Anyone in the tech game knows that software-defined network (SDN) environments are a hot topic, and now Cisco is working hard to ensure that Cisco-trained network engineers and programmers are ready to use those environments to their fullest. The company has revealed its new DevNet Program, a large scale initiative to provide resources, training, tools and support for everyone involved in enterprise networks and applications programming and who are affected by the shift to SDN.

Susie Wee, Cisco VP and CTO of Networked Experiences, explains the motivation behind the program: “We’ve been arguing to the executive committee that we need to have a strategy and program for developers,” in addition to the networking hardware for which the company is best known. By helping developers and operations managers learn about SDN technologies, DevNet will bridge the existing gap between the network operations and applications for a more streamlined, open networking environment. It will also function as a community for these developers and users, allowing opportunities for peer to peer support and advice, and expanded opportunity for sharing of ideas as well as teamwork on specific projects.

DevNet will encourage learning about SDN and Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) in addition to delivering access to its Application Policy Infrastructure Controller Enterprise Module (APIC EM). This is the software used to discover network devices and analyze their configuration to ultimately allow the network to become programmable. Wee predicts that this software will become widely available during 2015.

Also beginning in 2015, Cisco will offer a DevNet App Store where customers can access network software created by a wide variety of authors, including system integrators, independent developers and other Cisco customers.

Another goal of the DevNet program is to help bring network developers and network operations engineers together, allowing them to work within the same framework and gain new perspective on the complementary function. In the second half of 2014 Cisco plans to make available an SDN sandbox using cloud technology, so operators and developers alike can create and try out code. According to Wee, “We hope to cross-pollinate hot-shot software developers with mission-critical operations people.”

Until now, operations and network application functions being handled separately resulted in a sharp divide, with knowledge and competence in one realm remaining far removed from relevance in the other. As a result, professionals in either operations or network application had little understanding of the needs or challenges of their respective counterparts. “The network wasn’t software friendly,” says Wee. “Today the development environment is rich and ready to take advantage of the open and intelligent network.”

In the end, the opportunities for education and shared understanding brought about by the new DevNet should contribute to the birth of a new generation of flexible, efficient application software and enhanced networking capability. As the leader in the technology field, Cisco is making a smart move to create such a strong program of support and education for all members of the growing SDN community.