Building Automation Device Inventory with Open Source Tools

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One of the common questions we get in the Building Network Automation Solutions online course is “how do I create device inventory if I don’t know (exactly) what devices are in my network?”… prompting one of the guest speakers to reply “could it really be that bad?” (yes, sometimes it is).

Some of the students tried to solve the challenge with Ansible. While that might eventually work (given enough effort), Ansible definitely isn’t the right tool for the job.

What you need to get the job done is a proper toolchain:

  • A tool that is good in doing device discovery – network management tools usually pretty do a decent job;
  • A data store (or tool) that will act as your authoritative source-of-truth. Based on the complexity of your network and the desired editing method (text editor versus API/GUI) you could go with text files, a database, or an IPAM tool;
  • A script that will export the information from the source-of-truth into a format usable by your automation tool (example: dynamic inventory script for Ansible).

Next steps:

  • Selecting the tools;
  • Building the toolchain.

Gian Paolo Boarina documented an interesting toolchain he built:

  • Device discovery with LibreNMS;
  • Inventory and source-of-truth in NetBox;
  • Export of NetBox inventory into Icinga.

All you have to if you want to use the same toolchain with Ansible is to build a dynamic inventory script to export NetBox information into a JSON/YAML blob that Ansible can use.. oh wait, here’s one ;)

Happy toolchaining… and if you want to learn more about network automation watch our network automation webinars or register for the Building Network Automation Solutions online course.

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  1. Dear Ivan,

    Why you said: "don’t watch our network automation webinars"
    1. Because I do too much editing before publishing my blog posts, and obviously cannot properly proofread what I wrote :(( Thanks for pointing out this colossal stupidity.

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