Just about everyone agrees, to one degree or another, that there is a chronic shortage of IT professionals who have the skills required to deploy network virtualization (NV) and software-defined networking (SDN) in the enterprise.
Brad Casemore, an industry analyst with International Data Corp. (IDC), says resistance to NV and SDN technologies among traditional network professionals continues to act as a drag on the amount of available talent.
“Some of this transition will be generational,” says Casemore. “It’s a cultural bias.”
The IT Shift Toward Virtualization
Normally, that cultural bias would be a major problem. But Casemore suggests it’s part of a shift toward the reorganization of entire IT departments around software-defined infrastructure (SDI) in the data center – which means many network functions will be taken over by IT generalists who collectively manage server, storage, and network virtualization. Casemore says that transition won’t happen overnight. But it’s clear that traditional network managers may soon find themselves in organizational structures where the silos dividing the network team from the rest of the organization no longer exist.
That shift, adds Casemore, is most likely to occur sooner in smaller than in larger organizations, but IT reorganizations are beginning to become a much higher priority as IT leaders look to inject more agility into their IT organizations.
In fact, Tom Burns, senior vice president and general manager for Dell EMC networking, enterprise infrastructure, and service provider solutions, notes that NV technologies often find their way into the enterprise as part of transformations that are being driven from the top down within organizations trying to modernize their data centers.
“At least 50 percent of the time we’re seeing the decision being driven by a CTO or some DevOps team. The other big driver comes from security teams interested in microsegmentation,” says Burns. “The number of times we encounter a traditional networking team is relatively few.”
Of course, breaking down those silos overnight is no small task. Organizations need to find ways for IT generalists to acquire and then master NV/SDN skills. Even then, there will still be a need for some level of expertise to deal with any issues that arise from the physical network underlay on which NV/SDN software still depends.
Integrating IT and NV Training
Naturally, many network administrators have some legitimate concerns about the potential consequences of NV sprawl – and the challenges for training. But proponents of NV/SDN technologies argue that one of the primary benefits of separating network software and hardware using NV/SDN is that it creates the foundation needed to automate the management of all those network segments using application programming interfaces (APIs) that can be invoked by IT automation frameworks such as Puppet or Chef.
Obviously, more than a few traditional network administrators have a vested interest in command line interfaces (CLIs) and custom scripts that they may have developed. But it’s also clear that the IT industry has historically always abhorred a vacuum. At the moment there’s definitely a vacuum when it comes to NV/SDN skills that many senior IT leaders are now aiming to fill by any means necessary.