Network Automation and APIs
Traditionally every change to a network configuration is done manually by a member of the organisation’s IT Team or other trusted professionals. Network Automation allows changes to the network’s configuration without needing a person to implement these changes manually. This is often achieved through APIs, and the result is improved efficiency and functionality. Let’s look at a few examples:
- We can automate tasks, such as generating reports and emailing a report with key statistics at the start of every month
- Power over ethernet could be disabled on all IP phones between the hours of 7 pm to 7 am to reduce unnecessary power consumption
APIs are a way for computers (in our case, Networking equipment such as Access Points or Switches) to communicate. We often take for granted that two people share information and make decisions. However, an Access Point from vendor A and a switch from vendor B can’t always communicate to share information and make decisions. This is the problem APIs solve.
Most recent networking equipment support APIs; these devices are called API clients. API client will talk to an API server, and the API server will run scripts (a set of instructions for a computer to follow); these scripts can collect information and change the network configuration. Here are a few examples:
- An API script can be used to find out how many wireless client devices are connected to each access point
- An API script can be used to update the VLAN setting on a switchport
The above may sound familiar to you, as this is precisely the configuration and monitoring IT staff are used to doing. The critical difference is that this is accomplished with APIs.
Bringing it all together
When you bring Network Automation and APIs together, it suddenly becomes a very powerful tool.
A script using APIs could be run that reduces the available bandwidth (speed) for wireless users when a switch’s uplink is nearing its capacity. And once the uplink capacity has been reduced, the available bandwidth could be increased again. This change can happen in near real-time without any involvement from the IT staff, who, by comparison, would be much slower to respond.
Let’s look at our earlier example of IP phones where the power was disabled between the hours of 7 pm to 7 am. What happens when a new phone is added to the network? Or when devices get moved to a new switchport? Our configuration will need to be updated, and if missed, it may cause problems, for example, turning off the power on the wrong PoE device, such as a CCTV camera. The solution is a script using APIs that could reconfigure each port when a new phone is detected and reconfigure the same port when the phone is removed.
The possibilities are almost endless, and if you’re looking for assistance on how you can start to automate your network with APIs, Redway Network engineers have lots of experience in this field and are happy to assist.