Cisco’s continued innovative approach is guided by Systems Engineers taking action on their experiences at the forefront of business change. This is a group of people who are passionate about technology and leading market transitions.
Two years ago, Distinguished Systems Engineer, Charles Duffy, and Principle Systems Engineer, Cesar Obediente, came to me and proclaimed we were in the midst of a transition in the market where we would need to understand how to converse with application developers to continue being relevant to our customers.
This transition would put the network at the core of the DevOps conversation and drive a new requirement for network engineers to solution seamlessly with application developers. This was such a new concept to me and I was somewhat skeptical that the change would happen quickly, if at all. But it was Charles’ statement, a veteran of many transitions at Cisco, that made me look very hard at the idea. He said that Cisco could fire him for any number of things, but not continuing to be relevant wouldn’t be one of them.
Charles and Cesar created a grass-roots training effort to bring their Systems Engineering peers along with them on the journey. That initial spark of innovation and insight propelled our organization to learn network programmability and shape the network engineers’ new relationship with the application developer and infrastructure team.
We began our journey to train thousands of Systems Engineers in applications concepts, APIs, and basic programming about 18 months ago. As with any major transition, our teams went through the major steps to acceptance. We had a few leaders who immediately embraced the concepts, but many were in denial that we were in the midst of a major transition. I heard repeatedly, “But Mike, my customers aren’t asking about APIs. They don’t talk about these things.” There were, of course, many customers who were very far past us in the transition and had already embraced programmability and automation. But there were also customers who hadn’t or didn’t realize that we were on the journey. We began challenging our Systems Engineers to go have conversations with the applications developers, make a few mistakes, and learn how to have these conversations.
After 18 months, more than 90% of our SEs have taken training, practiced their skills, and have started having new conversations with our customers about the point where applications meet infrastructure. Once we embraced these concepts, we learned that we could help the infrastructure team talk with the applications developers. They began leveraging the network and network analytics to automate the security of their applications, develop fog-computing applications hosted in the network and optimize applications for speed and agility. I rarely hear an SE who is concerned that we’re attempting to turn them into developers. Instead I hear the success stories about the new ways our customers are leveraging the network to overcome business challenges or deploy new applications that previously weren’t possible. The innovation when you bring these groups together is extraordinary.
If you are interested in starting this journey with your team or company, you can start by checking out the following resources
- Checking out Cisco DevNet
- Joining us at DevNet Create on May 23-24, 2017 in San Francisco, CA
- Checking out DevNet at CiscoLive US
- Practice at DevNet Express events in a city near you – ask your Cisco Account team
- Joining the conversation during our #CiscoChat – Have APIs killed the CLI? hosted by @CiscoDevNet
The time is now to Embrace Innovation Where Applications Meet Infrastructure.