Network Automation Journey — Part 2

June 2, 2020

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By Omid Moheb, Kovarus Sr. Solution Architect

In the second part of this Network Automation Journey, we’re going to focus on creating the basic (virtual) infrastructure that is required to get you going. I’ll walk you through the installation of Virtual Box (free), CentOS (free) and the installation of a Juniper vSRX (evaluation) as well as Cisco CSR (trial).

If you already know how to do this or chose to run it all in a different environment, you can skip this part and move on to the next one (once it’s published), where we will install the necessary software on our CentOS VM and get our first Red Hat Ansible playbook started!

In this part (and only for this basic one) I’m going to limit the amount of explanations and keep it to a bare minimum to keep the momentum going, because there are enough step-by-step guides out there to help you with these, and I can’t cover every hypervisor and OS choice you might make. But I will list the high-level important milestone steps and encourage you to do some research if you don’t understand what a step is trying to achieve.

Enough said — let’s go!

  1. Download and install Virtual Box from https://www.virtualbox.org/ (or Google it if the URL doesn’t exist anymore by the time you get to read this). I’m installing mine on a Windows 2019 Server, but obviously, the goal of a hypervisor is to abstract the underlying OS.
  2. Download the latest “CentOS Linux DVD ISO” file from https://www.centos.org/download/.
  3. Create a New Virtual Machine in Virtual Box with 1 vCPU/1024 MB RAM and 10 GB storage/virtual hard disk space, and make sure it has a virtual optical drive.
  4. Mount the downloaded CentOS ISO to the virtual optical drive of the newly created VM and start the VM to install CentOS on your VM. If you get a VT-x is not available error from VirtualBox, you might be able to resolve it as suggested in the post here. For other errors and issues, remember, Google Is Your Friend (GIYF).
  5. For the CentOS installation (the installation should automatically start once you start the VM), I usually just set the following basics up:
    1. Configure your networking first
    2. Enable NTP for date/time
    3. Select or confirm the partition options for your scenario
    4. Chose the “Minimal (without GUI)” installation (default is “Server GUI”)
    5. During the copying and installation time, I would set a root password as well as create a user that is an administrator

These are just my preferences, obviously, you might have your own and there are many variables and scenarios that are impossible to cover here, that’s why I’m keeping it high level.

Before we continue in CentOS, let’s also bring up our virtual network devices we will be using to test our Network Automation in action. I suggest creating more than a single VM for each vendor to simulate automation tasks at scale, but I understand that your resources might be limited.

  1. Let’s start with the vSRX. To download it, you must sign up for a Juniper.net account (“Guest User Access” is free) and accept their terms & conditions. There’s a waiting period for new accounts as they need to be approved, but once you’re in, you can download the vSRX image of your choice (at the time of writing, KVM, Hyper-V and OVA for VirtualBox and VMware and many others were available). Then follow the Juniper vSRX deployment guide to install at least 2 instances of the vSRX if you can. Otherwise a single VM will do as well.
  2. The process for the Cisco CSR (Cloud Services Router) is very similar: You have to sign up for a Cisco.com account (a.k.a. “CCO”) and download the software from the Cisco support download page. Look for the “Cloud Services Router 1000V” and download any version that is available to you at the time you’re going through this. At the time of writing, it was 11.0S for me that did not require any additional entitlements/service contracts. Then follow the Cisco CSR 1000v deployment guide for the installation; for VirtualBox, I would suggest you follow the ESXi guide found here. I also recommend having at least 2 CSR instances if you have the resources.

Next up is the initial CentOS setup and Ansible installation — and running our first Ansible Playbook! Stay tuned for Part 3!


Looking to learn more about modernizing and automating IT? We created the Kovarus Proven Solutions Center (KPSC) to let you see what’s possible and learn how we can help you succeed. To learn more about the KPSC go to the KPSC page.

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