Deploying and configuring network devices is a tedious task. It usually involves a lot of repetitious entry of commands. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. With Zero-Touch Provisioning (ZTP) the process is much faster. Installing the device, turning it on, and letting it happen is the only steps when using ZTP.
The current challenge for telecoms is working with different components and deploying services efficiently at the same time. Service orchestration makes it possible. Find out more at The Many Benefits of Service Orchestration.
What is Zero-Touch Provisioning?
The traditional way of setting up a device is by entering the configuration from the command interface with the Internet off. And enter the configuration from the command line interface. That’s not a wrong approach when the number of devices is small, and they’re added one at a time. When adding hundreds of devices, though, it takes hours of entering repetitious commands.
A device with ZTP capability eliminates this work. When it’s turned on, or it does a hard reset, it looks for a DHCP server on the network and gets an IP address. Then it’s able to find a configuration command file on a server and run it.
It’s only necessary to create the configuration file once. Each device will get its configuration parameters, based on its location in the network and its MAC address or other internal data.
The advantages of ZTP
- ZTP fully automates the setup of network devices, with many benefits.
- It reduces the time to get them operational.
- It eliminates the human errors that come with repetitious typing at the CLI.
- It can save a trip to the customer premises and let the customer activate the equipment.
- It makes equipment upgrades easier.
- Reinitializing a device with ZTP is an easy way to fix some technical problems.
- All these benefits add up to significant savings in money.
How is ZTP set up?
ZTP setups vary. The basic requirements are a network device with ZTP capability, a DHCP server, and a file server. When the device is turned on for the first time, the DHCP server gives it an IP address, the address of the server, and the name of a boot file.
The device will run the boot file, which sets up its configuration parameters and starts the installation of any necessary firmware updates. The data can have instructions which are specific to a device model or an individual device (e.g., by MAC address). The process may use discovery protocols such as LLDP to determine the appropriate configuration parameters. After the initial bootstrap process, it can use standard automated configuration management tools to complete the setup.
ZTP devices have to be installed in a trusted environment. That way they get the correct and untampered boot file. This means that either the devices are physically secure or secure protocols authenticate them.
Like any labor-saving mechanism, ZTP can produce bad results if misused. The configuration files need to be debugged before being deployed in the field. If not, large numbers of devices could have configuration problems. If the configuration opens up a security hole, devices could be compromised before anyone catches the problem.
The ZTP server needs strong security. This is a particular concern when the device is in a remote location and not on the company’s premises. A man-in-the-middle attack could hijack control of a remote device. Devices which authenticate themselves with pre-installed digital certificates satisfy this requirement.
As networks grow and become dispersed, hands-on provisioning of each device becomes ever less practical. Automation is the key to efficient setup, avoidance of errors, and economical management of remote network devices. Customers want to get online quickly. The less manual intervention, the quicker it can happen. As it becomes more widely available, ZTP will give service providers the efficiency and economy they need.
What makes possible automation and standardization for telecoms? Further reading on service orchestration and its benefits here!