Today I will give an overview of our recent integration between Cisco Data Center Network Manager (DCNM) and Red Hat Ansible to streamline NX-OS fabric deployments.


Traditionally in data center network management, configuration was often a manual, error prone process, with an operator going device by device to make changes, with every change requiring a deep understanding of both the OS specific CLIs as well as an knowledge of the technology and the implications of each CLI change, to attain a desired outcome.

Cisco DCNM

Cisco DCNM is a turnkey solution for NX-OS network-wide workload orchestration and workflow automation, providing everything from Day 0 auto-provision, through Day N configuration changes. The solution is delivered through an easy to use UI for a single point of management for both network configuration and monitoring.

Additionally, operators have begun to understand and embrace the DevOps model to streamline network management. It is now widely accepted that network automation can be leveraged to accelerate network deployment and optimize network operations in a data center.

With the current global COVID-19 pandemic, network teams are being asked to do more with less, all while working remotely.

The importance of automation was highlighted even further in a recent IDC survey[1].

As part of the responses to the survey,

  1. 48% of respondents said they will increase investment in automation solutions to reduce manual management of the network
  2. 46% require increased ability to remotely manage network operations

Ansible and Cisco DCNM

Red Hat Ansible is an open-source solution that addresses challenges from network automation and application deployment, to managing a cloud infrastructure, in order to drive a more efficient IT environment with a simplified toolchain.

Ansible has emerged as one of the most popular platforms to automate and simplify network management tasks and boost cost savings and operational efficiency. Ansible works with many different operating systems that run on Cisco Networking platforms including ACI, IOS-XE and IOS-XR.

For several years now, Cisco has offered industry leading Ansible modules for NX-OS, which have been widely adopted and remain extremely popular to automate and streamline network deployments.

However, customers are increasingly looking to move towards a single point of management for their fabrics, rather than making changes at a device by device level.

Ansible, in conjunction with Cisco DCNM, provides a perfect combination for customers to embrace the DevOps model and accelerate NX-OS deployment, monitoring, day-to-day management, and more. Ansible achieves this goal by leveraging the open APIs of DCNM to automate the most common tasks.

Operational efficiencies made possible by Ansible and Cisco DCNM include the following:

  • Addition or removal of NX-OS switches from a fabric
  • Management of networks within a VXLAN fabric
  • Addition or removal of VRFs from a VXLAN fabric
  • Orchestration of switch interfaces within a DCNM managed fabric

Key Benefits of Cisco DCNM/Ansible solution

  • Enables Admins to align on a unified approach to managing NX-OS fabrics with the same toolchain of their application deployments, enabling a tight coupling of application and network provisioning.
  • Like all Ansible modules, the DCNM modules are idempotent ensuring that only necessary changes are made to the fabric. If the fabric is already in the desired state, no changes are made.
  • Easy entry to leveraging Ansible, with all playbooks being written in human readable YAML.

Related links

[1] IDC, COVID-19 & Enterprise Networking: Assessing the Impact, Planning for the Future, Doc # WC20200709, July 2020



Sunil Gudurvalmiki

Senior Product Manager

Data Center Networking