Co-written with Patrick Warichet, Technical Marketing Engineer

I’ve been asking that question to many Service Providers and I’ve always got unclear answers. Either they don’t have the answer handy or they don’t really want to share this insight fearing to be compared with their peers … Without disclosing any secret here, answers range between a few hours and a few days or even weeks.

Do we have any industry benchmark? Yes! Best-in-class Hyperscale Web Providers can achieve this stunning result – 15 minutes from truck to live traffic deployment!

Of course, time matters but it should not be the unique criteria for assessing performance in that space.

What about the resources you need for that operation? On-boarding new devices has always been a tedious task as it relies upon manual processes and tight synchronization between teams across different departments.

Do you believe this mode of operation is still suited to the pace of change you’re dealing with?

I bet the answer is no! So, what can we do about it? Simply automate the entire process.

Once you remove your IOS XR device from its box and get it racked and cabled, the first step is to boot it.

In the past, you would have sent someone over with a USB key on which an ISO image is stored. This person would have inserted the disk in the system, and booted the ISO using some BIOS commands.

The good news is you can avoid this manual step. Are you in any ways familiar with iPXE?

In case you’re not, go and check some information about iPXE, the leading open source network boot firmware. iPXE brings some key enhancements to PXE such as:

  • Boot from a web server via HTTP
  • Control of the boot process with scripts

Support for iPXE boot is included in the system firmware (UEFI) of our NCS1K, NCS5k and NCS5500 series routers.

iPXE can act as an NOS installer for IOS XR. It gives you a lot of flexibility in choosing the image the system will boot based on the system Platform Identifier (PID), the serial number, or even the management mac-address. We recommend you use iPXE in case your system does not have a valid image on the Flash filesystem or if you want to re-image your system.

At this stage, your device has booted with a valid image and you’re ready to move on to the next step, the configuration of your device. Here again, no need to send someone for doing the basic configuration.

With automatic provisioning, you can greatly simplify configuration and customization task and operate at scale. This process is activated at the end of the previous step and offers you two options.

The first option lets you merely apply a configuration of your choice to your device. Very standard procedure.

The second option lets you refine and customize the provisioning phase the way you want using scripts and tools available inside Linux. Your scripts can update or install IOS-XR and third party packages, manipulate the configuration, etc. …

As an example, your script could install and launch a Chef or Puppet agent, these agents, in their turn, could install specific configurations or packages on your device.

What I’ve just described above is actually what the industry at large names Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP).

So what’s in it for you?

A clear path towards the automation of on-boarding new devices in your network infrastructure.

It’s available now so don’t wait for saving on time and resources!

If you feel ready to make Zero Touch Provisioning to the test, check out these tutorials:

and/or listen to this Cisco Knowledge Network webinar.



Frederic Trate

Marketing Manager

Service Provider Business Architecture, France