Executive Viewpoint 2014 Prediction: Firebrand Training - SDN and the Annihilation of the Networking Workforce

Edward Jones (Profile)
Monday, December 9th 2013

Last year we predicted that 2013 would be the year that the desktop PC dies, apparently much like the Mayan civilisation predicted the end of the world, our timeline is slightly off. That said, the transition from Desktop PC to “smart display” or (insert name of any commercially available tablet device here) is definitely underway.

For an IT Manager, moving from the desktop PC to a “smart-display” or tablet such as Surface is a no brainer. These new systems offer access to the cloud running any application without the need to upgrade operating systems and applications. With greatly reduced power consumption and the benefits brought from simplified system administration, the transition will only accelerate.

Seems we forgot to factor in the snail pace at which enterprise organisations migrate technology, you’re no doubt accessing this article on Windows XP using Internet Explorer 4.

Onwards to Our Executive Viewpoint for 2014

Unfortunately we predict doom in 2014 (I sense a pattern forming here), this time it’s the beginning of the end for the Networking workforce, due to the emergence of Software-Defined Networking.

Managing a network is complex, thus attaining an array of Cisco certifications and assuming the mantel of “Networking Guru” would historically guarantee you a hefty salary and job security. That might all be about to change if OpenDaylight succeeds in its current mission statement:

“OpenDaylight's mission is to facilitate a community-led, industry-supported open source platform, including code and architecture, to accelerate adoption of Software-Defined Networking and Network Functions Virtualization.”

What Does this Mean…

If you are a network expert, your name is accompanied a series of acronyms such as CCNA or CCNP,  and you are still under the belief that networks will become more complex, your skills in greater demand and your employment future secured, it’s time to reassess the networking landscape. As Bob Dylan famously said, “the times they are a changin”.

Top networking manufacturers are currently working towards the concept that network building and configuration can be as simple as a tick in the box. If you haven’t been paying attention they are almost there, and it spells redundancy. We need only look at history for proof, the last ten years has seen a sweeping change to virtualization, the outcome resulting in the commoditizion of servers.

Attaining a new server for R&D is now a 3 step, 10 minute process:

  1. Get the company credit card.
  2. Head to Windows Azure or Amazon web services
  3. Select 1, 10 or even a 100 servers…click and your done.

Whilst this has proved a huge asset to business, the techies who built, tested and deployed these platforms are rendered obsolete, for lack of a better word. The process of creating and managing a server has been simplified to the stage where any apprentice fresh out of school , packing an MCSA certification in Windows Server 2012 could carry out the tasks required. There is simply no longer a need for years of experience and advanced knowledge to fulfil the roll of a Server Admin.