12 sessions, 6 countries, 4 months

After twelve sessions across six countries over four months, last week we presented the final ArubaOS-CX EMEA workshop in Dubai. The objective of the session was to familiarise the attendees with the game-changing ArubaOS-CX operating system and 8320 switching hardware. Each workshop was split between dedicated sessions for Aruba SEs and Partners, providing hands-on experience with real 8320 hardware.
Each session was well attended, either full or very close to capacity, and my co-presenter, Dik, and I would like to thank all those that came along for their participation, especially those that helped in-country with the organisational aspects.

CLI vs. API

The bedrock of the session was a workbook of exercises that Dik and I composed, following the loose structure of one day of CLI tasks and one day a crash-course in Python for network engineers. The first day was hearty keyboard-bashing that all networkers know, and some love. While the second was something new to most, offering the chance to get to grips with the ArubaOS-CX REST API and making a start on management and automation tasks.

Do you Python?

Inviting a group of networkers to roll up their sleeves and jump onto a CLI without exception saw the attendees merrily ‘conf t’ing away. However, the content of the second day was rather more controversial. Python installation, virtual environments, package imports, and that was just the installation setup. The real exercises were aimed at taking those inexperienced in Python and showing them how to GET and POST structured data via the API, using Python to drive the HTTPS calls and parse the JSON responses. This is quite removed from the traditional networkers skill set, and definitely not what those in the session were doing in their day to day roles.

Day Two Debating Society

Rather than just force-feed the audience coding exercises, I took the opportunity to address possible concerns about the unfamiliar coding content by opening on the second morning with a discussion about network automation, networkers learning to code in general, and Python specifically. I kicked off with a few examples and thoughts of my own but in every session there was a high level of interaction and some invaluable insights raised by the attendees. It was a great way to get the group warmed up first thing but also offered the floor to others to express their thoughts and opinions. Some were fully onboard and hacking away against APIs already, while the majority were eager to learn and embrace the new but just starting out with API or automation work. Unsurprisingly there were a few, not completely unjustified, sceptics, wondering whether automation is just a fad. Thus each session saw a range of viewpoints and all were welcome.

Making Future Plans

The reality is that today the CLI sits firmly on its throne as the primary interface we use to interact with network devices. SNMP is our networking monitoring protocol. But through my own experience and interaction with customers, I know there is a growing interest in finding other ways to interact with our networks, to get away from typo-fuelled outages, to up reliability and drive down costs. Automation and network device APIs offer us new ways to get off the CLI for everyday tasks and focus on improving and securing our networks rather than being bogged down in config management and typing in yet another VLAN on a trunk up-link. I repeatedly stressed to those in the session, this isn’t about what you do today, this is future and we have to plan for that as network professionals.

I will summarise the session discussion points in part two of this blog, and work on editing the workbook content to be posted online. For now I want to keep this short and focus on thanking all those that attended and supported the workshop sessions across EMEA.

Thanks all!

@joeneville_