In the last Cisco Live US in Las Vegas, I was able to attend Susie Wee’s keynote about the improvements in DevNet. I urge you to watch her session: DevNet Innovation Talk. By the way: what a great job Susie and her team have done! That is for another blog entry, however.

One of the main topics of her talk was the definition they are giving to the developer role in our heavily software influenced environment.

New Developer

I really like this definition and how Susie explains it: IT and OT engineers are not going away, and not all of them are going to jump on the software development wagon. But, right now, organizations like Cisco are giving them a new tool and it is a very powerful one.

At least to me, the value a networking person like a CCIE provides to a company is not the knowledge of what commands and in what sequence are needed to configure QoS policies, for example. Her real value is in understanding very complex concepts and best practices and knowing what should be done to run mission critical infrastructures with great uptime.

Doing repetitive tasks, like going to every single device and making configuration changes, is time consuming and not the best way to take advantage of such highly skilled professionals. They need to be involved in activities where their knowledge can be put in service of organizations’ strategic and business value decisions.

Using the new programming interfaces exposed by devices or their controllers, changes to complex environments can be implemented using less time and taking advantage of the programming skills of the software developer and the deep knowledge of the IT/OT engineer.

For me, in this new trend, IT and OT engineers need to understand the APIs of the devices that they have traditionally managed, and work closely with the developers to leverage those programming interfaces in order to provide more business value in a simpler way.

At its core, technology should be about making people’s lives easier and this close collaboration between the software programmer and engineer is making that a reality. But, for them to create value at great speed, they need to speak a common language, and that is when APIs and northbound protocols come into play.

Lets face it: in an ever changing world where the complexity of the solutions being required keeps increasing, this kind of collaboration is not only needed, but crucial to keep the work - life balance. Burnout is a real issue in our industry and something we, as a group, need to take care of. You can read John Willis’ blog post about it, Karōjisatsu.

Basically, for me this Developer is an engineer who understands that current devices have powerful programming interfaces that can be used to simplify the way to interact with their equipment.

These APIs and northbound protocols are not more complicated than concepts like BGP, ISIS or VXLAN, and with resources like the ones DevNet is providing, embracing the change should be somewhat straightforward. I understand that it involves a new way of doing things, but one that I believe most IT/OT engineers will be able to take advantage of.

Sometimes in these technology changes, you have people who are eager to announce the beginning of the end for a group of professionals. Right now, many are saying that the developers are going to take the reins and make the IT/OT engineers irrelevant. That is an oversimplification. The knowledge of advanced topics cannot be replaced that easily. Maybe as an evolution of the whole industry, but one that is going to take years and where the OT/IT guys are going to be at the front, lighting the way.

As I have been saying this whole time: collaboration cannot be underestimated. We have seen the benefits in the DevOps movement. Software engineers working hand in hand with IT/OT engineers will have a huge impact on the business value generated.

Whether you are an IT/OT engineer or a software developer, I encourage you to go to DevNet’s site and start learning.This, by the way, is going to be the topic of my next blog.

Feel free to reach me on twitter (@josebogarin) if you have any comments or want to talk more about this.