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How do I improve my network programming knowledge?

When it comes to SDN and programmable network skills, combining training with practice and hands-on experience can help advance your programming knowledge.

Network programmability is a core skill to obtain when working with software-defined networks. For new network professionals -- or for those with a background in legacy networking architectures -- figuring out how to learn and master programmable network skills can be overwhelming. Here are some tips on how to go about improving your programming knowledge.

I recommend network professionals start by focusing on a specific segment of SDN. For most, the part of the network of particular interest is typically found at the WAN edge. Because SD-WAN is so popular, it's a great place to find up-to-date documentation on how to programmatically manipulate data flow paths based on various network and application factors. SD-WAN is also the place where network professionals will get some real-world experience on production networks.

Another popular network segment to gain programming knowledge is with software-defined technologies specific to the data center. SDN tools in the data center are far more complex than those in the WAN, however, so I typically recommend starting with SD-WAN.

Nothing compares to some true hands-on experience to increase your programming knowledge.

If you have access to virtual server hardware either on premises or in the cloud, you can always start your network programmability training by installing and configuring your own SDN platform using open source software based on the popular OpenFlow communications protocol. Nothing compares to some true hands-on experience to increase your programming knowledge. While the initial learning curve will be steep using this method, the programmable network skills gained working in your own SDN sandbox will be enormous, if you stick with it.

Finally, I recommend professional training courses, if possible. Training on a specific commercial or open source platform is usually the preferred method. Here, you get to focus on a specific set of programming tools and have access to an expert to help you hone your programming knowledge and skills, as well as answer your specific questions.

Network professionals can easily find commercial vendor training from network giants, including Cisco, Juniper and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, along with OpenFlow training from various IT training businesses around the globe.

This was last published in May 2018

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