Hands-On Network Automation

March 14, 2016 (at 9 a.m.)

Whenever you hear about someone using network automation in a production network it's usually a startup or large web property (Netflix, Spotify, Twitter, Facebook...). While some ISPs used automatic service deployment for decades, it seems nothing's going on in the enterprise networks. This workshop will show you how wrong that notion is. 

We'll start with easy tasks like generating network device configurations using Ansible instead of Excel spreadsheets, and you'll see that you don't have to be a programmer or speak fluent Python to get the job done.

Next we'll explore what the vendors already offer us: most of the data center vendors provide Puppet or Chef agents on their boxes, and we'll use them to solve one of the most mundane networking challenges: configuring VLANs on server-facing ports.

Moving to slightly trickier topics, we'll collect network configurations with RANCID, store them in Git, and automate the deployment of our configurations while still retaining full control and sanity checks with tools like Gerrit and Jenkins.

Finally, we'll tackle a troubleshooting challenge: find a device with known MAC address hiding somewhere within a large network.

Target audience

Network engineers who want to start honing their network automation skills without throwing away everything they learned in the last decades just because everyone-should-be-a-programmer is the latest fad. You might be a network architect, or an engineer deploying or troubleshooting networks - understanding what network automation can do for you and how it works will never hurt you.

Finally, you might be a programmer looking for new challenges, in which case a healthy mix of programming skills and arcane networking knowledge might be exactly what you're looking for. Welcome to a new frontier!

Recommended knowledge

You might want to know a bit about how networks work. We'll use DMVPN, OSPF, BGP and LLDP throughout the workshop, but don't get scared - we'll never go deeper than saying "this is our use case, and here are the things we have to push down to the device to make it all work"

What you should bring with you

You could be perfectly happy to just watch the demos, in which case bring a large bag of curiosity. If you want to get your hands dirty, make sure your to install Python, Virtual Box and Ansible on your laptop (or on a VM running on your laptop).

Ivan Pepelnjak

Ivan Pepelnjak, CCIE#1354 Emeritus, has been designing and implementing large-scale service provider and enterprise networks as well as teaching and writing books about advanced technologies since 1990. He’s the author of several Cisco Press books, prolific blogger and writer, occasional consultant, and creator of a series of highly successful webinars.