Someone sent me this observation after reading my You Cannot Have Public Cloud without Networking blog post:
As much as I sympathize with your view, scales matter. And if you make ATMs that deal with all the massive client population, the number of bank tellers needed will go down. A lot.
Based on what I read a while ago a really interesting thing happened in financial industry: while the number of tellers went down, number of front-end bank employees did not go down nearly as dramatically, they just turned into “consultants”.
Something similar might happen in networking. While the number of VLAN- or firewall rule manipulators will be drastically reduced (I hope), the number of networking engineers required (assuming they deserve that title) might not follow that same curve - they will just do more productive stuff.
A bunch of engineers for the SPs does not compare with all enterprises needing one or two…
Unfortunately many enterprises I know have only one or two networking engineers (and maybe a few technicians). As long as someone believes they need to have some networking knowledge in-house, they will have to keep those two ;)
Also, keep in mind how many things that should be done are NOT done because nobody has time to do them.
Finally, once we stop believing in software-defined fairy tales, and realize application problems have to be solved in application layer and not pushed down to networking (I will probably retire before that happens), I expect networking to become more like power transmission. You will need experts, but not nearly as many mid-range engineers as before. On the other hand, people pulling cables in buildings are still making good money ;))