Simplified Automation for Cumulus Networks Switches: Ansible as the Ultimate Configuration Tool


Automation has become an essential aspect of network configuration in recent times. The importance of automation in network configuration cannot be overemphasized as it saves IT teams time and effort while reducing the risk of human error. However, implementing automation can be a challenging task, especially when dealing with large-scale networks or complex configurations.

Cumulus Networks switches are Linux-based operating systems designed for networking devices such as switches and routers. They provide a highly scalable, flexible, and customizable platform that makes it easy to automate network configurations.

Explanation of Cumulus Networks Switches

Cumulus Networks switches run on a Linux operating system and are designed to provide network flexibility, scalability, and cost-effectiveness. They offer advanced features such as automation capabilities, virtualization support, Layer 2 and Layer 3 switching, routing protocols such as BGP (Border Gateway Protocol), OSPF (Open Shortest Path First) and much more. The use of Cumulus Networks switches ensures that IT teams can manage their networks with ease while still having full control over their infrastructure all without vendor lock-in or proprietary protocols.

Overview of Automation in Network Configuration

Automating network configuration tasks is becoming more critical due to the need for faster delivery times while maintaining high levels of accuracy. Automation enables IT teams to complete repetitive tasks quickly without errors while also freeing up time for other critical tasks. Network administrators need tools that streamline processes and reduce workload through automation for fast-paced environments where businesses rely on uptime around-the-clock.

Importance of using Ansible as a Configuration Tool

Ansible is an open-source tool used by many businesses worldwide because it simplifies automation within large-scale environments. It automates repetitive tasks that would normally require significant IT personnel investment and frees up resources for other tasks. Ansible uses a simple syntax known as YAML to make automation easier and more accessible, allowing network administrators with minimal programming experience the ability to create automation scripts.

The tool is also agentless, meaning it doesn’t require agents or software installed on the devices being configured. It helps to reduce the risk of configuration errors, automate day-to-day tasks such as backups, upgrades and provide real-time feedback on the status of automated tasks.

Using Ansible in conjunction with Cumulus Networks switches provides IT teams with a powerful toolset that meets their automation needs while enhancing flexibility and control over network infrastructure. Next sections will delve into details about Ansible and its application in simplifying network configurations for Cumulus Networks switches.

Understanding Ansible

Definition and Explanation of Ansible

Ansible is a powerful automation tool designed to manage the configuration, deployment, and orchestration of IT infrastructure. It is an open-source tool that uses simple YAML-based configuration files called playbooks to automate complex tasks in a declarative way.

Ansible provides a consistent and reproducible way of managing multiple systems from a single control node, making it an ideal solution for network automation. Unlike other automation tools that require agents or additional software on each node, Ansible uses SSH connections to execute tasks on remote systems.

This makes it simple to use and requires no additional software installation on the managed nodes. Furthermore, because Ansible is agentless, there are no security risks associated with having additional software installed on the managed nodes.

How Ansible Works

Ansible works by connecting to the managed devices via SSH and running tasks defined in playbooks. When a playbook is executed, it follows an ordered sequence of steps defined in the playbook, allowing users to define complex configurations without getting bogged down in intricate scripting details. The core component of Ansible is its inventory file which lists all the hosts you want to manage with their respective IP addresses or hostnames.

Playbooks then reference these inventory files allowing users to execute tasks across multiple hosts simultaneously. Tasks can be as simple as copying files or as complex as configuring network interfaces or deploying applications.

Another central component of Ansible are modules which are pre-built scripts designed for specific system functions such as creating users or installing packages. Modules can be customized using variables passed into playbooks making them reusable across different systems with different configurations.

Advantages of Using Ansible

One of the biggest advantages of using Ansible for network automation is its simplicity and ease-of-use. With minimal effort required for setup, anyone familiar with YAML and SSH can write Ansible playbooks. This makes it an ideal solution for network engineers looking to automate their network infrastructure without having to learn complex programming languages.

Another advantage of Ansible is its flexibility. From small-scale automation projects to large-scale enterprise deployments, Ansible can handle a variety of use cases making it a versatile tool for network engineers and IT professionals alike.

Additionally, because Ansible is open-source, users have access to an ever-growing community of developers who contribute new modules and playbooks that extend the functionality of the toolset. This means that even complex tasks such as configuring BGP peering or deploying virtual machines can be automated using pre-built modules from the community.

Simplified Automation for Cumulus Networks Switches with Ansible

Network automation is essential for managing the growing complexity of modern networks. It helps to increase efficiency, reduce errors, and save time.

Ansible is a powerful tool that can simplify network automation tasks, especially for Cumulus Networks switches. Ansible provides a simple and easy-to-use interface to automate network configuration tasks in an efficient and scalable way.

Benefits of using Ansible for network automation

Ansible provides several benefits for network automation. Firstly, it is a lightweight tool that can be easily installed on any Linux-based system without requiring any additional software or agents.

Secondly, it uses YAML syntax to write playbooks which makes it easy to read and understand even by non-technical personnel. Thirdly, it has built-in modules that automate common network configuration tasks such as VLANs, BGP peering, and interfaces configuration.

Ansible can scale up or down depending on the size of your infrastructure. With Ansible, you can achieve consistency across all switches in your infrastructure by writing reusable playbooks that define the desired state of your switches’ configurations.

This reduces the risk of human errors when configuring switches manually or using different tools per switch model/brand. Ansibles’ ability to create custom modules makes it possible to automate even complex switch configurations in a simplified manner.

Setting up the environment for Cumulus Networks switches with Ansible

To use Ansible with Cumulus Networks switches, you need to set up an environment comprising two main components:

  • The Control Machine: this refers to the machine where you’ll install and run the ansible application from.
  • The Managed Nodes: These are devices (switches) that Ansible will manage and configure.

The Control Machine needs to have a recent version of Python installed along with Ansible. Once the Control Machine is set up, Cumulus Networks switches need to be prepared by installing the necessary packages that allow communication between Ansible and the switches’ network operating system (NOS). The packages include netmiko, NAPALM and OpenSSH-server.

Once all the necessary packages are installed on both the Control Machine and Managed nodes, you can proceed to configure SSH keys for secure communication between these devices. This is important because Ansible uses SSH protocol to connect and communicate with each managed node.

Writing playbooks to automate network configuration tasks

Ansible playbooks define the desired state of configuration for devices in your infrastructure. They comprise YAML files that contain a set of tasks executed in a specific order. Tasks are executed sequentially until all instructions have been applied successfully or an error occurs.

To write playbooks, you need to understand Cumulus Network switches’ configurations’ data structure model using NETCONF/YANG model driven configuration standards. This means creating variables for switch configurations; For example, creating templates using Jinja2 or Python libraries such as PyEZ helps simplify automation tasks further by reducing complex script writing.

A playbook can contain multiple plays each targeting specific nodes/group of nodes comprising different configurations based on roles assigned per group/node as specified by you as the developer/administrator of this automation process within your organization. By running one playbook using ansible-playbook command against groups/nodes configured with appropriate roles/variables/templates defined therein, one can achieve automated configuration consistency across all nodes in their infrastructure.

Niche Subtopics in Simplified Automation for Cumulus Networks Switches with Ansible

Ansible is a powerful automation tool that enables network administrators to automate multiple tasks such as network configurations, backups, upgrades, and more. In addition to the basic functionality of Ansible, there are several niche subtopics that can help simplify network automation tasks.

Using variables and templates to simplify network automation tasks

Variables and templates are two essential features of Ansible that can greatly simplify network automation tasks. Variables allow users to store information such as IP addresses, usernames, and passwords that can be reused throughout playbooks.

Templates provide a means of creating customized configuration files for specific devices or device types. Using variables and templates together can significantly reduce the amount of time required for manual configurations.

To use variables within an Ansible playbook, simply declare them at the beginning of the playbook or in a separate file. Then reference them from within tasks or templates by surrounding them with double curly braces ({{variable_name}}).

Templates can be created in any text editor and stored in a separate directory within the playbook structure. When calling a template from within a task or another template, use the “template” module followed by the location of the template file.

Integrating third-party tools with Ansible to enhance automation capabilities

While Ansible is already a powerful tool on its own, it becomes even more so when combined with third-party tools such as GitLab or Jenkins. These tools enable users to automate not just their network configurations but also their entire DevOps pipeline.

An example workflow might look like this: A user commits changes to their Git repository which triggers a Jenkins build job. This job then runs an Ansible playbook against their Cumulus Networks switches to apply those changes.

If successful, the job passes and the changes are pushed into production. If unsuccessful, an alert is sent to the user with details on what went wrong.

Advanced features of Ansible for complex network configurations

In addition to basic functionality, Ansible also provides several advanced features that enable users to tackle complex network configurations. One such feature is loops which can be used to iterate over a list of items and perform a task for each item in the list.

Another feature is conditionals which allow users to specify when a task should be executed based on certain criteria such as device type or firmware version. Ansible also provides modules specific to Cumulus Networks switches that enable users to interact with Cumulus-specific functionality such as VRFs and BGP configuration.

These modules are designed specifically for use with Cumulus Networks switches and make it easy for users to automate tasks related to these features. Overall, Ansible offers many niche subtopics that can help simplify network automation tasks while enhancing its capabilities through integrations and advanced features designed for complex network configurations.

Rarely Known Small Details in Simplified Automation for Cumulus Networks Switches with Ansible

Ansible’s ability to handle multiple devices simultaneously

One of the most significant advantages of using Ansible for network automation is its ability to work with multiple devices simultaneously. This means that you can automate network configuration tasks across all connected devices without experiencing any delays or performance issues. Ansible uses a powerful parallel execution engine to execute tasks on multiple devices simultaneously, which significantly reduces the time required for network configuration.

With this feature, you can easily configure an entire network infrastructure without having to configure each device individually. Additionally, Ansible allows you to group devices based on their functionality and execute specific tasks on those groups alone.

Ansible’s ability to automate day-to-day activities such as backups, upgrades, etc.

Another rarely known small detail about using Ansible for simplified automation of Cumulus Networks switches is its ability to automate day-to-day activities such as backups, upgrades, and patches. With Ansible’s modules and playbooks, you can schedule automated backup jobs that run at specified intervals across your entire network infrastructure.

Additionally, Ansible can help ensure that your switches are always up-to-date by automating firmware upgrades and patch deployments. These activities are crucial in maintaining a reliable and secure network infrastructure without having to perform these repetitive tasks manually.

Ansible’s ability to provide real-time feedback on the status and progress of automated tasks

When automating network configuration tasks with Ansible in a Cumulus Networks environment, it is essential to have visibility into the status and progress of each task as it progresses through your infrastructure. Fortunately, another rarely known small detail about Ansible is its ability to provide real-time feedback during task execution through detailed logs. These logs show the output generated by every executed task as well as error messages if any tasks failed.

This feature enables you to monitor the progress of your automated tasks and troubleshoot any issues that arise. Moreover, Ansible also provides a dashboard for monitoring the status of running jobs and monitoring performance metrics.


Ansible is an ultimate configuration tool for Cumulus Networks switches because it simplifies network automation while providing advanced features to manage complex configurations. By taking advantage of its ability to handle multiple devices simultaneously, automate day-to-day activities such as backups and upgrades, and provide real-time feedback on task execution, you can streamline your network infrastructure management efforts significantly.

With Ansible’s ease of use, robustness and flexibility, you can achieve a highly available, scalable and secure network infrastructure without breaking the bank. Whether you are automating a small-scale or large-scale Cumulus Networks environment, Ansible will ensure that your configurations are deployed accurately every time while saving valuable time and resources for other business-critical tasks.

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