Greg Stemberger is an IT professional who started working in networking in 2000. Working in network operations at Sprint, he managed some of the Greg-Stemberger-Force3largest enterprise networks in the world as the Managed Services Operations Engineer focused primarily on routing and switching. He managed more than 20,000 Cisco devices in his initial role at Sprint. Greg has three CCIEs: in route/switch, security, and service provider. He’s also a member of the first group of VCDX-NV certified professionals.

What excites you about network virtualization?

Virtualization is actually nothing new to me, to be honest, because I’ve been dealing with multi-tenancy, which really in my mind, started on the WAN side where VPNs were really one of the first early versions of introducing multi-tenancy and segmentation of the network, and leveraging virtualization-type technology on hardware. It’s just fascinating to see how much that’s evolved and taken off in the compute world. Now, we’re coming back together full circle with SDN. The network is now playing catch-up with how much agility and flexibility virtualization has provided to the compute world. I believe I have been doing virtual networking for a number of years now, but obviously it’s morphed into something much more powerful today than it was five, six year ago when I was just doing virtual routing and things along those lines.

As you went through network virtualization training, did anything surprised you?

I’m amazed at how powerful the network functions have become down to compute level. I didn’t fully grasp how much flexibility is possible down to the network level in virtualization. I just assumed that you needed a piece of hardware to do that, a dedicate piece of hardware, but software has come so far that now we could potentially deliver a lot of the same capabilities at very scalable rates down on an x86 fixed platform.

How do you think getting certified in network virtualization will help traditional networking professionals in their career?

I think it’s a natural evolution that more of network intelligence is going to continue to extend into the software realm, because of the power of computing today, and the power that software programming brings. I don’t think anybody can challenge the fact that network virtualization brings so much agility and power to networking that we never had before. Obviously, looking at NSX and understanding what’s possible in terms of software-defined networking is just a great salvation towards understanding the networks of the future.

What would you say to someone who said “I don’t need to learn about network virtualization?”

I would argue that they maybe don’t understand the power that SDN brings to a network environment. I think you start to understand the value of the proposition around SDN when you realize you can streamline the operational efficiencies of how you manage an IT infrastructure from the network down to the compute into one system, and you see how fast services can be either enabled from scratch based on a business need or changed based on a business requirement much more quickly and efficiently.

Does a networking professionals existing skill set diminish in value with network virtualization?

That’s a great question. I get into these conversations a lot with peers of mine. To be honest, I don’t see any risk to the skills that we have today. The network in many ways will still fundamentally rely on some sort of underlying protocol control plane that needs to be understood, especially in regards to how traffic moves between end points or between nodes in the network. Having that strong engineering skill set to understand how the control plane and how the data plane is forwarding packets, which lends itself well to any strong network engineer, is going to be very important moving forward. It’s just that there’s an evolution in our skill set in terms of how we manage and design and implement these networks that’s going to evolve and I think it’s evolving for the better.

Anything else that you think someone should know?

I guess one interesting thing is that I actually haven’t spent much time on vSphere and or VMware products prior to this. This has actually motivated me to go back and learn vSphere and some of the core virtualization products that VMware brings to the table, because I need to understand those better to really fully grasp what network virtualization and NSX brings to the table. It’s actually a win-win.