What, in your opinion, is the best route to becoming a network engineer these days? Here are some observations on why I am asking this:

  • Software Defined Networking: With SDN becoming supported by so many vendors and implementations by large companies, it seems that it is surely going to become the norm a few years down the road. SDN takes all but the low level protocols off of the router and replaces it with an Openflow Agent and routes based on rules that are coded in (if I remember correctly) Python. In addition to learning the major network protocols in use today (OSPF, BGP, STP), is it imparitive to have a strong background in computer science in order to develop routing rules and simulate them with SDN?

  • Mixed-vendor Networks: It used to be common to find most companies and businesses were using only one vendor for their networking needs (mostly Cisco). However, today it seems pretty common to find a mix of Cisco, Juniper, Brocade, HP, and other vendors in the same network. Is it nessisarry to study / certify with each vendor? Or can you carry over the basic routing / switching protocol concepts from vendor to vendor? And, does it make since to spend years optaining a certification (such as CCIE) when a big part of the equipment you might deal with are from other vendors?

Extra points: Where do you cross the line from becoming a network engineer to becoming a telecommunications engineer? Does it depend on the type of equipment or the type of network you are working on? I can probably find people working on long-haul optical networks that consider themselves network engineers, and folks working on small/mid-size VOIP networks that consider themselves telecom engineers. Does it even matter? Do both discaplines require the same educational background and training?

Thanks for entertaining me with your feedback!

PS - My apologies for the mispelling. I'm borrowing my wife's Windows computer which doesn't seem to have in-browser spell-check installed =)

I support a Mixed vendor network. I have worked with many different vendors and the best thing about networking is that Ethernet is a standard. If a product can support Ethernet, it will play nice with the network.

I have found that a single vendor cannot be the best at everything. I find the best product out there that fits the needs and I go with it. Cisco is ahead of the field in many technologies, but not all of the fields. Riverbed has a great WAN accellerator that is stable and easy to use. F5 has had Irules for years, Cisco is going to add that to the ACE soon. Both Cisco and Brocade can have two of their chassis do an LACP trunk to a single device, VPC and MCT. Cisco recently came out with a single RU switch with dual removable power supplies, Foundry (Now owned by Brcade) has had them for years.

Multi-vendor environment is the way to go.

You can view my website to see some configuration templates for Brocade and Cisco to see some of the difference.

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