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Cisco says CLI becoming interface of last resort

Cisco's not tearing up scripts, but can hero NetAdmins deliver automation and orchestration?

Cisco thinks the command line interface (CLI) should be the interface “of last resort”, according to Dave West, the company's chief technology officer for systems engineering and architectures across Asia.

CLIs won't disappear from Cisco products any time soon and West doesn't expect networking pros to stop using them. But he does think that as organisations start to expect their networks to re-configure themselves into virtual networks according to pre-determined policy, CLIs and hands-on scripting become less useful.

“The 'greybeards' are still going to be there to build the automation and build the interfaces and the programmatic ways that they want to interact, because they know their networks better than anybody,” West told El Reg at Cisco Live in Melbourne this week. “They have grown and lived in those things.”

Now Cisco thinks those greybeards, even the experts holding high level certifications like CCIE and CCNE, will spend less time rummaging around under the hood and more time talking to business people.

“In the past, networks have been set and forget thing,” West said. As organisations move to deliver services online at scale, automate to adopt technologies like containerisation and expand networks to handle input from Things it becomes less viable for a hero NetAdmin to hack their networks into health, or to script without documentation.

West recognises that lots of netadmins will be fret about their career prospects as Cisco puts GUI-fied automation and orchestration tools up front, but says that as networks are asked to do more complex things good networking pros will be more valuable then ever. The Register hates to use the D-word – “disruption” - but West used it a lot and reckons good networking pros will be at the heart of it. And best of all, both new businesses born online and older organisations trying to get their digital acts together will need people who can get networks doing the right things.

In West's view, sublimating the CLI therefore means NetAdmins can make their other skills more prominent and profit as a result. That's a story plenty of Sysadmins were told as server virtualisation took away the need for server-related drudgery. Some thrived as a result. Did you? There's a comments field down there and you know what to do with it. ®

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