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Transforming the Future by Learning Network Programmability Skills



There has never been a better time to transform yourself with new skills! Network engineers and application developers alike have a new opportunity to jump into the world of networking programmability and differentiate themselves from other professionals in the marketplace. IDC is predicting that Network Programmability will grow by CAGR 54% to $12.5 billion by 2020. This means there will be high demand for new skills in the market.


For this reason, the Cisco DevNet team collaborated with Cisco Networking Academy to build a learning track to teach these emerging skills to new students. After months of weekly meetings and deliberation of how to build a new workshop to change the industry by teaching Network Programmability, we finally took our pilot workshop for a spin in a real-world scenario in Milan, Italy. There were several people from both teams who worked together for over six months to create the DevNet Beginner Learning Track and Workshop for NetAcad instructors and students.





Our team packed our bags to test it out at eForHum in Milan on June 8th and 9th. We decided to run the pilot with NetAcad instructors in this Train the Trainer workshop, but we also wanted to show instructors the full excitement and energy created from the workshop by bringing in students as well. The NetAcad instructors were provided with tools in the form of the DevNet Beginner Learning Track and accompanying slides so they could test out the new two-day workshop with their own students. Students were given an exciting couple of days of learning which will set them up for a successful start in their career path. With the expected growth in this field, people with these skills will be able to jump in to lucrative jobs as the skills are highly sought after.


The Learning Track we created includes four modules:

  • Overview and DevNet Resources
  • Intro to Coding and REST APIs
  • Spark APIs for Beginners
  • Network Programmability


The model of the workshop was to listen, learn, and then engage participants by putting their new competencies into practice with a hands-on mission. This is a fun way to ensure everyone learns as they compete to see who finishes the mission first. You could feel the energy build in the team as they all worked toward the same goal. They helped one another, received assistance from experts, and then the competitive juices kicked in to see who could complete the mission first.




Day 1: Kicking the Tires with Languages and Cisco Spark


We kicked of the day by diving into language skills like Python, JSON, and REST. We used the Python Interpreter to understand syntax, data types, variables, scope, packages, ran some code, and did some debugging.


We covered REST APIs and explained their importance to the Digital Network Architecture. The students were excited to jump into hands-on exercises using POSTMAN and Python programming to make REST API calls.


Next, we tackled Cisco Spark, an amazing persistent chat and room-based messaging product that brings teams together instantly so they can send messages, video chat, and share files, all in one place. Using the Spark APIs the students were able to integrate Spark features via an easy-to-use set of REST APIs which has requests for managing rooms and memberships, posting messages, and registering webhooks for real-time message notifications.


As is often the case, the students got hooked on Spark as it is easy to learn and fun to use with so many interesting ways to play with APIs and integrations.


Finally, the students were excited to dive in to their first mission of running a poll by using the Spark PollBot. As quickly as they were able to tackle that activity, we jumped into a second mission. In the second mission instructors and students were required to complete a Python script to enable the creation of a room and post a message.




Day 2: Network Programmability and the APIC-EM Controller APIs


As our group of students came from the Networking Academy, the workshop would not have been complete without digging into the key concepts of Network Programmability, including Software Defined Networking, an approach to computer networking that allows network administrators to programmatically initialize, control, change, and manage network behavior dynamically. In preparation for the event, we set up a reserved DevNet APIC-EM sandbox so students could jump right in to SDN.


We explored the features and use of the APIC-EM Controller. APIC-EM is Cisco’s software defined networking (SDN) controller for enterprise networks. The students were able to control APIC-EM through the APIC-EM REST APIs. Students explored the use of Path Trace APIs and started to use Policy APIs as well. This prepared them for their third mission. The participants put their newly acquired Network Progammability skills into practice by retrieving topology information from APIC-EM and posted their results in the event Spark room.


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Workshop Results


Feedback from both instructors and students was quite positive and we are excited to bring the workshop to the industry to aid in the transformation happening around network programmability. In this pilot group, we were able to engage students with both Networking (CCNA) and Software Development skills. It proved to be a successful pilot workshop as you can see from the post event survey data below. Given the positive feedback, we plan to roll out further workshops in the future. Stay tuned as we will be continuing to package up all the instructions and steps to allow instructors to try out this exciting new workshop.




A Great Team Delivers Great Success


Many thanks to Matt Denapoli, Giuseppe Cinque, Jozef Janitor, Marc Khayat, Luca Lepore, and Austin Hyland for working together on-site to make this event a great success. We also want to thank Ruth Cattell, Daniel Klinger, and Tom Davies for their work and virtual support of the event. Finally thanks goes out to Tessa Mero, Brett Tiller, Kareem Iskander, and David Staudt who have been working on the development of the track over the last several months. Our hard work has paid off! The students were actively engaged, learned a lot, and are under way to take the emerging job opportunities to come with Network Programmability.




Now the Hand-Off


Now it’s your turn, whether you are an instructor or a student, all the resources are available to get started with this two day workshop. You can use the DevNet Beginner Learning Track and access the accompanying slides to begin with this new training opportunity. Simply get started with the track at the link above, reach out to me through the DevNet community page, or contact me @kuehltweet on Twitter to get further information. Please provide your feedback and comments below. You can also keep the conversation going by reaching out to @CiscoDevNet on Twitter.

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