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With any major technology transition there is a gap between the time when the innovation is created and when there is a critical mass of IT professionals available with training and knowledge on how to deploy that state-of-the-art technology.
Plus, there are many different technologies that make up the SDN/NFV ecosystem, which means there are a number of different technologies that require training, said Eric Hanselman, chief analyst for 451 Research. Without a dominant set of SDN and NFV technologies, network administrators are unsure what combination of technologies they need to master. And this comes at a time when network services are becoming more disaggregated, Hanselman noted.
Plus, most companies are conservative when making major changes to their networks because if something goes wrong there is the potential for a ‘blast radius,’ which could become a huge problem, Hanselman said. “The entire scope of the endeavor can be huge,” he added.
Getting the Right Training
Unless an employer provides a formal training program, most IT professionals are on their own when it comes to acquiring new skills. The good news is there is no shortage of training options. From online courses and webinars to classroom training sessions, there are options available. Some are free, while others are available for a fee. Here’s a snapshot of some of the available training:
- MEF in collaboration with The Linux Foundation and ETSI offers several SDN/NFV professional certifications. The Linux Foundation also provides access to a range of online courses;
- The Open Networking Foundation sponsors the ONF Certified SDN Certification Professional Program;
- Udacity offers a free version of a Georgia Tech online course entitled, “Computer Networking: Security and Software-Defined Networking;”
- The Microsoft Virtual Academy, (MVA) offers several free SDN-related courses for the Windows Server;
- The GNS3 Academy offers a free SDN and OpenFlow Introduction course;
- Global Knowledge offers an SDN training classes for a fee; and
- SDxCentral provides access to a wide variety of webinars and white papers.
In addition, many savvy organizations will negotiate to have training included in the purchase price of a specific platform. A small army of IT services providers are aligned with those vendors and they will provide training for a fee or as a service buried within a larger contract. IT vendors and their partners know there is a direct correlation between the amount of IT professionals with a specific set of skills and the size of the addressable market for their products and services.
There’s no doubt that mastering SDN/NV technologies is more difficult than traditional networking, said Robert Conger, Adtran’s CTO for the Americas. But even long-time networking veterans can make the transition if they are so inclined, he added. “It can be a generational thing,” Conger said. “But it’s not insurmountable.”
In fact, for networking professionals without the necessary training in SDN and network virtualization technologies, finding the next job opportunity will become increasingly difficult.