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To be a full-stack engineer, get out of your comfort zone

In this SDN blogs roundup, a networking pro shares advice for engineers heading to Interop, and another argues that SDN and automation are separate and distinct concepts.

This week, one blogger explained how Interop can help you in your journey toward becoming a full-stack engineer. Another expert said it's time to distinguish between SDN and automation, while a third had some harsh words for advocates of the centralized control plane.

Advice for the aspiring full-stack engineer

Do you want to become the unicorn of networking -- a full-stack engineer? Interop is a good place to start, and Packet Pushers blogger Drew Conry-Murray recently shared some advice for making the most out of the event.

First, he suggested planning ahead, as the five-day conference boasts a plethora of events. Look at the online agenda now and start choosing which sessions, classes and workshops you will attend.

Next, Conry-Murray urged networking pros to venture beyond their individual silos, using Interop as an opportunity to learn something new. After all, a full-stack engineer or seasoned SDN expert isn't built in a day, and you can't improve your skills if you never leave your comfort zone.

Check out Conry-Murray's other tips for getting the most from the conference, which is being held May 2-6 in Las Vegas.

Network automation for all

Matt Oswalt wrote on his blog, Keeping It Classless, that the term SDN has become "totally meaningless," with its use causing more confusion than clarification. SDN is now in the eye of the beholder, and he believes that trying to define it is a waste of time. In general, he argued that SDN is a specific, highly tactical product or project that often only makes sense for very large businesses.

On the other hand, Oswalt wrote that networking teams of every size should consider network automation, saying that the term should not be included in the same breath as SDN. He added that automation is a practical methodology for building a more flexible, programmable infrastructure -- reducing problems related to inconsistent configurations and improper testing.

Automation is not just for hyperscale Web companies like Google or Facebook, and it does not require "a shiny new product" or a flock of developers for implementation, Oswalt stressed. He said that any networking team can -- and should -- get started with automation today, regardless of its organization's size.

Read more of his thoughts on network automation here.

Centralized control plane skeptics

Network engineer and prolific blogger Ivan Pepelnjak recently warned SDN newbies against what he called "the centralized control plane religion," voicing skepticism of the classic SDN definition.

In responding to an ipSpace reader who asked how to get started with software-defined networking, Pepelnjak suggested beginning by asking, "What is SDN?" Trying to answer that question -- as Oswalt cited in his post -- can prove surprisingly challenging, given that the term's meaning continues to evolve. He advised that SDN novices get their feet wet with an introductory webinar covering the technology's basics -- such as those offered on ipSpace and other sites around the Web.

Pepelnjak firmly discouraged using any SDN learning source -- such as the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) -- that emphasizes the importance of a centralized control plane. Pepelnjak has written in the past that he takes issue with the ONF's SDN definition, arguing that it is too narrow and limiting, describing it as an approach that makes sense for very few networks.

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