Making SDN part of the engineer culture

Are engineers resisting the migration to SDN for fear of being automated out of a job?

Are engineers resisting the migration to SDN for fear of being automated out of a job?

This pertinent question was raised during a technology workshop at Capacity Latam 2014 today. It formed parted of a wider discussion into whether large telecoms organisations are willing and able to embrace the “dev-ops culture” that should accompany the move to SDN.

SDN has the potential to turn existing business models upside-down, which is striking fear not only into the hearts of engineers, but also unnerving key decision-makers at the very top of the business.

The potentially radical nature of SDN is not an easy fit with corporate bureaucracy. SDN asks a lot of new questions, and deciding whose responsibility it is to answer them can be a potential stumbling block for large organisations.

Shawn Morris, manager of IP development at NTT Communications, offered participants at the workshop an insight into the company’s organic approach to SDN. Rather than seeking specific SDN funding from the parent organisation, engineers at the company set about exploring ways to reduce their volume of manual tasks in the network.

The company has been gradually embracing elements of SDN ever since, going on to hire dedicated developers, and claiming to now be almost fully SDN.

Far from being automated out of a job, SDN has simply enabled NTT’s engineers to do their job more efficiently, helping them to address the backlog of work that engineers typically face.

Moving forward, Morris says it is important to make automation/configuration management part of the engineer culture. The carrier community as a whole, he adds, should view SDN as evolutionary, not revolutionary.

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