Over the past few weeks I’ve been blogging about network configuration management, and the first few blog posts were fairly straightforward, I have to admit.  I didn’t have to spend a whole lot of time thinking about what to talk about, because it was for the most part, a natural evolution – talk about basic concepts, demonstrate using those concepts, show how to apply concepts to the operations cycle…. But as I find myself sitting down to write this, my final post, for this series I’m torn with which way to take it. 


One natural direction to go would be ‘taking things further’ or ‘optimizing your network configuration management environment’ but I think that those topics are so obvious that I probably wouldn’t be doing this post justice if I stopped there, so here’s what I’m going to do… Lets talk about those things, but then lets take it a step further and challenge ourselves to describe ‘what’s possible’ – things that we aren’t necessarily doing today as part of a configuration management process, but thinks we wish we were.   So without further a due, here goes...


Taking Things Further


It’s easy to sort of plot a course for ‘taking things further’ based on where you’re currently at in your network configuration management strategy… For those of us not doing anything yet, we simply start collecting data; for those of us collecting data but not using it, we start thinking about how to apply it to our operational processes.  We start thinking about automation; we start thinking about opportunities to leverage information that we now have, information that was previously out of reach. Whatever you’re doing now, trust me, it’s not enough, as I'm sure you'll find. Do more, and it’ll quickly start to snowball and you won’t be able to help yourself.


Thinking Forward


As I look back and think about the ways that network configuration management techniques and solutions have changed the way I do things operationally, from ‘getting backups’ in the beginning to ‘auditing standard configuration processes’ years later, I find that there’s always something more that’s possible, something more to achieve.  Here are a few of my thoughts on where we need to go next as an industry (and granted, some of these things are already possible, but not yet widely adopted, so this is certainly a point-of-view based vision that may vary based on your individual perspectives).


Artificial Network Intelligence – Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could ‘teach’ the network to react to changing environments based on a strategy or approach rather than a more specific ‘if you see this behavior, run this code”?  Think about a network that can be self-diagnosing based on reviewing configuration data as collected as part of network configuration management processes, observing network availability changes as reported by a network monitoring solution, and not only alerting the operations staff as to ‘there is a network outage’ but also ‘these are the things that just changed, and this is what we think is causing the problem’.   I mean, WOW, that would be something.  Kind of takes the phrase ‘self-healing network’ to the next level, doesn’t it?    


Proactive Fault Prevention – How about a solution that monitors a network for common ‘configuration events’ that most often create an outage, and alerting us proactively that ‘something bad may be brewing, you should look into this” – all before a service degradation or outage ever happens.


I’m sure there are half a dozen more types of things that are possible as an output of a strong network configuration management strategy… These are a few of my ideas…. So my challenge to you – give me a few of yours.   What do you think is possible that we haven’t attempted yet?  What kinds of outputs from a network configuration management solution could be leveraged to change ‘doing business as usual’ and revolutionize how we do things?  I’m curious to see the dialogue that we can have on this one.


It’s been a fun few weeks, and I hope these posts have been informative to you, have sparked an interest in network configuration management, and what’s possible, and helped to shape the way you do business.  Let the comments begin!


Josh  - @ciscovoicedude