Repost: Automation Without Simplification

The No Scripting Required to Start Your Automation Journey blog post generated lively discussions (and a bit of trolling from the anonymous peanut gallery). One of the threads focused on “how does automation work in real life IT department where it might be challenging to simplify operations before automating them due to many exceptions, legacy support…

Here’s a great answer provided by another reader:

One small step at a time. :-)

First, if you have 100 switches, do you really have 100 different brands and models, or do you perhaps just have five brands and ten models?

Start then with the brand/model that you think will be the most common/important for you going forward. Identify fragments of commonality. E.g, all switches should do syslogging to $LOGSERVER, fetch time using SNTP from $NTPSERVER, and have SNMP set up to allow read using community "public", and no write access over SNMP.

Then write automation modules to make sure those things are what they are supposed to be. Even just having scripts to check that things are correct (and just complain if they are not) can be a big help.

You also need to nudge, cajole, bully and/or force commonality going forward. This is a multi-year project... Make sure that your users and management knows the costs of being unique.

Identify unnecessary differences. Do you have the same linecards in the same slots in your core routers/switches, or is a certain card in slot 1 in one router and in slot 3 in the other? Is distribution switch X connected to port 17 in one core router and port 23 in the other? Do you have the same VLANs/VRFs on all the uplinks from switch Y?

We cover all these topics in the Building Network Automation Solutions online course. You’ll learn how to:

You’ll also learn from people who deployed automation solutions in complex brownfield environment, from Facebook enterprise network to enterprise data centers and Internet Exchange Points.

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