What's the next big move for network engineering? According to ITP scholar in residence Levi Perigo, the future will be highly programmable networks that can be easily updated and personalized. After years in industry, Dr. Perigo is on the cutting edge of networking technology and shares the news with his students.
1. What brought you to ITP?
Before I started here, I was working full-time in network engineering at Adtran - I'd spent all 10 years at the same company in the telecom industry. I had a lot of industry experience and was excited to offer new insights to some of the new technologies being used in industry - especially to help the ITP students on the network engineering track to be more marketable.
For the first class I taught at ITP, I was an Adjunct Professor and was tasked with teaching a Network Engineering class with Lab Director Jose Santos. During that time, I discovered just how good a program ITP is. I found that many of my peers in industry didn't know anything about the topics I helped teach in that class and the lab. It really impressed me that the program was teaching these students things that senior network engineers in industry did not know.
2. How has network engineering changed since you've been with ITP?
It's a fast-moving field. Just within the last two years, people with my kind of background and experience in the field are starting to be left behind because networking has shifted to more of a software focus. Before I came to CU, network programming and open source initiatives were minute. Since working in ITP the past two years, there's been a lot of focus on open source software like Linux, and we've incorporated programming into the network engineering courses and curriculum.
The biggest change in ITP's coursework is that we've moved from traditional routing and switching to a more open source, programmable network. It's a global trend, and we're in the initial stages of lots of growth. ITP is at the cutting edge and, in industry, people are just starting to move towards SDN. Here at ITP, we've been teaching SDN and open source in our coursework for two years! Our graduates come out of the program with knowledge of technology and techniques that the people hiring them often don't even know.
3. What kind of research are you working on? How does that impact your teaching?
Currently, all my research interests are in SDN (software-defined networking), as well as network programmability and automation. My focus and experience in the field helps me teach two or three courses that are SDN-related in our network engineering track.
I'm also working as a faculty advisor for some of ITP’s capstone teams and advising masters thesis work too. One thesis is on BGP convergence, SDN, and traditional networks, and the other thesis is focusing on network automation.
4. What has been the biggest surprise since you started working here?
For me, I was really surprised by the amount of cutting-edge, high-quality equipment that students get to use. The hands-on labs that all students use for their courses mean they get to experience a physical lab infrastructure that is almost better than industry labs. The facilities we have are amazing - just out of this world. The recent lab upgrades are a big facilitator in keeping ITP ahead of the curve and giving our students the best experience possible. Right now our lab structure is one of the best in the country.
On that note, ITP also has a very strong internship program and we cultivate a lot of industry ties to make sure our students get practical industry experience which makes them more employable. Through our industry ties, we receive donations of lab equipment and funding for exciting events like our fall 2016 and spring 2017 Hackathons.
I'm continuously impressed by the caliber of the students in ITP, both as they enter and also as they graduate. The intelligence and skills that comes with graduating out of our program is top-notch and the students are sometimes more knowledgeable about current technology than the people who hire them.