IETF Network Configuration Working Group (NETCONF)

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IETF has chartered a Network Configuration Working Group (NETCONF) to "produce a protocol for network configuration". (More details in the full blog entry; click the "Continue reading..." link below.)

Their focus seems to be on defining a protocol to supplant SNMP (a worthy goal, in my opinion; SNMP has proven largely unworkable for network configuration, although it has been useful for network monitoring), but they're intentionally punting on the underlying data model to use to describe how the network ought to be configured (which I think is at least as challenging a problem).

From their Charter:


Configuration of networks of devices has become a critical requirement
for operators in today's highly interoperable networks. Operators from
large to small have developed their own mechanims or used vendor
specific mechanisms to transfer configuration data to and from a
device, and for examining device state information which may impact
the configuration. Each of these mechanisms may be different in various
aspects, such as session establishment, user authentication,
configuration data exchange, and error responses.

The Netconf Working Group is chartered to produce a protocol suitable
for network configuration, with the following characteristics:

  - Provides retrieval mechanisms which can differentiate between
    configuration data and non-configuration data
  - Is extensible enough that vendors will provide access to all
    configuration data on the device using a single protocol
  - Has a programmatic interface (avoids screen scraping and
    formatting-related changes between releases)
  - Uses a textual data representation, that can be easily
    manipulated using non-specialized text manipulation tools.
  - Supports integration with existing user authentication methods
  - Supports integration with existing configuration database systems
  - Supports network wide configuration transactions (with features
    such as locking and rollback capability)
  - Is as transport-independent as possible
  - Provides support for asynchronous notifications

The Netconf protocol will use XML for data encoding purposes,
because XML is a widely deployed standard which is supported
by a large number of applications. XML also supports hierarchical data
structures.

The Netconf protocol should be independent of the data definition
language and data models used to describe configuration and state
data.

However, the authorization model used in the protocol is dependent on
the data model. Although these issues must be fully addressed to
develop standard data models, only a small part of this work will be
initially addressed. This group will specify requirements for standard
data models in order to fully support the Netconf protocol, such as:

  - identification of principals, such as user names or distinguished
    names
  - mechanism to distinguish configuration from non-configuration data
  - XML namespace conventions
  - XML usage guidelines

It should be possible to transport the Netconf protocol using several
different protocols. The group will select at least one suitable
transport mechanism, and define a mapping for the selected protocol(s).

The initial work will be restricted to the following items:

  - Netconf Protocol Specification, which defines the operational
    model, protocol operations, transaction model, data model
    requirements, security requirements, and transport layer
    requirements.

  - Netconf over <Transport-TBD> Specification, which defines how
    the Netconf protocol is used with the transport protocol
    selected by the group, and how it meets the security and
    transport layer requirements of the Netconf Protocol
    Specification.. There will be a document of this type for
    each selected transport protocol.

They've produced a series of working papers and drafts, all available at the web sites referenced above.

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This page contains a single entry by Brent Chapman published on March 4, 2005 9:43 AM.

What's the state of the art for Network Automation? was the previous entry in this blog.

Network World review of configuration tools is the next entry in this blog.

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