If you're a network engineer, don't rush out and learn a programming language. To compete in the new world of software-defined networking, it might be more important to start thinking like a programmer.

That was one of the ideas that emerged this week from an Open Networking User Group debate that generated healthy feedback from users in the audience.

The days of managing individual switches and routers and configuring them with proprietary CLIs (command-line interfaces) are numbered, four panelists at the ONUG spring conference in San Francisco said on Tuesday. Though SDN hasn't worked its way into every enterprise, new approaches to enterprise IT and the availability of public clouds just a few clicks away are driving companies toward more agile and automated networks, they said.

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