About 48 hours ago the online news services started announcing that Cisco was planning to lay off approximately 14,000 employees (or about 20% of its entire workforce). The real number seems to be closer to 5,500, but those are deep cuts! Current estimates put the Cisco headcount at around 70,000 total employees. In reading through the various reports that were being posted (you can see one HERE FROM REUTERS) there was a very interesting theme (among many others) that caught my eye.
The theme was the anticipation that Cisco would be moving away from the hardware side of the business and towards the automation/software side of things. This will obviously take time (think about it, you can’t do a 180 in an aircraft carrier very quickly either!), but there is no question that the continued focus on automation throughout the Cisco product lines (APIC, Python, etc) has become a major initiative. At CiscoLive 2016 this year I was literally speechless at the number of “automation, programming, Python, APIC” sessions that were being offered. I attended the 3-Day DevNet Zone “Python for Network Engineers” course (it ran an hour each day, for three days, from 12pm-1pm) and it was standing room only with approximately 50-75 people swarming around the presenter (Vince Kelly did an AMAZING job over the 3 days!!!) in what could best be described as a “mob scene”! The other sessions I walked by on automation and the such were also standing room only.
The writing is truly on the wall. It was also on the wall 25 years ago when I was a newly-employed UNIX administrator at the National Security Agency who watched as the “mainframe guys” treaded water before succumbing to the inevitable wave of progress. The same could have been said 15 years ago when I was at USinternetworking, Inc. in Annapolis, MD. There it was the disruptive technology VMware that shrunk the physical server footprint exponentially along with the size of the system administration team (fewer servers = fewer admins to take care of those servers).
As an instructor, I constantly field one question from learners and that is whether or not it is worth it to learn a programming language and which one they should learn. Now more than ever, in order to stay relevant in the networking field, picking up a programming language is going to critical. It is never too late if you have the Growth Mindset and you are looking to stay relevant in the networking industry. I always recommend Python for a whole host of reasons and given its meteoric rise in popularity in the networking space, that seems to ring true today more than ever. I have also never seen a network engineer NOT hired because they knew Python… 🙂
All the best from the dark side…