Building network automation solutions

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Demonstrate Small Automation Wins

Long long time ago in a country far far away when traveling was still a thing I led an interesting data center fabric design workshop. We covered tons of interesting topics, including automating network services deployments (starting with VLAN self-service for server admins).

As was often the case in my workshops, we had representatives from multiple IT teams sitting in the room, and when I started explaining how I’d automate VLAN deployments, the server administrator participating in the workshop quickly chimed in: “that’s exactly how I implemented self-service for some of our customers, it makes perfect sense to use the same approach for server port and VLAN provisioning”, and everyone else in the room agreed… apart from the networking engineer, who used a counter-argument along the lines of “we only provision a new VLAN or server port every few days, we can do it by hand” and no amount of persuasion would move him.

I don’t know how that particular story ended (sometimes I’m positively amazed by results shared by workshop attendees a year or two later, so there’s still hope ;), but it’s evident we need simple sample solutions to demonstrate the value of network automation through small wins.

You can find plenty of good “small wins” examples in our Network Automation Solutions Showcase, but they mostly rely on running Ansible playbooks – not exactly the most user-friendly environment. Even if you add AWX/Tower in front of them the user interface is still heavily tool-focused.

Hans Verkerk decided to go a step further and solve the UI challenge with a Python script. He created a demo VLAN provisioning demo with a Tk-driven graphical user interface and published the source code on GitHub. If you feel like a similar solution might come handy browse his code to get some inspiration.

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