your beloved $vendor.

Also, troubleshooting isn’t the only job left once you automate everything. As long as you want to do things your way, you’ll need someone who will do network design, test the design in (hopefully virtual) lab environment, prepare sample configurations, and help automation engineers integrate the new functionality into the automation platform.

Alternatively, you’re free to believe in the power of intent.

To summarize: good networking engineers (who understand how things work) will have a job for a very long time. However, if you plan to be in networking for the next 30 years, you will probably have to deal with automation sooner or later, so start now. Building Network Automation Solutions online course might help you get there.

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  1. I'm going to use your terminology from now on. "Engineers" vs "Practitioners"

    Great article!
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