A reader of my blog sent me this question:
I am a Telecommunication Engineer currently preparing for the CCIE exam. Do you think that in a near future it will be worth to be a CCIE, due to the recent developments like Nicira? What will be the future of Cisco IOS, and protocols like OSPF or BGP? I am totally disoriented about my career.
Well, although I wholeheartedly agree with recent post from Derick Winkworth, the sky is not falling (yet):
- Derick, Amazon and Google are years ahead of (almost) everyone else.
- Technology changes are never abrupt. It took SNA decades to die (and it’s still kicking).
- TCP/IP will not disappear in the foreseeable future. One would hope to see IPv4 disappear, but even there I’m not an optimist.
- Nicira NVP is a point solution for huge IaaS clouds. It will be years before something similar will take hold in mid-range data centers. Most of them don’t need more than what VLANs offer today.
- Data centers are not the only environment where we need networking (although they are the fastest evolving one).
- CCIE gives you a lot of knowledge you’ll need in the future – regardless of whether you’ll be configuring routers or virtual appliances from Cisco, Juniper, Vyatta or someone else. The same applies to firewalls, load balancers etc.
- The never-ending layers of abstractions, facades and glass panes don’t make the technology less complex – they’re just hiding the exploding complexity and zillions of hastily thrown together moving parts. Someone will have great fun fixing the whole enchilada once it breaks down (and you can’t reformat a network like a laptop).
On the other hand, do remember that networking is just plumbing – it works best when you don’t know it’s there – and CCIE, while indubitably being the most prestigious certification in this space, is no longer The Top Gun it was when it was introduced.
To summarize: Go for your CCIE, but focus on knowledge not typing skills and memorized configuration commands ... and never expect your CCIE certification to be a final step to a lifelong nirvana. If you decide to work in a data center environment, you’ll have to learn a lot more about virtualization, servers, storage, and emerging technologies – but that’s what makes it so much fun.
Finally a snarky thought on the OpenFlow versus OSPF/BGP conundrum. Although the OpenFlow pundits like to tell us how OSPF, BGP, and the rest of the protocols we use today are broken (and I somewhat agree with their “having a separate protocol for each problem is stupid” mantra – I would just use BGP+MPLS :D ), we’ve seen wide-area systems with centralized management and control planes before – they were called SDH, Frame Relay and ATM networks. Do I have to say more?