Cisco on Cisco: DevNet Through the Lens of a Cisco IT Intern
Hello fellow readers! My name is Silvia.
I am a Software Developer and a CIIP (Cisco International Internship Program) intern within Cisco IT! I am part of a team driving the SDx (Software Defined Everything) transformation in Cisco IT by providing tools, automation, training, tutorials and best-practices on how to produce the best software.
I am a developer and I love going to showcases and spreading the word
about the tools Cisco provides for teams and how to get involved!
I am originally from Spain but working/studying in London. But that’s a whole other story. In this blog I want to share my thoughts on how the rapid digitization of network infrastructure is impacting IT professionals.
Opportunities/Challenges IT professionals face as infrastructure becomes digitized
There is no doubt that IT is undergoing some major structural changes as infrastructure becomes digitized. What does digitized infrastructure mean? It means introducing automation to our infra, analytics of the infra, and use of Machine Learning for things like predictive analysis for anomaly detection of a network.
All of the requirements and transitions driven by automation have shifted the way infrastructure engineers work. The different layers of the architecture of a project, where application engineers work on the application level and then pass it on to infrastructure engineers for deployment on the servers, are coming more and more together.
Infra engineers are being pushed to learn how to leverage software into their infra, and application engineers are working directly on running applications on the infra.
For example, applications used to run on VMs (Virtual Machines). Then, Openshift came to play providing templates which allowed applications to be deployed much more efficiently. However, Openshift was still deploying to a VM and there were still incompatibility issues between machines. Hence, Docker came to life, acting like a VM but without being one, encapsulating the code into independent boxes. Thanks to this, it lead to IT being able to transition to a cloud-based environment!
I’m saying all this because as infrastructure becomes more digitized, infra and app engineers alike are having to learn how to leverage emerging technologies which are much more software driven. Technologies such as Docker and Kubernetes are becoming more important as we shift towards a world ruled by micro-services and deployments to the cloud.
Coming to the opportunities and challenges that IT faces in consequence of this…
It is important to ask… What is the role of IT? Is it the digital operations of the company? Are we running a DevOps model? Is it people who design and produce solutions before they come out to engineering (Cisco on Cisco)? Probably all of the above.
But sometimes I feel like we are struggling with the latter questions.
The definition of engineers in IT is different from that of engineers in engineering, for example. The engineers in IT are mainly ensuring & monitoring that systems/jobs/tools are up and running. Often, it makes a lot of sense to use 3rd party, out-of-the-box solutions. If it were to costs say, 10 million to create an in-house solution, make sure it is reliable, and maintain it; it might be wiser to take a 1 million dollar solution with people who are experts in that field/solution.
In my opinion though, this might be a root cause to why it is harder to adopt a truly digital IT, or more than that, truly digital engineers. In fact, what we keep on doing is using software that requires less and less coding, more of the drag and drop, so we become even more unconscious to it.
My team precisely is here to train those engineers how to adopt a more ‘programmable’ approach, but most engineers say ‘I have never coded before’. So adoption and transition of the old engineering to modern developers (making use of coding to automate & simplify) is the first struggle to overcome for the true DevOps models.
Another struggle I believe is the silos between teams. Teams who build fantastic solutions in IT, their solutions never get scaled to the wider Cisco; it is used within IT or sometimes even smaller departments within IT. There is lack of cross-functional adoption, and teams build similar solutions in parallel.
For this reason, it is important that we become evangelists of our own solutions (as I have learnt from DevNet’s engineers) and keep showcasing our products as I showed on my first picture. Right now, teams across Cisco IT are having conversations across BU to help enhance these broken silos.
Opportunities, of course, are endless. In IT we have profited from digitization in every department. Data center & the networking services teams are utilizing the latest Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning algorithms to track packages, do analytics on performance, do predictive anomaly detection to prevent threats in the network, and automating much of the manual input!
Security teams like SSO, releasing PingID to simplify entry to our protected network through an app. And projects to come introducing touch ID and other identity services.
Teams dedicated to write our own in-house cloud services to host our applications in.
It is just a matter of enhancing the importance of development, break down the barriers of ‘not having coded before’, training the workplace and utilizing these amazing digitization tools. And this is where my team comes in!
Events & hackathons like Hack IT increase dramatically the awareness
and potential of software development to provide solutions in IT
How DevNet helps IT professionals
DevNet comes perfectly into play for all IT engineers to make that transition from a systems engineer mindset to a developer mindset. DevNet offers a vast array of tools, tutorials, community, trainings, and more.
I have already heard teams using the DevNet learning labs around automating your CI/CD pipeline to speed up their application deployment process.
I would really stress on that a better awareness and use of DevNet would help IT professionals to excel at DevOps rather than just Ops and running 3rd party software.
There should be a strong partnership between IT pros and DevNet. In addition to the online learning labs, sandboxes, and documentation on the DevNet website, one of the ways DevNet is working to strengthen that partnership is with live, learning-focused events like DevNet Create.
My experience at DevNet Create as an IT professional
Attending DevNet Create 2018 was an absolute blessing to say the least. The title for the conference was perfect: “where applications meet infrastructure”. It relates to what I was talking about the merging of the two worlds; connecting modern app developers and software with traditional IT infrastructure engineers.
Me volunteering at DevNet Create at 8:00am!
(You can tell by my sleepy face 🙂
DevNet Create was one of the best conferences I have ever been to. It had the elements of networking and inspiring talks as most conferences do, but it had an exceptionally high quality and effectiveness of hands-on workshop experience! I learned more in those jam packed few days than I had in a long time: with real-scenario skills that apply to my day to day work. For instance, my DevNet Create highlights were:
Very inspiring keynote
Introducing the importance of NetDevSecOps which essentially summarizes Cisco’s core strengths in one word, and is super relevant to IT’s infra strategy.
Google talk on containers
With the shift towards micro services that IT is implementing, containers are a critical element to deploy efficiently to our cloud solution.
Tickets and Silos Ruin Everything
This is a crucial problem we face in IT; especially as we tend to grow into a wantingness to merge different units in IT to make us more cross-functional. We strike for teams which offer a service end to end instead of fragmented divisions to get an end product. For this, we need to break the silos.
FaaS and Furious – Zero to Serverless in 60 seconds & Architecting Your App and Your Pipeline for Continuous Delivery
Very similar to what we are producing in my team. Read more about the Bench and codeOn at (provide link).
Secure Your Web Service! Automate Your SSL Setup and Never Worry About Having to Update a Certificate Again
Again, DevNet is right on target with this topic, as this is something we use do regularly in IT when we setup websites or any web service. We take a good amount of time to setup the SSL Setup, so knowing how to automate will help speed up the process and reduce errors.
I could go on forever, but my point … don’t miss DevNet Create in 2019
Fascination with DevNet’s sensational community
DevNet has the kind of developer community I want to see. People who have fun while developing, people who see the magic in these technologies and most importantly, people who are sharing their knowledge, whatever it may be.
Interview I had with DevNet Evangelist Steve Sfartz on how I am going to take this experience onto my professional career!
Hope you enjoyed reading and let’s strive towards a more cross-functional Cisco! Lets lower the barriers between departments and let the adoption become real for a true DevOps model! Let’s intertwine knowledge, tools and solutions