netlab Python Package and Unified CLI

One of the major challenges of using netsim-tools (now renamed to netlab) was the installation process – pull the code from GitHub, install the prerequisites, set up search paths… I knew how to fix it (turn the whole thing into a Python package) but I was always too busy to open that enormous can of worms.

That omission got fixed; netlab is now available on PyPI and installed with pip3 install networklab.

I faced two major challenges when creating the package:

  • Non-Python files (YAML configuration files, Ansible playbooks, task lists, Jinja2 templates…). In the end I managed to include them in the package – turns out it’s not hard once you know what you’re doing – but they get installed into some weird inconvenient place.
  • A dozen Ansible playbooks and scripts that were part of the netlab distribution. I could ask pip to install them into whatever bin directory, but I hate polluting the filesystem. In the end, I decided to hide the complexity behind unified CLI (aka “one command to rule them all”).

All netlab functionality is now available through netlab command:

I also noticed some users struggled with the libvirt-based installation on Ubuntu, so I added netlab install that installs:

  • Prerequisite Ubuntu software, including Python3 tools, git, sshpass and XML libraries.
  • KVM, libvirt, and Vagrant
  • Ansible, TextFSM, paramiko, netmiko, ntc-templates…

netlab test can also run a comprehensive test of your lab environment including:

  • Creating Vagrant/containerlab and Ansible configuration files
  • Starting a three node Cumulus VX1 lab
  • Configuring the network devices, including OSPF configuration
  • Destroying the lab

Last but definitely not least, you’re most welcome to join the netlab Slack channelnetwork2code Slack team.

  1. Because Cumulus VX happens to be the only no-strings-attached network device available as VirtualBox and libvirt Vagrant box, and a Docker container. ↩︎

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