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To complete the exercises included in the Building Network Automation Solutions online course (or to do your own exploration into the world of network automation) you’ll need a reliable lab environment. There are three major steps you have to complete to get there:
- Create an environment capable of running network automation tools you want to use. We’ll focus on getting Ansible and NAPALM up and running.
- Build a networking lab using either physical or virtual devices.
- Establish connectivity between your network automation environment and your networking lab.
The rest of this document describes some of the potential approaches to building a network automation lab. Don’t limit yourself to what’s described here – go out and experiment.
You might also be interested in these alternative approaches:
- Full-blown development environment created by Carl Buchmann
- Building a Docker network automation container
Don’t Create a Science Project
Some networking engineers severely overestimate their skills in adjacent areas. Building a virtual lab for the first time with Vagrant and VirtualBox while fighting bugs in vendor Vagrant boxes can be a daunting task. If you’re new to Linux and virtual labs please try to keep things as simple as possible. Here are a few ideas (in increasing order of complexity):
- Use my quick recipe to create your network automation environment and use physical network devices (if nothing else, configure your home router);
- Install a workstation virtualization product (VirtualBox or VMware Fusion/Workstation) and create Linux VM and network devices from ISO images using GUI. You can still use my recipe and installation scripts to set up the network automation environment.
- Instead of creating individual VMs for network devices, set up VIRL or GNS3 and enable outside access to network devices.