Following from my predictions on what WILL NOT be big in 2012 and then [Predicting What Will Be Big in 2012 - Part 1](http://etherealmind.com/?p=6168) here is Part 2 of my predictions for 2012.
Hard Skills, Cloud Operations and Software Defined Networking
The “Cloud” that’s is much discussed is really the awaited arrival of Network Management. Although Network Management has been sold since the mid-nineties, none of it actually worked all that well and we still configure network with the CLI for everything. Really, we should be using the CLI for some things and server based tools for others.
The technology of the Cloud remains exactly the same as what we already use but running large numbers of the IT systems at scale and keeping operating costs low means that all companies must develop a new and unique focus on IT operations. What is possible in smaller IT operations is the hand crafting of operations. Short sighted and short term management of corporate IT operations have led to the view that we should always do it manually since it’s too hard to automate, computer operations. What must happen now is that Network Management must provide new ways of reducing the make-work of operations.
In a real sense, the buzz around OpenFlow is really a recognition that automation and software is the future of lowering the cost of operating our networks, and improving reliability by developing repeatable processes for common configuration tasks. We shouldn’t be manually configuring switch ports after twenty years of product development.
Make-Work moving into Good Work
Today, we perform a lot of tasks that aren’t truly valuable. Adding VLANs, configuring switch ports, configuring firewall rules are all repetitive tasks that could be better performed with our own technology. Instead of “make-work” we should be looking for ways to completely automate many tasks and move to performing “good work”.
For firewalls, you should consider operational platforms like Cisco Security Manager to automate firewall MAC, and look Juniper Junos automation tools for router configuration. Even Cisco has a number of XML based configuration tools that don’t get serious attention (even though Cisco continues to promote the view that it is a software company)
If you are thinking longer term then it’s time to evaluate NETCONF as a standard for configuration and look for network configuration management tools that have a standard base. Although NETCONF might be superseded by OPENFLOW/SDN, it’s probably too big a change to get momentum in the next five years.