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Network Automation Is Much More than Configuration Management

Most network automation presentations you can find on the Internet focus on configuration management, either to provision new boxes, or to provision new services, so it’s easy to assume that network automation is really a fancy new term for consistent device configuration management.

However, as I explained in the Network Automation 101 webinar, there’s so much more you can do and today I’d like to share a real-life example from Jaakko Rautanen, an alumni of my Building Network Automation Solutions online course.

He wrote:

I have to share my first real life experience of network automation. My customer had major power outage for two huge distribution centers next to each other yesterday. After this the customer asked me to report what devices rebooted during that time to see if the UPS systems were working correctly. There are about 100 switch stacks in the building. Perfect use case for uptime report. While this can be done multiple ways, I decided to use Ansible. During this process I learned how to use Ansible vault so that no clear text password are stored in text files. Also I used napalm to get uptime and wrote Jinja2 filter to convert uptime seconds to human readable format. It works and I'm happy ;)

How easy could you do that in your network? Could you get that data easily from your existing network management tool?

Also, now that Jaakko has invested some time to create the automation infrastructure to solve what seems to be a simple problem (after all, one would hope you can get uptime report from your favorite network management tool), he can easily create reports on any information the devices can provide.

Want to be like him? Start exploring the network automation webinars and consider attending the online course.

4 comments:

  1. I think config management is just the simple low hanging fruit. My first adventure jumping in was automating the troubleshooting process of common problems Sr level guys/gals were drug into. Its not perfect but its a start and helps.

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  2. Could you please share the playbook? Thanks

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  3. So there is a network with one hundred of switch stacks and the admin, who is responsible for the network does not know the uptime values of these switches and he has to create a script to gather such basic info? If I was his customer, I would thank him for the report and end the contract immediately :)

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  4. Keep in mind that automation for a network like google's was built out of need. You begin to understand what can make you more efficient out of those needs. They may have started by doing things like creating replicable models and scripts to build efficiently. That led to their design modularity and towards network automation (vs device automation). One good outage and they began to want to fix things faster leading to research into resiliency and automated recovery. That grew from there to SDN and centralized control for optimization and further resiliency. The mindset of automation and optimization is where networking professionals need to be going to.
    A company implementing 100 switch stacks, without understanding how to do this without reason and efficient cost modeling would soon find themselves out of business. I guarantee that anyone with a large enough burden to necessitate 100 switch stacks would have figured that out rather than go out of business.

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