A year in the life of a wookie

DISCLAIMER: I am a self-proclaimed, self-trained software hack, I barely know what I am doing! I’m fairly sure this is how you do it.

I started to write some code and when I looked up, a year had gone by…….I’m listening to Strawberry Fields Forever and wondering how a full year has slipped by without a post to the blog……So, in the words of Lennon and McCartney,let me take you down, ‘cause I’m going to.

It’s been quite a journey from being a network engineer to becoming a “developer” (I use the term loosely) and every day I discover its a journey with no foreseeable end. I’m am learning new things all the time and the more I know it just opens up new avenues to discover.

I started the year off puzzling over an interesting problem. I was working with Ansible and trying to automate Cumulus switches. Seemed like it was fairly straight forward. All you need is a YAML file with “ALL” the variables for your data center(loopbacks, fabric IP’s, Router ID’s) and a playbook and viola, you have yourself a functioning data center.

Not so fast you ZTPheads, sure, I no longer had to type the configuration into the switch, but I had to come up with all the variables in the all.yaml file. You’re basically editing a text file with no syntax checking! That’s not ZTP, you’re just moving the workload over to making the ALL file.

I was working on a process to automatically generate the ALL file and came up with a simple solution. Antigua. This app takes 10 variables and spawns the entire spine/leaf network all.yaml file. It then uses Jinja2 templates to generate the full switch configurations and upload the starup-config file into Arista’s Cloud Vision Portal. After that the config is applied to the switches in the spine/leaf and everything (eBGP fabric) is up and running in less than a minute.
Want to roll out a new spine/leaf pod in your data center? How about having it up and running in less than 1 minute? Can you do that? I can.

Later I was challenged to have the switches just self configure and I rewrote Antigua into “ISSAC” a special version of Antigua that ran directly on Arista switches. Basically, the switch boots, looks in its TFTP directory for a “key” file. If it’s there, it sends it to all it neighbors (via ISSAC’s neighbor database) and then learns it’s position (spine01) and self-configures. The only thing you have to do is TFTP a key file into any one of the switches TFTP directory. That’s It! Even I can do that…..Geesh!

After I got the mechanics down for Antigua, I started to think about other applications where I could reuse the teknology. I started looking at managing VXLAN tunnels and automatically generating “vxlan” configlets and loading them into Arista CVP. I came up with Subway.
Subway uses a mongo database and keeps track of all the changes to the VIN flood lists. It was a fun thing to write but needs a little more work. With the introduction of eVPN, theres not much left to do with the control plane. Definitely an application worth coming back to.
Longing for something I could really use on a day to day basis, I started looking at what it takes to MLAG a pair of Arista switches. Take a look, it’s like 16 commands per switch.
A couple of them are even reversed, I hope you don’t make a mistake, you’ll have fun trouble shooting what you did wrong.

I really had the process refined for generating configlets and stuffing them into CVP. So I automated the MLAG process with Jetlag.
Jetlag basically takes two IP addresses, the seed port of the two ports used for MLAG between the switches and then the port number of the LACP downlink. Very simple application. It generates a mlag configlet, saves it to CVP and applies it to the switches.
If you think about it, these three applications could really become a single app. They all basically do the same thing. Get user input, make a text file of the config, upload to CVP and apply it to the switches in the inventory. After finishing these up and showing them around, Antigua started to get a lot of attention. Still the only app that I know of that can do what it does. Gauntlet thrown!

I moved onto another challenge. A partner wanted to use HPE IMC to monitor his customer’s network. If there was a real time alarm on IMC, they wanted IMC to open an “incident” in Service Now. and have two-way communication between the two to track resolution of the incident. I put together an app call “SnowBridge”. snowBridge uses IMC’s and Service Nows API’s and sits in the middle running a continuous loop. It runs on the command line with no user interaction. This app got me thinking about how to divide up the tasks into smaller micro-services. More on this later.

With this effort out of the way I started working on a request to streamline Antigua. Antigua will generate a YAML file. It could be used with Arista, Comware or Ansible. It will upload to any of the three systems (working on Tower). The new request was to strip away the flask framework, make it run from the command line and just generate the config files and store them on the hard drive. Check…..easy…….done. It’s called AntiguaCLI.

I had another request to update an application that runs in a docker container and allows for using the API’s from Bigswitch. More of a proof of concept app, it allows for logging into Bigswitch Networks BSN controller and looking at a couple lists. I think I will automate the routing function of BSN. This little project re-kindled my love for playing with docker. The next project would take it to new heights.

So, HPE makes an application called OneView that manages the new Synergy compute platforms. Tracks uplinks sets, networks, storage volumes, server profiles, kind of a single pane of glass for managing these types of things. When someone adds a network or a link set, the rest of the network world (Outside of OneView) doesn’t have a clue it happened. However there is some integration for the state change message bus in IMC. IMC listens to One View’s State Change Message Bus and learsn of these events but if you’re not using that……, certainly there must be something to use to learn of these changes.

I looked at the hpOneView python library and decided I could make an application that did just that and called it “Spymongo”. The whole solution (three docker containers) can be used or just a portion of it. It all depends on what you want to do.
The first thing is to docker-compose build the spymongo and the mongo database containers. Once these two containers are running, the spymongo app automatically listens the OneView scmb and learns about all the changes being made. It starts looking for network changes and saves the document to the mongodb. You don’t have to use it in this fashion. You could take the app and make it do whatever you need. You could possibly use it without the database.

I use the database because I need just a little more functionality out of the app. With spymongo running, scmb events are automatically being stored in a mongo db. I wrote a “front-end” for the database in flask called “spyFront”.
spyFront allows for the verification of the database records. It also has a feature that lets me learn every network event that OneView knows about prior to running spymongo. This lets me have “parity” between the OneView database and spymongo’s. The two databases are synced and spymongo keeps them up to date by listening the the scmb.
I did explore adding vcenter support to spyFront. Currently, spymong looks at vcenter and downloads a list of virtual machines and their network connections. With spymongo running, anyone can make an application and mount the mongodb. They no longer need to deal with ssh keys to have secure communication with OneView. Just simply use the mongo database and go.

Throughout the year I have been on my favorite learning site Udemy. and I have been looking at new things to play with. Hey, for $10 bucks it’s the cheapest education you will find. I have taken a Puppet course, a CHEF class, Flask/API/Docker training and a super heavy course in Angular where I learned about the Single Page Application.

Just last week I started looking at what Darth was doing (mind blowing as usual) over at Kontrolissues. and it looks like a blast! I also started deep diving mesophere’s DC/OS. All of this is available on my private github. Just need to push it through the Open Source Review Board before it becomes available to the public.

I hope it’s not another year until I blog again, I will promise to quit being so “lazy” and keep you up to date on the going-ons of a half-crazed nerf herder.

By the way, the lyric “climb in the back with your head in the clouds” kinda has a new meaning for me!
I wonder if anyone will know this lyric is from “Lucy in the sky with diamonds and not Strawberry fields forever…..HA!