Network automation is not just for the engineers who configure and run the networks. When you write code to be run on your network hardware, consider that some of it will help others in their roles too. With network automation, new or service upgrade deployments can be done to expand capacity, or add new features with fewer resources required.  But these actions can improve throughput, increases workflows, and project delivery speed for other teams as well.

Let’s take a look at how we can safely open our networks up so other teams can gather information they need quickly.

The code is ready

As a network automation engineer, you can automate some (if not all!) of your repetitive network tasks using scripts. Now gathering information, and validating that your network devices are running a specific software/image version on all your fifty routers or switches (or both), for your boss or company audit can take just a few minutes. This makes logging into all the network devices issuing a ‘show version’ and copying it to Wikipedia page or excel sheet, and then combing over it for discrepancies a thing of the past. This is also most helpful to track progress when a team is performing a software/image upgrade and you have to report this back to your boss with the project status and upgrade process. Using scripts for repetitive tasks is a must for all network engineers.

Collaboration – Making life better for all

Sharing these automation scripts with others not just within your own team but with other teams so they too can take advantage of network automation is a great way for collaboration. Take for example a security architecture team. They get a security email warning them of a bug or security risk, and they know your company uses a certain model of hardware. What they might not know is the software version currently being used. Normally, they would have called or spoken with the network manager, who would have had one of their network engineers run the script. Or, the security architect would have opened a support ticket. How cool is it now when the security architect team can run the script themselves! Any issues could be found, reported, and patched a lot quicker. Even better, the security architect team could more quickly see if your hardware is not using a version impacted by the security warning email they just got.

Next Steps – Cleaning Up Configuration

As good as base templates are for building and deploying new or refreshed networking hardware, once the hardware is in place it can become a free-for-all when adds, moves, and changes are required. Especially for ad-hoc changes. Naming, numbering, policies, and services can all get out of shape in a short while. Have you ever compared two (or more) router or switch configurations side by side and saw the differences from the one that was built in 2016 versus the one that was built this year? It’s even more frustrating when someone informs you the service they are trying to access in one location is not working. “It’s working in this location, but not this one.” You check and you find that you have a missing access list, how did that happen?

You can use automated validation to do this for you. You can write automation scripts defining the state you expect your configuration to be in and have your automation retrieve this and build the validation information for you.

To prevent mismatch with configuration, you can use network automation for adds, moves, and changes. It does not have to be a complex change or addition, start small and build up your tasks. In doing this all your configurations will begin to be symmetrical over all your network hardware. The biggest mistake in learning network automation is trying to automate a big project or challenge right out the gate. Once you have performed your change you wanted it’s time to use automation for validation again.

Cisco DevNet – Getting Started and Learning More!

Now that you have read how automation and collaboration can help you simplify your daily tasks, and help create better control of your configurations, where can you go now and either start or learn more?  Cisco DevNet is a great place to go. Wherever you are on the network automation journey, you’ll find all kinds of helpful information – including learning labs, sandboxes, and API documentation – in the Networking Dev Center.

For access to DevNet and all developer resources you can sign up for DevNet here. Or use this QR code.

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Stuart Clark

Senior Developer Advocate Of Community, AWS