Ladies and Gentlemen: Please Welcome the Cloud Network Engineer and Team

We are all in the process of building the most powerful communication infrastructure the world has seen. It is built upon a programmable network infrastructure that delivers on demand capacity and is cloud delivered. It’s the combination of cloud native and networking technologies. Why cloud native? Just look at 5G and the wide range of Network as a Service or NaaS offerings; they are built with cloud native technologies and APIs.  

This new infrastructure promises to provide choices and options for corporations to accelerate their digital journeys. It’s similar to the transformation that occurred in the late 1990s as corporate computing transitioned from proprietary application development and networking technologies toward internet-based communications.   We are now in the process of figuring out how to align enterprise computing with cloud computing. Just like in the 90s when we had applications and shared services from IBM, Digital, HP, Apple, NetWare, Banyan Vines, etc., it was networking engineers who delivered a single network that supported all of these constructs through three important standards: Ethernet, SNMP and TCP/IP.   

It was a golden age of openness and interoperability. As network teams built this one network to eliminate the multiple, it enabled developers to converge their applications on to this simplified structure. This enterprise internet unleashed a powerful and innovative communications system that enabled the most enormous economic engine the world has seen (world GDP 1996 to 2022: $31T to $103T) until now.

Today’s network engineers are increasingly being asked to take over cloud infrastructure so that cloud platform teams can focus on application development, continuous software delivery, etc. Developer teams don’t want the interconnection, performance and security responsibilities; they just want to write applications. To deliver on this expanded role, network engineers need new skills. The role builds upon understanding TCP/IP and core network architecture; this is table stakes. The role is now expanded into individuals and teams that possess a combination of networking, security and virtual platform skills. This includes understanding programming, cloud technologies, CI/CD pipelines, managing networks like software lifecycle management and knowing network technologies that you don’t own, such as cloud service provider (CSP) network protocols and their services. The site reliability engineer is a good set of skills for network engineers to possess.   

This is a key role and team in the build and run of the new cloud communications infrastructure. Perhaps the best title for this role is that of cloud network engineer. The skills needed to professionally build and run a cloud infrastructure does not reside in one person. It’s a team that when combined contains all the skills to build and run an enterprise cloud.  As corporate IT goes multi-cloud, this team is responsible for understanding the vast differences between CSPs as they each deploy different infrastructure; even the technical language cloud engineers speak is foreign to the average network engineer. It’s typical in a global 2000 firm to have some 30 or so corporate network engineers with varying skills. Only a small percentage, less than 20%, have the skills needed to engage in cloud discussions and, more importantly, infrastructure deployments. That number drops when you are tasked with service restoration and troubleshooting complex routing issues between internal and cloud infrastructure. This is a problem that needs to be addressed with training and upskilling. 

All cloud providers have proprietary deployment models, and this challenges even the most-seasoned network engineer. Integrating CSP networking with enterprise networks is of high priority.  The task ahead for cloud network engineers is the same as the late 1990s: build a single network that integrates multiple CSPs networks with your enterprise network. This is not easy, as we all know how complex infrastructure has become, and networking skills in the cloud are a speciality themselves.

But building the enterprise internet wasn’t easy either, yet the payoff is huge. Having a single network that enables integration with various CSP (SaaS/IaaS/PaaS) players and on-prem infrastructure will give your developers the widest range of choices and options to quickly deploy new applications.  On a larger industry scale as more and more corporations take this approach, the overall effect will be the ushering in of the most powerful communication infrastructure the world has seen, second to only the internet era.   But really when you get down to it, we are building a much bigger robust and programmable internet.     

We want to welcome all in-training and evolving cloud network engineers to ONUG where you will find the tools, knowledge, best practices and skills to bring your company into the enterprise cloud era. The ONUG Community will empower you and your networking teams to build and run cloud Infrastructure.

Author's Bio

Nick Lippis