Dec 21, 2017

Intent-Based Networking and Work/Life Balance for Network Engineers

Achieve better work/life balance with intent-based networking

I recently had the pleasure of talking with Greg Ferro and Ethan Banks about the work/life balance in the context of network engineering.

I think this topic is particularly relevant at this time of year when it is critical that data center networks are performing flawlessly, while those who are responsible for keeping them running are trying to carve out some quality time with friends and family for the holidays. Intent-based networking (IBN)  is the solution to this problem.

Intent-based networking was born from the notion that it’s possible to programmatically reason about what a business needs from its network. Capturing high-level intent and translating it to a working network is what Apstra AOS® is all about.

Therefore, it’s natural for many people to question what the impact of IBN is on network engineers.  Many people immediately jump to the conclusion that such systems will put network engineers out of work.  What they miss — and this is something we are very passionate about at Apstra — is that IBN and solutions like AOS will actually help network engineers improve the balance between their daily work and their personal lives.

But what causes the imbalance in the lives of network engineers in the first place?  The first thing we need to do is acknowledge the problem.

Everything is Broken

This week I had to figure out how to use Python to transmit an Ethernet frame.  There were constraints and requirements, of course, at every level that complicated the task at hand.  I ended up spending all night working on the issue.  I went down many rabbit holes.  Poor or missing documentation, bad software engineering choices, wrong code examples, and random weirdness all contributed to me spending hours trying to get the task at hand done.  All of this was an effort to compensate for a lack of proper network tooling in the first place.

This is the life of a network engineer.  This is why so much of what we do is all in our heads and so difficult to explain or share with others. Network engineers have a difficult job.  It’s certainly a high-stress job much of the time.

For many network engineers, achieving a healthy work/life balance is something of a Holy Grail.  At times it seems like there is always something getting in the way of completing even the simplest of tasks.  Does it have to be like this?

There’s a Better Way

What if there was a better approach to networking?  A saner way of designing, deploying, and operating networks?  A smarter, less stressful way with new and better tools to elevate and de-stress you? We’ve all heard the phrase “work smarter, not harder”, but that’s difficult to do when every resource you have is insufficient or misleading in some way.

We all know what we want the network to do, so let there be tools that help you just do it without all the insanity.  This is what Intent-Based Networking is all about.  It’s what AOS was built to do.