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How many SDN programming languages should I know?

When it comes to programming languages, is it better to become an expert in one or a jack-of-all-trades? Networking pro Will Murrell recommends familiarizing yourself with three.

While we march ever closer to an SDN world, it's becoming more and more apparent that engineers who want to stay relevant need to spread their wings and learn new skills -- including SDN programming languages. While it would be nice to know every programming language under the sun, the fact of the matter is you may not have the time or inclination to achieve that.

With that being said, it's probably going to be a better idea for you to have a few SDN programming languages under your belt, rather than stick with just one. Those three languages are Python, Java and NETCONF. Java and Python cover virtually all the vendor APIs and, while Python is easy to learn and you can do a lot with it, Java has the tendency to have a faster runtime when it comes to enterprise applications.

NETCONF is a completely different animal. NETCONF stands for network configuration protocol. NETCONF, which was developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force and first published in 2006, provides a means to install, change and delete the configurations of network devices. Though it's a protocol and not technically an SDN programming language, you need to understand its mechanisms -- it will do the things that you won't be able to solve or automate with other SDN applications. YANG is a data modeling language that was developed specifically for use with NETCONF.

Between Python, Java and NETCONF, you should be well-covered and have the right SDN programming tools to handle most situations.

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This was last published in February 2016

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