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It’s Time to Give up the Command Line

By Rob Haviland, Director, Global Campus Technical Marketing Engineering
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This blog is coauthored by Rajani Abraham, staff engineer at Aruba. 

Server automation helped systems administrators reduce configuration problems, free up time for more strategic work and improve compliance. Network automation can do the same for you.

Network automation has come a long way. Administrators can finally give up the command line and use simple scripting tools to configure, monitor and manage the network. With today’s automation tools, you don’t need advanced programming skills to be successful.

Simple, Predictable, Agile and Scalable
Network automation can enable you to:

  1. Simplify your network. Making configuration changes across the enterprise network or debugging an issue in another location via the CLI is often a daunting task. Oftentimes, network devices have slightly different configurations depending on the physical location or the admin’s style. Usually only a handful of experienced admins can make the changes. Managing siloed configurations also makes configuration and troubleshooting more difficult. Network automation can help you simplify the whole approach.
  2. Deliver predictable outcomes. Configuring the network through a tried-and-true CLI is also prone to errors. Fat-fingering a network configuration is every administrator’s worst nightmare. Automation helps deliver more predictable behavior than making changes manually, whether you’re doing something as simple as updating an interface or more complex like creating a new VLAN.
  3. Increase business agility. Server virtualization has made it far faster to deploy applications. But the network configuration to support these applications still depends on the CLI and manual work. Waiting hours or days for the network admin to create a new configuration gets in the way of delivering applications and digital services to customers and employees. Network automation allows the server and network teams to work together to deploy applications faster and more easily, and in a more predictable way. And that helps the business be more agile.
  4. Enable you to manage device configurations at scale. As the number of IoT devices increases, the number of switch ports increases too. To manage increasing inventory as well as increasing site deployments with same manpower gets challenging and time-consuming.Automating device inventory and configuration streamlines the process and ensures that devices are configured consistently, ensuring security and compliance.

What Can You Automate, Exactly?
You can streamline many tasks over your automation journey. Here’s a quick-start list:

  • Device provisioning
  • Configuration management
  • Device monitoring
  • Compliance
  • Troubleshooting

Ansible Automation for Aruba
There are many different ways to start your automation journey, with open automation tools as well as vendor-specific ones. One popular choice is Red Hat Ansible, which is easy to use and works across different vendors’ products.

Ansible helps network admins at multiple levels:

  1. Agentless– Ansible doesn’t require any agents, so you don’t have to worry about device code dependency. Ansible works across a broad range of devices.
  2. Open and multivendor– You can run configurations against different vendors’ devices in a single playbook.
  3. Easy to learn.Programming for Ansible is not complex. No special coding skills are needed, and the Ansible playbook does the configuration and validation for you. Even advanced orchestration is simple to learn.
  4. Enables IT agility– DevOps teams commonly use Ansible for server and data center automation, and a common toolset for the network makes application deployments easier.
  5. Predictable – Ansible is idempotent, which means that making multiple identical requests has the same effect as making a single request. That achieves a higher level of resilience against programming errors and achieves a greater predictability for automating playbooks.
  6. Easy-to-define workflows with modules– Aruba provides Ansible playbooks for common configuration and monitoring tasks for switches and mobility controllers, turning tedious tasks into repeatable routines.

Many IT teams use Red Hat Ansible Tower for added capabilities, including a visual dashboard, role-based access control and job scheduling. With Ansible Tower, the entire IT team can manage projects from a single place, with consistent processes and easier collaborations. Configurations for all devices are centralized, and playbooks are restricted to the appropriate user groups. Playbook run results are also stored and recorded for future reference. No more hunting down configurations.

Check out Aruba Ansible Playbooks on GitHub
Aruba modules use REST APIs for all configuration, which makes it faster than SSH/CLI methods. ArubaOS-Switches and ArubaOS-CX also support Ansible modules.

Get Ansible modules for Aruba, workflows like switch configurations, Zero-Touch Provisioning, firmware upgrades and much more.