Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP) alleviates complex network provisioning by introducing automation and enabling multipoint auto-configuration of network devices.
Nowadays, networks need to solve two significant tasks:
- Provide seamless access to their users
- Support new collaborative applications that are increasingly complex and dynamic in their scale, use distributed resources and require advanced networking services
Rapid deployment and automation of new network services provisioning are complex in large networks that incorporate different technologies and solutions. Providing a seamless user experience generates an additional burden for the configuration phases included in network provisioning.
Network or system administrators must maintain uptime, define provisioning policies, modify user access based on user roles, frequently upgrade the firmware, and finish the tasks within the stipulated timelines mentioned in the Service Level Agreement (SLA).
Types of network provisioning
Network provisioning is important as it makes sure the network resources are made available to users. The types of network provisioning include:
User provisioning: User provisioning is about setting up user accounts and permissions to access network resources and services.
Device provisioning: Network devices, such as switches, routers, and firewalls are configured to enable communication and data exchange between devices and users.
Virtual provisioning: Virtual resources are created and configured to enable users access network resources and services.
Service provisioning: Network services such as VPNs, load balancers, and content filtering are set up and configured to enable users to access network resources and services.
Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP)
Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP) alleviates complex network provisioning by introducing network automation and enabling multipoint auto-configuration of network devices for effective network management. ZTP ensures end to end automation of network management to deliver services with agility and speed.
We will discuss the issues related to manual network device provisioning, how ZTP can enable network automation and the steps involved in implementing ZTP for your network.
Key Layers of an Enterprise Network
Before diving into network administration's nuances, let us refresh our knowledge about the key layers of corporate networks.
Network Device Maker
They are Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) who manufacture network hardware components. These companies sell products and services to communication service providers such as fixed-line or mobile operators and enterprise customers. Essentially, they establish the hardware backbone of device networks at customer locations.
Network Service Provider
A network service provider is a business or organization that sells bandwidth or network access by providing direct Internet backbone access to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and enabling access to the Network Access Points (NAP)s. Service providers may include telecommunications companies, data carriers, wireless communication providers, Internet Service Providers offering high-speed Internet access, and cable television operators. They are the firmware layer of the enterprise network.
Problems with Manual Network Device Provisioning
Network administrators often configure network devices one device at a time through a command line interface (CLI). However, in large networks in customer locations, network provisioning might mean thousands of devices to be provisioned and configured.
Configuring networks manually might easily make several expert network administrators work round the clock for days to finish the configuration and provisioning activities. Yet, there is no guarantee of successful provisioning for each network device.
Configuring networks manually leads to the following network management issues:
80% of all network downtime can be attributed to human error during network provisioning and configuration
Manual configuration is slow, decentralized, and prone to errors
People and travel are expensive as system engineers need physical access to the devices
What is Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP)
Zero touch provisioning (ZTP) can enable better network management by allowing network devices to be provisioned and configured automatically, eliminating effort, time, and issues arising from manual network provisioning at customer locations. This means customers can set up devices with minimal help from trained personnel.
Why is ZTP required, and what are its benefits
ZTP enables network automation through these steps for network administration and helps enhance efficiency:
Updating operating systems (Firmware) on the device.
Configuring the device with predefined custom configuration.
Ness Solution that enables ZTP
Three major components participate in the ZTP process:
Device Management Software
High-Level ZTP Architecture
Before we dive into the actual steps of ZTP, let us look at the major components of the automated ZTP system.
Device Management Software
It is the software that is used to manage networking devices. Using this software, network administrators can monitor, manage, and configure networking devices.
This is a centralized server managed by the IT/Sales team to identify the networking devices sold to various customers.
This device is stationed at the customer location and can be networking equipment such as VoIP devices, routers, and switches. A network can have several devices of various types and configurations.
Here are the implementation steps for registering a new device in an ZTP-enabled network.
Steps that require manual intervention:
- Register the Device Management Software with the ZTP Server
When Device Management Software is sold to the customer, the sales team registers it with the ZTP server.
- Register the device with the ZTP Server
When a device is sold to the customer, the sales team registers it with the ZTP server.
- Define provisioning policies
Customer’s Network Administrator defines the configuration and the firmware version they want to install on the new devices using the device management software.
- ‘Auto-provision’ the device
Customer’s network administrator enters the MAC address of the device/s to be auto-provisioned.
Device Management Software validates the device/s with ZTP Server.
Customer’s network administrator selects the provisioning policy to be applied on the device/s.
The mapping of Device/s and Device Management Software (DMS) address gets saved on the ZTP Server.
- Plug-in’ and ‘Turn-on’ the device
The network administrator plugs the device into the network and turns it on.
Steps that are performed automatically:
As soon as the device gets plugged into the network and turned on, it sends a registration request to the ZTP server.
- ZTP Server sends the Device Management Software (DMS) address to the device.
- The device sends a registration request to Device Management Software.
- Device Management Software registers the device.
- Device Management Software, If required, upgrades the firmware of the device.
- Device Management Software, If required, applies the configuration defined in the provisioning policy on the device.
- Device Management Software sends back the register response to the device.
The device is now ready and can send heartbeat messages to the Device Management Software. Devices can now be monitored and managed from the Device Management Software.