The focus of this episode of our ongoing DNA Center Automation Series is Onboarding Templates and setting up a lab or production environment to enable this capability. This second lab in the series aims to understand the various concepts required to support device onboarding. The labs within this series, allow for use in the DCLOUD environment; however, you may equally utilize them as part of a Proof of Concept setup at a customer’s lab. You may use these procedures to ensure that all the necessary steps are complete before onboarding any devices within DNA Center. These procedures may also help form part of a deployment or implementation.

Within this series, we cover the following;

  1. PnP Preparation – explains the overall Plug and Play set up steps
  2. Onboarding Templates – explains in-depth how to deploy Day 0 templates
  3. Day N Templates – dives into Day N template constructs with both regular and composite templates and use cases
  4. Application Policys – explores Application Policys and SD-AVC in DNAC and their use
  5. Telemetry – explains how to deploy Telemetry for assurance
  6. Advanced Automation – explores Advanced Automation techniques
  7. Dynamic Automation – a deployment lab for dynamic automation

Each of the Labs builds on the concepts that we cover, and this lab has a prerequisite of completing the first lab. This lab addresses how to use Onboarding Templates within DNA Center to onboard network devices at Day Zero, where they have no configuration initially. This lab will go through the flow involved in building the supporting settings within DNA Center to support onboarding. The lab will also allow you to deploy a  template for a Catalyst switch through DNA Center using Onboarding workflows. To prepare the environment, make sure you complete the steps outlined in our first, and second blogs in the series.

What will I learn in the Onboarding Templates Lab?

In this lab, customers will start by building out an Onboarding Template that typically deploys only enough information to initialize the device. This lab delves into the practical application of how to set up DNA Center settings and hierarchy and how to prepare a template for delivery. It also lightly explains some of the various philosophies surrounding how we might deploy configuration.

While you might think to include the entire configuration for a traditional network device, there is a better way. We are better served by Day N Templates for large configuration constructs, allowing for modularization and reuse and simplification of operations. Day N Templates should be utilized to apply complex configuration and ongoing changes allowing device modifications after initial deployment.

Other considerations surround the use of the UI-centric approach and the impact that it has on a typical configuration. A configuration could include some lines of code, which may be delivered through the UI-centric settings. If these Design components are used, we need to understand the impact that may have on simplifying our configuration and how easy that may make the network maintain.

We will gain a practical understanding of the steps associated with setting up DNA Center and an environment to support Plug and Play and Device Onboarding during this lab. The lab is aimed at aiding engineers in rapidly begin using DNA Center automation and help them work towards a template strategy. Additionally, this lab will give customers a permanent place to try out the onboarding templates and includes configurations for various use cases. Finally, this environment will enable engineers to reduce the time and effort needed to instantiate the network.

Lab Topics

The lab covers these topics in-depth:

  1. Building the Hierarchy and Design Settings automating the setup through API pushed via Postman
  2. Adding Onboarding Templates and Device Profiles
  3. The claiming process for device onboarding

Postman and API’s

In this lab, we will use APIs to build out design settings and credentials with DNA Center to reduce the time required to deploy. Postman will be the client application that we will use to rapidly build the design settings within DNA Center and provides an environment to build these APIs and test them but also helps us troubleshoot if required.

Postman lab

Template Import and Export

In this lab, we will use JSON files to Import and Export templates to DNA Center to reduce the time required to deploy. This capability also includes all the elements edited in the form editor, so all the various settings are sent with the logical cli constructs. This results in a useful tool for moving templates from test environments to production.

Import and Export Template

Template Examples

In this lab, we provide JSON files, examples of templates that you may Import to DNA Center to reduce the time required to deploy. This alleviates the guesswork involved in figuring out how a variable might be set up, as all the form editor elements are also included within the JSON file.

DNA Center Template

Lab Flexibility

While using the lab, if the given examples and the deployment method need to change to support some testing you are doing, you may take the files and environment and modify them to suit your use case. We use a layer two trunk across a port-channel for connectivity, but equally, you could test out other connectivity methods for layer three routed access.

How can I get started?

Within dCLOUD, several sandbox-type labs are available. These self-contained environments are there to allow you to use them as you please within the time scheduled. In addition, this allows us a place to start practicing various concepts without fear of impacting production environments.

Therefore, to aid customers in the transition toward automation, we have put together a set of small helpful labs within a Github repository. As a result, we hope to demystify some of the complexities of setting up plug-and-play and help guide customers through the complexities and caveats. In this way, these self-guided labs provide a glimpse into the fundamentals of building velocity templates and provide examples that you can download and expand from. In addition, the sample templates and JSON files supplied are for easy import into DNA Centers’ template editor for quicker adoption. Lastly, some scripts are ready-made excerpts of code that allow you to build the environment to test.

First, in a practical lab guide, we step by step delve into the concepts of building templates and methodologies for using both Onboarding and DayN templates. Second, we provide answers and explanations to many of the questions that come up during automation workshops. Our hope is that you find the information both helpful and informative. Thus, we hope to give a well-rounded explanation of automation methods and concepts that we can easily expand upon for production purposes. Finally, the lab Onboarding Templates content explains the overall device onboarding setup steps.

Where can I test and try these labs?

dCLOUD Lab Environment

To help customers succeed with Cisco DNA Center automation, you may utilize the above labs as they have been designed to work within dCLOUD’s Cisco Enterprise Networks Hardware Sandbox Labs. The dCLOUD labs allow you to run these labs and gives an environment to try the various code samples. You may choose to develop and export your code for use in production environments. Also, this gives you an environment where you can safely POC/POV methods and steps without harming your production environments. The dCLOUD environment also negates the need for shipping equipment, lead times, and licensing issues needed to get moving rapidly. Please do adhere to the best practices for the dCLOUD environment when using it.

Lab Connectivity

The environment allows for use with a web-based browser client for VPN-less connectivity, access as well as AnyConnect VPN client connectivity for those who prefer it. You may choose from labs hosted out of our San Jose Facilities by selecting US West. Choose the Cisco Enterprise Network Sandbox. To access this or any other content, including demonstrations, labs, and training in dCLOUD please work with your Cisco Account team or Cisco Partner Account Team directly. Your Account teams will schedule the session and share it for you to use. Once booked follow the guide within Github to complete the tasks adhering to the best practices of the dCLOUD environment.


The Onboarding Templates lab content is located within the existing DNAC-TEMPLATES repository to give a one-stop-shop for all the necessary tools, scripts, templates, and code samples. Within it are four labs, which build upon the tutorials to test the methods in a lab environment. The repository was featured in a previous post on Cisco Blogs about DNA Center Templates earlier in May 2021.

Additional Information

DNAC Template LABS

Additional labs aim to guide you through the typical steps required to enable the various automation tasks delivered by DNA Center. This lab will give examples of templates used in DNA Center to modify for our use and test on equipment within the LAB environment. Additional information within the lab provides a well-rounded explanation of Automation methods with Templates. Lastly, the lab enables customers ability to use DNA Center workflows. The lab gives an environment for customers to practice deploying Templates and Application Policies on both Wired and Wireless Platforms.

This lab’s goal is to be a practical aid for engineers developing a template strategy. Secondarily, to aid those engineers in rapidly adopting DNA Center automation.  Additionally, customers will gain a permanent place to try out the templates and include configurations for various use cases. Finally, this environment will enable engineers to reduce the time and effort needed to instantiate the network.

As a result, you will gain experience in setting up Plug and Play onboarding and templates. Additionally, you will use advanced templating methods and troubleshooting tools. These may help during faultfinding to determine what is failing in a deployment.

Additional Labs

Please use this menu to navigate the various sections of this Github repository. Within the multiple folders are examples, explanation readme files for reference.

  • PnP Preparation – The lab covers setup for Plug and Play (allow 1.5 hrs)
  • Onboarding Templates – The lab covers in depth how to deploy Day 0 templates (allow 1.5 hrs)
  • Day N Templates – The lab covers Day N template constructs and use cases (allow 0.5 hrs)
  • Composite Templates – This lab covers building a composite template on DNA Center (allow 0.5 hrs)
  • Application Policys – This lab covers Application Policys & SDAVC in DNAC (allow 1.0 hrs)
  • Telemetry – This lab explains how to deploy Telemetry for assurance (allow 0.5 hrs)
  • Advanced Automation – This lab will explore Advanced Automation examples (allow 1.5 hrs)
  • Dynamic Automation – This lab will use many Advanced Automation techniques discussed previously (allow 2.0 hrs)

We will share additional labs and content in an ongoing effort to fulfill all your automation needs with DNA Center.

In conclusion, if you found this set of labs and repository helpful,

please fill in comments and feedback on how it could be improved.

We’d love to hear what you think. Ask a question or leave a comment below.
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Keith Baldwin

Solutions Engineer

Campus Automation CoE for Enterprise Networking