Automation for daily tasks is something that most network engineers rely on to handle their daily workload. However, there are many network engineers under the impression that new software or management tools with a steep learning curve must be purchased in order to accomplish such automation. This leads to automation tools often times getting overlooked or put aside. Other common drivers for not using automation tools are due to budget restraints, varying skill sets, and unfamiliarity with the different tools that are available. The good news is that there are many automation tools natively available on most Cisco IOS platforms. For instance, on most Cisco Catalyst switches, there are tools built into the operating system’s command line interface (CLI) that allow the programmability of these devices automatically. This allows for the automation of large number of common tasks. For example, a network engineer could build a set of custom templates or macros that would apply various configuration parameters to particular ports on a switch, based on the types of devices that are connected to those specific ports. This chapter will cover the following on-box automation tools in greater detail:
Smart Call Home
Embedded Event Manager (EEM)
Automated Port Profiling
These types of automation tools are especially important when it comes to scale. Imagine a network team that handles an entire enterprise campus LAN. Commonly, there are only a select few network engineers who have access to the network switches and are authorized to make any configuration changes. These engineers are usually very busy and have a finite amount of time to work on daily moves, additions, and changes (MACs). From a business perspective, this greatly hinders the capability of being able to fluidly and dynamically move users around an office environment. For example, a user moves from one department to another and takes their IP phone with them. This would result in a network engineer having to get involved and reprogram the switch port that the user is going to be connecting to. Often, these users are moved by a help desk team without notifying the network engineering team of the move. If the new port wasn’t properly provisioned prior to the user moving, then the user may not be able to connect to the network and perform their job.
There are many settings that need to be applied to a switch port in order for an IP phone to operate properly. Some of the more common switch port settings for an IP phone are:
Power over Ethernet (PoE) settings
Voice VLAN configuration
Quality of Service (QoS) settings
Data VLAN configuration
The following sections of this chapter will cover some of the simple, yet powerful tools that are included within most of the Cisco Catalyst switches. These are tools, available today, that can automate many configuration tasks, reduce downtime, and increase agility.