If you are a network administrator, you know how tedious it can be to manage a mixed-vendor network. There are always differences in how devices are discovered, monitored, configured, and updated. There are also likely to be a variety of management applications – all of which function differently and operate only on a subset of devices.
Hearing that HCL has developed an application service that can provide Day-0 management of any vendor’s network device, I couldn’t wait to head over to their booth at Cisco Live in Orlando last June.
Make on-boarding fast using one service!
On boarding new devices in a mixed vendor environment is time consuming, expensive and requires multiple tools. Most tools out there fail on a very fundamental level – they work only with the manufacturer’s devices. Therein lies the dilemma, administrators have many tools at their disposal, and yet they are still not able to manage their networks effectively end to end.
HCL showed me at their booth how they solve this problem most elegantly using their NetBot based on-boarding service. This service utilizes Cisco DNA Center to discover a network device and then manages its configuration. HCL demonstrated this capability for Cisco devices and several non-Cisco devices. The service is used in the context of fully automated ITSM tickets that ask for a network device change. Yes, the service can discern that the ITSM ticket is for a network device change, coordinate the change, restore and/or update the device configuration, and close the ticket. It updates all CMDB changes and descriptions in the ITSM tool as well. Full automation of Day 0 ITSM ticket inspections and remedy means network operators don’t have to do this work anymore. And that translates into OPEX savings and faster time-to response.
Let’s dig a little deeper into how this service works. NetBot is a network automation framework that automates the complete life-cycle of network devices, from provisioning to policy-based change management, compliance and security administration. DNA Center open platform exposes APIs that you can use to build applications that programmatically control the network through DNA Center. So NetBot in this case is working as an application on top of DNA Center.
DNA Center uses the concept of device packs, which act like device drivers for network devices, to attach and discover the device. Device packs for Cisco devices, such as routers, switches, and wireless controllers are made available as part of the standard DNA Center product offering. Cisco has also developed an SDK so that packs for other devices can be developed. HCL used the SDK to develop device packs for commonly used third party switches and routers to demonstrate the end-to-end management capabilities of their new service.
Furthermore, using DNA Center’s intent-based open APIs, HCL has integrated their NetBot application to both DNA Center and ServiceNow. This means when a ticket is generated in ServiceNow, NetBot can detect the ticket, provision the new box, and retire the ticket, achieving full end-to-end automation of device on-boarding. At the event, HCL showed me how this works in a few simple steps:
HCL created and deployed a device-pack for a Juniper router on an instance of DNA Center
A ticket to add a new router is created in ServiceNow
In response to this service ticket, NetBot used DNA Center services to discover and configure the new router using the Juniper device-pack
NetBot then relayed the completion status to ServiceNow, added appropriate descriptions to the ticket, and issued a ticket closure
Watch HCL’s Harmeet Singh, Deputy General Manager & Head of Pre-Sales, describe the value of DNA Center open platform and walk us through a demonstration of how seamless provisioning a non-Cisco device with DNA Center can be.
“At HCL we understand the emerging importance of smart networks and its importance in making a business fast, flexible, and agile”, says Tajeshwar Singh, Senior Vice President and Chief Architect at HCL. “We envision a future where network management can be automated. We specifically created NetBot to tackle networking challenges that enterprises face every day – error-prone manual work, process scalability, time to provision, configure and troubleshoot, and above all vendor lock-in. With the open APIs and SDKs that Cisco’s DNA Center now provides, we saw an opportunity to extend NetBot’s automation capability to solve some of these very issues that vex network administrators every day. This initiative is part of our larger infrastructure blueprint for digital transformation. ”
Cisco has created an ITSM ticket automation framework based on DNA Center that enables multiple services to be deployed to service ITSM tickets. The blog today highlighted one such use case, Day 0 provisioning for any network device, a service offered by HCL. Other Day 1 or Day 2 management services can also be developed that utilize the same framework to automate the service of those ticket requests. Read this white paper from IDC to see how you can leverage network as an open platform and create new revenue opportunities.
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