Is a Hybrid Engineer the new Network Engineer?

Have you heard the term Hybrid Engineer?  With the evolution of Networking and the skills that are now being recruited for, it’s no secret that the Network Engineer role would have to and has evolved.  Not just being highly skilled with all things related with the traditional network, but an understanding of DevOps and having the ability to communicate in business terms is also thrown in to the mix.

The days of past where Network Engineers were literally all about the Network have gone.  The fast pace of how the world in general has embrace the Digital world is remarkable.  Business are demanding fast, reliable, mobile, secure platforms and the network vendors and software houses are working at a speed of light to get the technology out there to meet the demands.  With an abundant array of vendors, ISP’s, Resellers, IT Service Providers etc, Network Engineers are working in multi-vendor environments having to learn how old technologies can integrate with the new and how the IT infrastructure can assist the business goals. 

SDN, Network Provisioning, Automation and Orchestration are requiring our Engineers to be able to switch between the different roles of Networking and software development.   The network infrastructure has transformed dramatically and whereas a lot of the time spent by network engineers, was to carry out tasks that would be complex and time consuming, such as incorporating IP telephony and MPLS, with the introduction of SDWAN all sorts of additions and changes can be made quickly from a central point.   It’s not just SDWAN but Software Defined everything. With Data Centre’s also becoming Software Defined, and giving more mobility and security to applications, improving accessibility, agility and versatility to data. 

There is a growing desire to keep moving things forward and virtualizing the network with on-premises computing and cloud-based power, as well as making that transition of ‘services’ or ‘infrastructure’ into the “as-a-Service’ model that we are seeing time and time again.  The sheer pace of change means that a DevOps approach by Network Engineers is required.

Why have this DevOps approach?

‘Instant gratification’ is the way of the world now.  We want everything now, 5 minutes ago, yesterday.  In previous years, support, maintenance, replenishing, upgrading and additions to the network would take time.  Often taking months to do things.  Upgrades might only happen once a month, or once a quarter and would involve a visit to the physical location of that piece of equipment.  These days new services, upgrades etc need to happen now.  Businesses want access to new services, new features as soon as they can and so a need for ‘real-time’ additions must be made.

You can automate the entire process from testing to deployment.  For example, if there is a feature you need to add to an application, you can write the code, test it and if it’s good to go, you can push it out across the network immediately.  Tests can be automated, which can also then reduce the ‘human error’ element and the Network infrastructure literally becomes a big piece of code.   

We spoke about Cisco Hyper Flex in our Highlights from Cisco Live 19, where entire Network Infrastructures can be literally ‘copied, dragged and dropped’ creating multiple Network infrastructures in minutes. This is how the DevOps mindset all comes in to play and needs to be embraced.

Business and Communication Skills

It’s not just about having good technical skills, its also about having exceptional communication skills.  Twenty years ago the Network Engineers would be found lost in server rooms, hidden amongst cables talking in technical jargon.  They could sometimes be a separate entity as did each area within the IT department and the rest of the business.  The connection between Network Engineers and the business goals could be hard to find.  Now days there is a need to be able to communicate in both written and verbal to business executives about technical matters that can be clearly understood.  By having these skills makes a Network Engineer stand out and be in great demand.  Working in collaboration is also key, not just with all things technical but between people, teams and departments within organisations. 

Hybrid Engineer is the New Network Engineer

Network Engineers almost need to become a ‘Master of all Trades’ they still need to be the technical experts that they are, but also need to have the DevOps approach, great business acumen coupled with communication skills to speak to non-technical people.

If that is you, then you are of immense value and in great demand today and tomorrow. 

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