Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Go Up or Go Wide

You say, the world doesn't need CCIE anymore with the raise of SDN. I say, we still need CCIE, but those who can adapt. You say, my words are just futile last ditch effort to show the importance of CCIE certification. I say, even I still work for Cisco but I don't work for CCIE program, and I get paid not because of my certifications.

If we have data, let's look at data. If all we have are opinions, let's go with mine
(Jim Barksdale, former CEO of Netscape )

So let's look at the data to make the discussion more fruitful. If you look at Cisco revenue of each product line for the past 5 years, we see there is decline for NGN Routing and Switching business. And yes, Data Center business is growing in fast rate. And Data Center business includes unified computing, next generation fabric, cloud and most Cisco SDN solutions that are available today.

However, if you do a simple math you can see the combined revenue of Routing & Switching business is still close to half Cisco revenue as of today. We are talking about more than 20 billion USD business. It's declining indeed, but it will take number of years for Data Center business with the same growth rate to reach the same size of revenue.

And below is the revenue comparison between product vs. service.

It shows that the hardware business is declining, but the service business is increasing in size. It can be interpreted freely as there is still demand for those who are able to deliver service. It means as long as you the network engineers don't lock yourself in to particular product, you should be fine. Don't become a product admin but try to really understand the technology. Learn deep about how protocols work not only how to enable the feature.

So I say, if you are still interested to work in computer networking, you can continue pursuing CCIE to gain the skillset. Long gone those days when CCIE gets paid only just because of being certified. You need to be in the right company, you need to be in the right position. You need to be relevant to company's business.

But the requirement for network programmability, virtualization and overlay is real. Those are what SDN has promised even though we are still yet to see the mass implementation of it. Company like Cisco has released its own SDN solution with Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and it requires different type of skillset to understand and implement it.

We, as network engineers, must evolve. We, as CCIE, must adapt.

So my message to all CCIE out there: the time has come for you to choose.
Either to go "up" or to go "wide".

We are all here in this field to support company's business. The promise of SDN model is to create abstraction layer to hide the complexity. There is a growing need for customers to put main focus to their core business activities, and let the SDN solution to deal with how to provision and to run the networking infrastructure. There is a dream in the future where customers can just describe their business requirement and what they need from the infrastructure, and let the SDN controller to automatically re-program all the network elements to answer the requirement.

But someone must translate that business requirement into technical requirement. That someone needs to understand business language as well as the technical solutions. That someone has to show the tangible outcome like Capex and Opex reduction that any SDN solution can offer to the business. That someone must be familiar with PERL - performance, efficiency, risk, liquidity of the company, at the same time at least understand the position of PERL language within SDN big picture.

That's go up.

These days I work with several "Cisco" Solutions Architects who posses different type of skillset. Some of them are not even certified in CCNA. They know very little about IGP, BGP and MPLS, but very proficient with hypervisor, OS, scripting, API and SDK. They speak Scrum. They are object oriented type of persons. They always see the overlay and virtual layer while most people still see the physical infrastructure.

Their type of skillset is still incomplete. CCIE type of skillset is far from complete either. Don't expect one type of skillset to dominate the workforce of the future. But imagine the next generation network engineers who possess both types of skillset.

That's go wide.

Possess CCIE skillset only is indeed no longer sufficient. Know only how to pass CCIE exam is even very less useful these days.

Go up or go wide is not similar with red pill - blue pill options. Both options are red pill. Both options are real.

Welcome to the new reality in computer networking.

Disclaimer: Cisco revenue is being used here due to its position as the market leader in computer networking industry. And all the information to make the graphs above is available publicly in Cisco annual financial report. You are more than welcome to analyze other vendor's revenue if you wish.


Jaeson Velasco said...


Agus S said...

good information!

heriyansah blogger said...


Anonymous said...

i work more than 12 years in IT environment...ccnp almost 6 years ago...but now everythings gone...
I forget about the technical especially for cisco things...
this due to my work mostly in supervise and high level design.
do u have any advise if I chase this ccie certified..how?
i already 40 years old.but i still keen to study...