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Predicting the Death of the CLI

By Andrew Lerner | November 22, 2016 | 2 Comments

WANSD-WANNetworkingJust PublishedDevOpsCultureTechnology and Emerging Trends

Every year around December, we publish Enterprise Networking predictions. This year, we have five predictions including:

By 2020, only 30% of network operations teams will use the command line interface (CLI) as their primary interface, down from 85% at YE16.


The CLI has remained the primary operational tool for mainstream network operations teams for easily the past 15-20 years (side note:  I occasionally talk in my sleep and once said “show ip nat trans). Moving away from the CLI is a good thing for the networking industry, and while it won’t disappear completely (advanced/nuanced troubleshooting for example), it will be supplanted as the main interface into networking infrastructure.  This move away from CLI is driven by a) necessity and b) mainstream availability of better alternatives…

NecessityTo support digital business, organizations need to increase network agility by automating operational tasks; for example, reducing the reliance on manual service tickets with the network team for repetitive configuration changes. In addition, manual, CLI-based changes increase the likelihood of errors which leads to network outages.

Alternatives: There are now solutions available from most mainstream networking vendors: A new wave of solutions that do not rely on a CLI as the primary way of configuring and operating the network is gaining adoption in all segments (for example, Ethernet fabrics, SDN, SD-WAN and cloud-managed networks [CMN]) and will replace more than 50% of the installed base by 2020.

To help align with this movement, organizations should require network automation in purchases of network infrastructure (but don’t overpay for it), and avoid letting legacy CLI skills influence purchase decisions. Also, organizations should refocus training investments away from proprietary vendor certifications, toward network automation, programming tools and orchestration through APIs. This can be part of an important shift spend from premium products to premium people. The four other predictions in the research covered these topics:

  • Intent-based networking (note: Blog and research coming soon)
  • SDWAN and vCPE adoption
  • White-Box/Brite-Box data center switches
  • Deployment of direct internet access in enterprise branches

You can access the full research note here (paywall): Predicts 2017: Enterprise Networks and Network Services

Regards, Andrew


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  • Glyn James says:

    CISCO have been trying to get Networking professionals to stop using CLI for the past 5 years, i think it mY be 2025 before it finally happens, or Cisco and the others withdraw the CLIfacility

  • Eddie Parra says:

    The CLI is not going away anytime soon. Changing the business operations in most companies is a slow process. Anyone who thinks different is not working with operators.