Configuration Management – Software Management

So in the last post I introduced the concepts of the Configuration Management System, and the Configuration Item. Today, I’m going to introduce the concept of the Definitive Media Library.

The DML is really nothing more than a software library. Ideally, this should be tied directly into your element management system so that you can define the baseline software image, deploy the image out to the appropriate devices, and audit the network to ensure that all of the devices are inline with your golden software definitions.

As I laid out in the last post, standardization is there to make your lives easier. But it takes a lot of commitment, especially if your network has gone through significant “organic growth”. Making the choice to commit to good configuration management hygene is sort of like committing to going to the gym or commiting to eat healthier.

Just like going to the gym, the first thing you need to do is figure out your current software state. Hopefully, your NMS software will have the ability to discover and audit the software running on the devices in your network and report against a known good state.

Audit the Current State of the Network

If you don’t have an NCCM tool in place with these features, you may end up writing scripts, or worse case, loging into your devices manually and noting the software version in an excel spreadsheet. Once you have a handle on what’s out there, the next step is chosing what version of code you need to be running.

Choosing your Software Version

So now that you’ve figured out that your devices are all over the place, it’s time to figure out what version of software you actually want to be running. Whether you are running Comware, IOS, NXOS, Junos, FTOS, or some other OS that I haven’t mentioned, the guidelines are pretty much the same.

Wash, Rinse and Repeat.

What about the exceptions?

I was going to try to sugar coat this, but I’ll just come out and say it. Cisco has licensing for many of their platforms, this can create situations where you can’t actually get on a common code version without incurring additional CAPEX costs associated with buying the licenses and OPEX to deal with the SMARTNet’. Or potentially, you can get into the situation where the features you’re looking for are mutually exclusive in two different IOS images for your routers. Or you’re running Cisco Callmanager and your gateways require the Voice image and your regular WAN routers another image.

In any event, my recommendation is still the same. Find the fewest possible combinations of software for the hardware platforms in your network and stick to them unless there is a REALLY good reason to change.

Check out this video of the basic NCCM features in HP’s Intelligent Management Center to help you navigate through your software baseline woes.

Anything I missed here? Feel free to post in the comments below.

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Baselining

Where are you coming from?

One of the first mistakes that new network operators make is that they don’t have a good idea of where they already are.

Take the case above. Say you want to get to Disneyland. Google can tell you were Disneyland is, but if you don’t have a starting point, there’s really no way to understand how you are going to get to where you want to be.
So the first thing you need to do when you’re trying to operate a new network is figure out exactly where you are.

This concept is known as baselining

Baselining:

At its essence, baselining is really nothing more than taking stock of where you are. Most experienced engineers instinctively know when they reach a new environment that they want to spend some time just getting to know the place before they make any changes. Network Management as a discipline takes this to a much more structured level.
There are a few types of baselines, performance and configuration been the major.

Performance Baselines –

This is the simple act of contain and recording things in the network. One of the common mistakes that I see new network management practitioners make is the ” I want to monitor everything! ” move.

Now there are some grounds for this. Remember this guy?

“When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it. But when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind.”

Lord Kelvin, 1891

Continue reading “Baselining”