Network Automation

Let's take a look at what network automation is and why you should use it.

Introduction to network automation

Network automation, at its core, is the conversion of networks from a collection of independent configurations into a unified application. Applications are written as code in certain programming languages, compiled, and then executed. Application developers around the world use a proven set of methodologies for software development. A key concept and component of network automation is the conversion of network configurations to code.

Network automation exists in many forms using a wide variety of technologies and it means different things to different people.

For this course, network automation is the ability to abstract data from network configurations while using a machine to push commands and templated configurations to network devices securely, agentless, and at any scale, through a CI/CD pipeline.

Information about the network is often gathered through traditional Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) protocols combined with NMS solutions. SNMP provides a wealth of information about the network but is often limited to the health monitoring of a device on the network. Most of the information about the logical network is gathered using show commands input by network operators or engineers at the CLI. Hence, gathering information from the network is time-consuming. This is because these commands are nearly impossible to configure an NMS that is required in order to execute and gather output, especially at scale.

Why use automation?

What if a network engineer wanted to gather all the Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP) neighbors on the network to confirm a topology? Or confirm the spanning-tree information from each device to build a layer 2 topology of the network? What about gathering routing table information to build a layer 3 topology? What if the system could gather all the Open Shortest Path First (OSPF) neighbors? What if the current IOS version of every device on the network could be collected without an NMS? Gathering this information takes a lot of manual effort using traditional network management solutions. Utilizing network automation, network administrators craft Ansible playbooks to perform these tasks by building an on-demand library of utilities.

The power of automation

Here’s a demonstration of the power of network automation. The following widget displays basic information about a host on a network using a simple Ansible playbook.

Get hands-on with 1200+ tech skills courses.