Configuring network equipment is not only time consuming, it also produces a risk that something goes wrong. Adding an extra link, upgrading capacity of an existing link, or configuring a new port for a customer can all have detrimental effects on the network as a whole, if done wrong. So why not automate it?
Like most Internet network operators, at Fusix we have a script that logs into all network devices every hour and retrieves a copy of the configurations. When necessary, we log into our switches and routers to make a change. But making that change can be risky. Most deliveries and changes need to happen across multiple devices, so making a configuration error is easy and can trigger implications.
We would be lying, if we say that we never make a mistake. But what are we doing to reduce the risk and impact of mistakes? Well, it is simple – we are going to turn around the whole configuration change process and automate it.
Instead of logging into network devices, retrieving their configuration, making a change and then reviewing if the new configuration is correct, we will generate new configurations on a separate server that holds a database with all ports, VLANs, IP addresses and other network bricks and logical connections between them. In this way, one configuration file is pushed from a central location to all relevant network devices. Our code knows, which devices need to be reconfigured and knows what commands to use. More importantly, the code contains automatic checks about configuration viability that would take a lot of time, if done manually.
The perks of doing it this way? Reduce error occurrence, no need to log every step and of course: we need a lot less time to configure the network for standard changes like deliveries of new customer connections. A side-effect: we don’t need our scripts any more that periodically make a backup of the configurations, since the latest configuration can be generated on the server and retrieved from it at any time.
The automation processes keeps getting better and this is just one example of it. The industry is noticing it too. Everybody is looking how automation can work for them and it is always a big topic at our NLNOG meetups. And that’s a good thing. Let’s automate it!