Cumulus Networks launches open source and packaged automation solution

1 min. read
Cumulus Networks


Cumulus Networks announced the release of its production-ready automation solution for organisations moving towards fully automated networks in order to take advantage of infrastructure-as-code deployment models. The 'push-button solution' is for those organisations looking for cutting-edge industry automation while reducing operational overhead.

Fully automated networking

Cumulus Networks sees customers caught in the shifting tides as the modern data centre moves toward fully automated networking. To take advantage of innovative technology like 5G, cloud, IoT and more, organisations are looking to innovative networking deployments. These deployments should incorporate new ways of thinking about automation like infrastructure-as-code, CI/CD and more. As network traffic continues to grow at an exponential rate, organisations are left with infrastructure that is harder to manage and deploy. Bogged down by the cost and time it takes to build out bits and pieces of fully automated solutions, these organisations are in need of a solution to help them innovate their networks at the speed of business demands.

Cumulus now offers the first open-source, out-of-the-box, robust, end-to-end automated configuration and testing solution using Ansible. Customers no longer have to piece together their network automation from disparate and untested scripts and proof-of-concept playbooks. Cumulus is offering a framework for a 'push-button solution' for those looking for cutting-edge industry automation while reducing operational overhead.

This suite of automation and testing includes:

  • A fully populated variables file object model
  • Complete Jinja2 templates
  • Ansible playbooks and a full battery of network validation tests enabling continuous integration (CI)
  • The complete framework for a tangible “infrastructure-as-code” deployment
  • Utilizing Ansible core modules without the need for any add-ons or plugins

Taking the next step in network automation: Infrastructure-as-code and CI/CD

Beyond basic automation of configurations, there are various advanced methodologies that companies are turning to for efficiency and rapid scale: Infrastructure-as-code and CI/CD.

Infrastructure-as-code is the concept of centralizing your infrastructure so you can use tried and tested software development workflows on them, or in other words: thinking about your network configuration (the “infrastructure”) as software code. Then, following the software development model, the code gets built and produces a working executable that users then run. In the case of networking, the output from building the infrastructure code needs to be valid working configurations that ultimately get deployed to the devices. How one actually implements or converts their infrastructure to code is the challenging part.

There are various ways to implement an infrastructure-as-code network, all of which are dependent on the automation engine that’s used to deploy it. Determining how to implement or store the infrastructure-as-code is normally one of the first steps in the automation journey.

In the case of the Cumulus example, the final configuration that exists on the network devices is rendered by Ansible, during deployment, based on the jinja2 config templates, variables and Ansible role assignments. Final network configuration files are included in the demo repos for quick reference, but they are not used as the source of the configuration that is deployed to the devices. The code that actually represents the infrastructure isn’t just backups of the config files that we modify individually and deploy. It exists as a much more organized and scalable data model that uses templates and config files.

Like any good code, it is well tested — which is another opportunity for simplified advanced networking. The practice of always testing your code is called “continuous integration” or “CI” and it’s a key component to infrastructure-as-code as well as our thinking about the “right way” to do network automation. This new solution creates the framework for an elegant CI/CD solution, something that was previously not within reach of most organizations.

The Cumulus automation solution includes automated tests using the Cumulus NetQ telemetry and validation platform. Any code that is committed to the repository automatically triggers the creation of a virtual lab environment with Cumulus VX and we run a collection of tests against our network, including validating MTUs, end-to-end ping testing, and verifying that all routing sessions come up as expected. This results in Instant access to CI, and the foundation laid for further automation with CD.

Putting the code in action

Cumulus will also be releasing additional scenarios based on integrating common network services like SNMP, streaming telemetry and 802.1x.

These playbooks and CI tests are living configurations that are updated and improved based on feedback from real-world deployments. They’re used every day by the Cumulus consulting services organization who design and automate customer networks. Any Cumulus user can take these configurations and deploy them on their production network with confidence that both the automation — as well as the resulting configurations — are tested, validated and reliable. No longer will you spend time cobbling together examples that may not fit your use case.

A “copy and paste” solution to hit the ground running with automation

Some organizations are suffering from the lack of tools and the lack of real-world examples needed to train their teams to perform network automation. With Cumulus’ production-ready automation, organizations have a “copy and paste” solution and can essentially hit the ground running with automation without having to train up a team or spend time piecing together configurations. Automated configurations not only save admins from headaches but more importantly, reduces the possibility of network downtime and failure.

In addition, Cumulus is rolling out an update to Cumulus in the Cloud, their self-service customer demo environment, providing:

  • A full spine and leaf network with Cumulus Linux, including servers running Ubuntu and all nodes integrated with Cumulus NetQ, all ready to use in under five minutes.
  • Deployable production-ready demos.
  • A unique Cumulus NetQ 2.0 CLI and GUI instance for your demo environment.

In the next few weeks additional enhancements to the Cumulus in the Cloud platform will include:

  • Self-paced Cumulus Linux training
  • Custom lab topologies
  • Additional features including SNMP, streaming telemetry and 802.1x.

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