No, I’m not talking cars.  I’m not convinced (yet) that the total cost of ownership is lower, set aside the performance.  So what am I getting at?  Skill sets.  Jon Olstik wrote today that, well, he said it better than I could summarize, so I’ll quote him:

“IT needs new networking/application specialists. F5 financial results and the whole evolution of ADC functionality suggest the need for a new IT skill set. I believe there is a growing requirement for hybrid IT specialists who understand both networking and application requirements. These people will become architects and application performance gurus — and make a ton of dough. F5 should work with application vendors like Microsoft or Oracle to create a certification program in this area.”

When I first began managing BIG-IP duties back in 2002, I quickly recognized that my skill set was inadequate to do it, the infrastructure, or the applications justice.  Its purpose was only load balancing and SSL offload, but the impact to the applications, or really, the potentially positive impact to the applications, was not addressed in design meetings.  It just boiled down to make it work.  This boded well for me since I didn’t really know squat about anything above layer four (shush all you haters who will contend that’s still the case).  As I’ve moved from early exposure to BIG-IP’s full proxy arrival in v9, I’ve also taken interest in understanding the applications.  I’m no expert, but I think every network guy that uses application delivery technology owes it to their customer to not just put it on the network and call it good.  If you manage dozens of web applications on your BIG-IP, it will serve you well to understand the HTTP protocol.  Organizations can make this easier on employees by cross training disciplines.  It may make for a slipped deadline or a sluggish development cycle, but rotating your network guys through a month or so of application development shadowing, (and making your application developers field the calls from the users that “the network is slow" with the network guys showing the app developers the traces that prove its not) can only be good long term.  As for you, Jon is absolutely correct that if you can marry the wisdom of network and application, you will be well compensated for your services.  Get in the lab, get dirty, make mistakes (yes, that’s a Magic School Bus reference) and be humble enough to admit you don’t know it all and ask someone from another discipline to mentor you.  You won’t be sorry.