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What will be the Software Defined Networking (SDN) Skills Needed?

Screen Shot 2015 01 25 at 8.08.08 AMIn 2012 and 2013, all the buzz in networking was about the emergence of Software Defined Networking (SDN).  Frankly, that buzz continues in 2014 and vendors continue to refine and define their role in this market segment.  Like a game of chess, the players are all stating their objectives, their product plans, and their new definitions.

All this is great and exciting if you are in the networking space.  What about the people?  What about the skills and the expertise needed to work with SDN?

These are great questions, and I wanted to put down some of my thoughts to this regard.  The following is a list of skills and expertise needed if you want to succeed in the SDN wave of technologies:

  1. You have to think and design with a Distributed Systems approach.  The Internet itself is a distributed system, and a critical skill will be the ability to think at that level, to implement solutions considering all the system related issues and contexts.  This will not be a place for beginners.
  2. When you consider what SDN is, SDN is about Programatic Control.  A network engineer will need to implement controls while looking at the network as a series of flows, a series of application services, implementing policies that align to those flows and services.  These controls are communicated using the OpenFlow protocol, so a clear understanding of OpenFlow is requisite.
  3. Network Science and Computer Science are even more intertwined in SDN than they ever have been in networking to date.  As computer science has focused on virtualization, network engineers will also need to fully understand Network Virtualization.  So a complete skill set in both Network and Computing virtualization technologies is requisite for SDN.
  4. SDN is the next generation network technology.  To implement this technology, Command Line Interface skills will no longer be sufficient.  The skill set required will be closer to a software development skill set – not low level like C, but rather Java or Python programming abilities.  This will redefine all the current Cisco and similar certification programs as well.
  5. Lastly, but not least important, will be the skill to integrate items 1-4 with a operational mind set.  SDN specialists will understand what outcomes are important to the network operation, and how to leverage the skills above to attain those outcomes.

Tell me what you think of my list.  Should we add something or take something away?  Look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Before it is too late to get started, jump in and learn SDN with a full online course that is completely free!  

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