IT professionals often get motivated to learn programmability and automation skills after attending webinars, or reading articles on network programmability, NetDevOps, automation, infrastructure-as-Code, etc.
But learning new skills like Python, Ansible, REST APIs can sometime be very intimidating. Even for very experienced IT professionals. Those of us who are new to network automation may end up spending hours, or even days in debugging their first python module installation issue, or REST API response parsing issue. As a result, it can be difficult to find time and motivation to continue the learning journey before successfully automating your first real task.
Help for new learners
The DevNet engineering and UX team took inspiration from the learning-to-ride-a-bicycle model – i.e. provide training wheels that help learners avoid painful mistakes until they have some basic riding skills.
We’ve done this in the DevNet Associate Fundamentals course. We added interactive, all-in-one learning experiences that include built-in integrated labs. Each lab in the course starts with a preconfigured development environment, with an in-browser code editor and Linux terminal to try hands-on exercises.
The integrated development environment will help learners do a range of hands-on exercises, including:
- basic Python programming
- getting started with Git
- authoring basic Ansible playbooks
- making API calls using python to Cisco products like WebEx, Meraki, Cisco DNAC, ACI, and UCS
Preconfigured learning labs remove blockers
These preconfigured, in-browser learning lab environments ensure users gets experience of writing and running realistic automation scenarios, without getting blocked by initial setup challenges. Once a learner gets basic skills down, they can remove the training wheels. Then, the DevNet Associate Fundamentals Course provides instruction to run all these labs on the developer’s laptop.
In addition to great learning labs, the Fundamentals course also has text and videos for each topic to make learning easier. And quizzes to validate your understanding of topics. Throughout, the content of the DevNet Associate Fundamentals Course will help learner acquire fundamentals skills and be prepared to pass the DevNet Associate Certification exam.
TL;DR – Details for engineers interested in peeking under the hood
The simple interface for the in-browser based integrated development environment hides a great deal of complexity. In face, both the simplicity of the UX, and complexity of the back-end are part of the design.
Starting a learning lab in the course instantiates a preconfigured Docker instance on one of Kubernetes clusters. This Docker instance exposes the terminal and code editor in-browser. For the learner, it acts like a dedicated development box in the Cloud. To ensure lab instructions run seamlessly and repetitively on these development instances, lab authors created custom docker image templates for each lab. All required dependency, SDK, sample code, etc. are preinstalled.
Some labs also require connecting to Cisco product APIs. For this, developer instance are configured to connect with DevNet Sandbox instances of the respective products.
For everyone taking the DevNet Associate Fundamentals Course, all these complexities are hidden. What you see when you start a learning lab is a customized development box. It starts in a few second, and gets automatically cleaned up once you complete the lab.
Our DevNet engineering team puts into practice the Cloud Native technologies that we teach to engineers on their network automation learning journey. Please leave a comment below if you would like to learn more about specific engineering implementations. We’re happy to hear from you.
Start your journey for DevNet Associate Certification
Achieving Cisco Certified DevNet Associate certification proves your skills in developing and maintaining applications built on Cisco platforms. Start your learning journey for certification by enrolling in the DevNet Associate Fundamentals course.
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The lab user experience in the DEVASC training is amazing! Zero wait, immediate response and super easy to use!
Thank you Oren!
It is wonderful to hear that you like lab user experience, your comments exactly echo goals that the team is targeting to achieve.
Yes its absolutely right..it has never been easy to work with Pythan and REST API to achieve automation. I have 14 years experience in Networking ,I still struggle whenever I try to configure devices via python or any automation software…I still feel old school method more handy though it is time consuming.
Please advice how to overcome with this challenge.I have to learn automation as this is the further
Yes, as with adopting any new technology, implementing the first couple of automation tasks may take a little longer but it will improve overall productivity in the mid/long term.
The approach we have seen work is, first individual or team, learns the basics of network programmability and automation tools like python, REST API, products SDKs, Ansible, etc. DevNet resources like DevNet Fundamentals Course and DEVASC certification help’s learn/certify these skills.
Once an individual or team has required basic skills, start the automation journey with Walk, Run & Fly (increasing complexity) model. In the Walk, phase identify smaller repetable and manual tasks & automate these tasks. Hopefully, that will improve some productivity and enables invest saved time to further improve skills & implement Run & Fly automation scenarios. Also rather than building automation scripts from scratch, try to start with the existing community script https://developer.cisco.com/network-automation as a base.
Great blog and very informative! Built-in integrated labs provide awesome experience.
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