Network Engineers and Software Defined Networking…

So what is the role of the Network Engineer in the world of the Software Defined Network (SDN)?

Somewhat surprising, it’s about removing the mundane aspects of data networking and focusing more on the data center design and architecture combined with standards to support network orchestration and automation…

The mundane aspects of networking include day by day VLAN configuration and associated routing configuration. They can also include being a gatekeeper to various network functions such as Load Balancing, DNS, and IPAM systems.

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Configuration consistency is a major issue when manually configuring network services – Missing a single VLAN on a hypervisor trunk can easily cause an outage when vSphere Dynamic Resource Scheduling activities occur, sometimes many days after the initial configuration has been performed.

For a Network Engineer, SDN allows the mundane activities to be performed in software via orchestration. The Network Engineer is still responsible for defining the parameters around orchestration (ip address space/routing/etc), but the activity itself is automated.

The opportunity today is to build the physical data center network right/once/first time performing high performance IP packet forwarding (L2 and/or L3). On going virtual network constructs are now built in software and are encapsulated on top of the high performance data center network…

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Pretty straight forward, but the challenge from a network infrastructure perspective to leverage extensible API’s so that orchestration and automation is possible.

From a skills perspective, knowledge of RESTul API’s would be a bonus as well as knowledge or skills in scripting languages such as Python. Orchestration engines such as vCloud Automation Center via vCenter Orchestrator provide the ability to define orchestration workflows via a simple UI interface.

Physical L2 and L3 data centers networks still require knowledge and support of network engineers, but Software Defined Networks that run on top of physical network moves the mundane tasks to automated workflows 😉

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