Jason Edelman is making some predictions for 2013. One of his predictions is about the influence of network automation on the work of an engineer:
Can Linux tools be used to automate a physical and/or virtual network? Sure, why not? If so, does that take away from the network protocols being used? Not at all. Network Engineers will still be needed. The only thing that would be different is the way the network is managed and the UI that is presented to the operator. Embrace the change. Expand your horizons. That’s all you can do is to keep learning. Okay fine, the CLI will likely be around for years to come, but what’s the downside of learning new interfaces?
Looking at the product we deliver, NetYCE, we indeed see a change in the work of engineers. They finally get the time to do real engineering instead of serial operations work. In fact, when our product is in place we see a split in the work people do. A small team of architects and engineers is working on the network models and templates for automation. Another team of cheaper personnel is doing operations, i.e. delivering to the user or customer.
Is this a problem? No, not at all. There is a shortage on skilled network engineers and architects. As an organization you don’t want to waste their time with operational work. Their work will become more interesting and fun. They will have enough time to develop (complex) solutions and when they are needed in operations it is for real (interesting) problems.