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Better networking through Excel!?

So, I've been using Excel spreadsheets to improve on efficiency in creating and the consistency of mass configuration changes.  In saying that, I'm not talking about minor things like changing what tacacs servers your using, which would be better handled in something like Solarwinds Compliance Manager or via a Configuration Template, but bigger things that require multiple variables per device that is touched.   I.   I've used it to create entire configurations for Cisco routers we sent out to replace older Juniper routers at an acquisition our company made with VPN tunnel(s) to our head-end routers.   We've also completed another large project where we were upgrading WAN links, either MPLS links or DIA links with VPN tunnels to 10Mb Ethernet links with VPN tunnels back to our head-end routers.   This project was pretty complex in that some routers needed to migrate VoIP from the MPLS links to a DIA solution which also involved setting up basic QoS and such, while others were just migrating from bonded T1's to 10Mb Ethernet links.

It's actually been working out pretty well along with some macros that I both found and created that allow me to do math on IP Addresses.   So, I've started creating at least a couple articles on how to do this and decided with their general nature they're probably better posted in an external blog.   So, for now I'm leaving the article over there, but I'm curious about what people think.  The first article goes over the macros and such, and how to use them in a simple IP spreadsheet.   The next article will get in to how to use these macros to develop your own configuration spreadsheet for any large projects you might have coming up.

Let me know what you think about both the content and whether you think it would be better posted here.  Comments and suggestions are welcome!!

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I use Excel for changes all the time!  I'll commonly put in a cell something like "set interface ge-", then in the next cell add the interfaces to be disabled,  and finally the in last "disable"  it will allow you to drag each cell down and copy or increment the numbering. 

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I think you've got the right idea going.  That said, I'd love to see an alternative to doing this with Excel.

Our Network Architect built multiple amazing and complex Configurator tools using Excel, which rely on consistency in naming conventions--everything from node name, site name, region name, interface description, etc.

These items are all created as drop-downs in the first several columns of these "Spreadsheets of Doom".  Select them, enter in subnet and routing interface info, enter in basically everything you'd do as a one-off when building a new switch or router or VSS pair from scratch.

Once you have the unique items in, click "Build" and a complete running-config is generated.  It's impressive stuff, but easy to break, and easy to become out of date as new commands and processes are offered and implemented.

I don't know how it'd be done more simply and intuitively, outside of keeping a master config for each device type, and highlighting everything in bold red that must be changed for a unique deployment appropriate to a specific site.

I've used both; the latter is more intuitive, the former much more powerful.

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I'd love to see an alternative to doing this with Excel, maybe that will be the next enhancement to Orion NCM!! 

That being said, I have thought of doing what it sounds like your Network Architect has done, and still might do it.  Would love to see him publish something on his work.

But, I think you'll see I now take this on a slightly different bend.   And rather than dropdowns, I'm using INDIRECT() references to a sheet that probably looks familiar.   The "Sites" sheet in this example should look like one of many project sheets you might have used along the way for big projects where you configure a bunch of routers, but want a central place for the information upon which those configurations are built.   By using the INDIRECT() function to build my "Variables" sheet, we can build multiple router configs easily without having to enter any data twice.

My latest BLOG entry takes you through the setup of this Variables sheet, which will then be used to configure up multiple routers and IPSEC/GRE tunnels on your head-end router (in the next Blog post). 

So check it out and let me know what you think of my latest Blog entry on "Preparing to build a cisco config with Excel"

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