Who wouldn’t want an end-to-end automated infrastructure? Dive into the new automation features designed to deliver true zero-touch deployment of the Fabric Connect/Fabric Attach infrastructure and learn how to extend Fabric right to the edge wiring closet!
One of the ideas behind fabric networking is basically bringing everything together: the branch solution, the data center, the metro, the campus core and the edge into an end-to-end unified fabric. Quite an ambitious task. So it stands to reason that a few things had to be done in order to smooth the operation of our fabric to the edge solution.
So where do we begin? Easy: the onboarding of switches!
When you deploy switches, we wanted to make sure you can automatically onboard them to the network management infrastructure. To that end, we have automated our fabric deployments, basically creating a zero touch fabric solution. But first, let's look at all the elements that build the automation infrastructure.
What we see here is two MDF aggregation layer switches and an IDF solution, a bunch of edge switches that connect a wireless access point and some wired clients like phone or CCTV camera. All of that connected to an edge solution.
Then we see the connectivity for all of those edge switches, how they're wired up. So they're basically connected like a stack. They are not a stack literally, but they're connected like a stack and then have a dual homed connection back into the aggregation layer.
So what are the automation elements that we are bringing here together? The foundation of this automation lies in the auto-sense ports. When the switches are deployed, all ports are automatically auto-sense enabled by default, they're just up and running. You can restart these edge switches without configuration – they all reboot and come up with auto-sense enabled in all the ports. But we’ll come back to that.
Elements of automation infrastructure
So first, the zero touch Fabric is established and these switches come up. Next, the switches will create an onboarding I-SID, basically allowing anything that connects to this infrastructure, including the switches, to be onboarded to the network management infrastructure. That's an onboarding service that’s created by default.
The next element that we have is when the switches have reachability, they get an IP address, and then they automatically reach out to the network management infrastructure, including the radius, to get the services attached. On top of that we have a radius-based authentication of the users, including VLAN and I-SID deployment, as well as policy assignment.
Next up – auto Fabric Attach. Basically, when an access point or another Fabric Attach capable device is connected, it is automatically sensed and configured.
At the end, we have automatic phone integration and other IoT device integration support.
So these are all the elements. Let’s see how quickly all of this works with the auto-sense enabled ports.
Again, the switch is booted up, no configuration, all ports are auto-sense enabled. These little brains you can see on the switch below basically means these ports are all smart by default. Based on what they detect, the switches will react accordingly.
What’s this, a Fabric link? Sure, I'll bring up the Fabric. A Fabric Attach capable access point is being connected? That means the connectivity needs to be turned into Fabric Attach connectivity. If the user is connected and authenticated through radius, then we can deploy services. If a phone is connected, phone services are deployed to the port automatically. If it’s something else and no radius is there, off you go to the guest I-SID!
Basically saying, the auto-sense enabled ports have a state machine and the state machine will detect what's connected to it, allowing itself to convert to whatever it's required to be.
In other words, the way we are envisioning to deploy Fabric to the edge is not that we deploy stacking, but basically that we deploy the switches without any configuration at all.
Sure, “The stacking connectivity” is automatically established over those NNI connections interconnecting stack switches. But it's not stacking, as these are all individual switches. Point is, they do not require any manual configuration. Our idea of Fabric to the edge solution deployment architecture is all about simplification – a really effortless, seamless, zero touch solution where everything is automated and sensed automatically.