Ansible for Netowrk Automation#

Why Ansible for Network Automation?#

  • Automate repetitive tasks
  • Use the same tool for network, operations and development
  • Seperate the tasks (playbook) from the execution layer (ansible modules) for multi-vendor devices
  • Benefit from community and vendor generated scripts
  • Communicate securely with network hardware over ssh and https

Ansible can be used to configure hubs, switches, routers, bridges and other network devices.

Basic Concepts#

  • control node - Any computer with python on it (but not Windows) that has ansible and ansible-playbook installed on it
  • managed nodes - Network devices and servers you manage with ansible. Sometimes called hosts
  • inventory - a list to organise managed nodes. Sometimes called hostfile
  • modules - Units of code that ansible executes.
  • tasks - units of action in ansible
  • playbook - ordered list of tasks. Can include variables, tasks and roles. Written in yaml.

How Network Automation is Different#

  • Unlike most ansible modules, network modules do not run on managed nodes.
  • The majority of network devices cannot run python
  • Ansible network modules are executed on the control node (where ansible commands are called)
  • Use the control node for backup files
  • Network modules do not update configuration files on managed nodes, because network configuration is not written in files

Multiple Communication Protocols#

  • communication protocol - XML over SSH, CLI over SSH, API over HTTPS
  • Depends on platform and purpose
  • Most common is CLI over SSH
  • You can set the protocol with the ansible_connection variable
    • network_cli == CLI over SSH
    • netconf == XML over SSH
    • httpapi == API over HTTP/HTTPS
    • local == depends

Prefixes of Network Platform#

  • Arista: eos_
  • Cisco: ios_, iosxr_ or nxos_
  • Juniper: junos_
  • VyOs: vyos_

Privilege Escalation#

  • On network devices the equivalent of sudo is enable mode
  • As of ansible 2.6 you can use become: yes with become_method: enable

Example of a group vars/host_vars file:

ansible_connection: network_cli
ansible_network_os: ios
ansible_become: yes
ansible_become_method: enable

Be aware there are ansible 2.5 and 2.4 issues

Run your First Command and Playbook#


  1. Ansible (>=2.5) installed
  2. One or more network devices compatible with ansible