The ‘new normal’ has become a term associated with the world as it starts to recover from the past few months. The fact is, this ‘new normal’ happens all the time, particularly in the area of technology where evolution is constant. Successful partners are the ones that recognize the market transition and adapt well before the competition. Doing this puts them in a position to take share and capture new opportunities while slower moving partners play catch up.
The network industry is settling into a new normal as it shifts from being predominantly hardware-driven to one that’s more software centric. The software-ization of the network will lead to many benefits, including an increased level of automation, improved agility, enhanced security and a network aligned with digital trends. Updates and changes to legacy networks are not efficient and rely largely on manual configuration.
An interesting data point from ZK Research is that the average time it takes an enterprise to make a change network-wide is four months. This long lead time is at odds with the continuous innovation digital businesses strive to achieve. Another shocking fact is that the largest cause of unplanned downtime is from misconfiguration caused by human error.
Prior to being an analyst, I was in corporate IT and worked for a Cisco partner. I understand first-hand the pressure network engineers feel when they are under the gun trying to make changes quickly. Clients are constantly asking when an issue will be fixed or when a site will be turned up. Unfortunately, the only configuration “tool” available to the network professional was the command line interface (CLI) and regardless of how good a CLI jockey a person is, flipping through menus, cutting, pasting and editing on the fly is bound to lead to errors.
Something had to change, and Cisco changed. New products are software centric and configuration can be done through API interfaces. Obviously, this requires a change of skill set, which is why Cisco created the DevNet community, which provides all of the necessary training and individual certifications to modernize the network engineer’s skill set. All partners should be strongly encouraging their Cisco engineers to pursue individual certifications.
However, along with individual skill set evolution, the partner must also evolve to align itself with the future and what has already become the new normal for networking. To help with this, Cisco recently announced the partner-focused DevNet Specialization program. Details of the program can be found here.
Companies are forced to think differently about how employees work, how to manage their supply chain and how to service customers which is accelerating digital transformation plans. This will put more pressure on network professionals to operate at a faster pace to keep up with business needs. Few customers will have the technical knowhow and the software skills to do everything in house. This knowledge gap will create a huge surge in customers looking for partners that have the software prowess to do things like automate infrastructure, connect systems and solve business problems. The ability to work with APIs and program the network is critical to the success of Cisco partners.
The DevNet Specialization provides partners with a roadmap to ensuring it has the proper skills, development practices, and offers/solutions required to be successful in a world where software dominates networking. The “DevNet Specialized” partner is a proof point to customers that the organization can deliver single or cross-domain architectures throughout the software lifecycle. There is huge upside for partners here as the software centric services are higher margin, repeatable and provide greater business value than hardware centric ones.
Make no mistake, the DevNet Specialization will be as important as any other Cisco Partner designation and I expect to start seeing requests for it in customer RFPs. The world is changing, and Cisco partners need to change along with it. The only question is, what are you waiting for?