Cisco aims to prepare tech workers for SDN-driven skills shift

It is no secret that the emergence of software-defined networking and open computing environments is drastically altering the entire networking landscape. This is being experienced across all vertical markets, including telecom, which is why Cisco has added network programmability education to its certification program.

As the Internet of Things, mobility and the cloud intersect, network programmability is needed to make it all scale, said Tejas Vashi, director, marketing and product management, [email protected], which provides official training and certification for Cisco products. "We've never had so many technology and market transitions occurring at the same time," he noted.

In a recent interview, Vashi told FierceWirelessTech that within telecom service providers, the telecommunications and data teams used to be separate. But increasingly, they are the same team, and this merging of interests has created a need to create the work force of the future.

"We need to make sure in the industry there is a large enough pool of workers to face the challenge of the evolving IP world, vertically and horizontally, between the integration of multiple technologies as well as scaling up of the number of devices," Vashi said.

Source: Cisco

One major change is that applications are becoming more integrated with network infrastructure, which is no longer seen as "a bunch of different network elements connected by pipes but is really seen as an unknown and shielded entity that is providing services," said Antonella Corno, product portfolio manager, data center, [email protected]

Therefore, automation must understand requirements of a desired application and deploy the infrastructure seamlessly as needed. This will enable technicians and engineers to shift from doing repetitive work and free them to engage in innovation, Corno said.

However, changes in business process also dictate changes in business culture as well as the skills that are needed by tech workers.

In fact, AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T), which has committed to an all-IP future, has identified the need for a "skills pivot." Marian Croak, senior vice president of the carrier's Domain 2.0 architecture and advanced services development, recently told FierceWireless that AT&T staffers will need to take courses to understand these new technologies, and the operator will also engage in "an intense hiring program" to draw in external experts.

"From an individual standpoint, we've got to reskill the individuals," observed Cisco's Vashi. "Those that are resistant to change, obviously, are going to be left behind."

To meet the needs of employers, Cisco's IT certification programs now include network programmability training addressing four industry job roles that not only differ from roles previously found in traditional networking infrastructure but are expected to continue evolving. Those are: business application engineer, network application developer, network programmability designer and network programmability support.

Vashi noted that there are currently 2.2 million Cisco networking certified individuals supporting 12 million devices, which are mostly laptops, handheld devices and other products that have a human interface on the other side. But the expected scaling up to 50 billion connected devices in the next few years, thanks to the emerging Internet of Things, means the need for automation has never been greater.

The good news for workers is that even with increased automation, there will still be a need for millions of new tech workers to support the increased device numbers, though automation may reduce the need from, say, 10 million total workers to 4 million or 5 million.  

"New job roles are evolving that may not have existed five years ago even," Vashi noted.

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