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A combination of increasingly complex networking technology and a shortfall in talent to work with it will cause challenges for organisations moving to SDN or the cloud, networking leaders have warned.

A combination of increasingly complex networking technology and a shortfall in talent to work with it will cause challenges for organisations moving to SDN or the cloud, networking leaders have warned. 

This complication within infrastructure is simply being masked by APIs and SDN controllers; hindering organisations that are migrating some, or all, of their systems, Nigel Oakley, director of the cloud centre of excellence at Juniper Networks, warned.

He said: “Customers today who may not be implementing cloud, are evolving their infrastructure, are making decisions about what infrastructure they buy and make bets on what protocols they will have to support in the future.”

While “complexity is increasing in the data plain”, Oakley added that the SDN control plane should be taken with a pinch of salt.

“What we are seeing is much simpler abilities influencing the underlying network using APIs. Ultimately we are representing a single API but do not underestimate what is going on in the plumbing - because that is complex stuff.”

The chase to plug this skills gap is causing conflicts between departments, the NetEvents conference where Oakley was speaking heard yesterday.

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He said: “There are challenges in terms of skills - what we are seeing is a diversification in skills required for people to be able to both understand complexity of data plane environment but also understand the control plane and the higher orders.”

But Citrix’s group vice president and general manager, John Bukowsky, said this will be solved by increasingly easier-to-use cloud services.

“The good news is, with the number of public clouds they [AWS and Google] have really set a standard for how clouds can operate and private clouds are adopting the same technique.

“The interfaces are becoming easier and easier and you no longer need CLI (Command Line Interface).

“I think you will see a lot more inter-cloud capability that will address the lack of resource and understanding, including automation, SDN controllers and scaling capability."

But the emergence of SDN is blurring the boundaries between networking and IT departments, often causing conflicts in processes which ripple through to the organisation, Oakley warned.

SDN and cloud technologies cause conflict in organisations

He said: "One of the interesting developments with cloud and SDN is that it starts to break down barriers between organisations.

“You are starting to see network people bleed into the IT domain and IT people bleed into network domain, which clearly causes challenges from organisational perspective.

Oakley attributed this to “conflict in those processes and in those organisations”.

But this will start to produce more flexible organisations, “where the provisioning of services flows across these organisational boundaries without having to take complete steps” speeding up go-to-market, the benefits of which could filter through to customers.

SDN and packet-optical firm Cyan witnessed this conflict across their service provider customers.

Kenny Muir, sales director at Cyan said: “It is certainly a bigger problem for the large telcos. The small guys have leaner companies and tend to get over it quicker but, sadly, the big guys have a big problem because it is two completely different mindsets.” 

Bye bye CLI

The mainstream adoption of SDN will have a knock-on effect for software developers, HP added. As vendors look to AWS and Google for best practices in cloud operation, user interfaces are becoming easier for customers to use and removing the need for CLI.

HP's marketing lead Hamid Lalani said: "People who have learnt CLI all their lives will have to move on - just call it life."