By Brien M. Posey

vRealize Network Insight provides a wealth of information about the resources on your network, and the traffic flowing between those resources. In order to do so, however, it needs to be aware of the infrastructure resources that exist in your datacenter. Fortunately, VMware has made it easy to add physical network resources to vRealize Network Insight.

To add a new data source to vRealize Network Insight, open the Web interface and click on the Settings icon. As an alternative, you can enter the word Settings into the Search box. When the Settings page appears, click on the Add Source button.

vRealize Network Insight is able to collect data from a huge variety of sources, so the steps you’ll need to follow when adding a resource will vary depending on the type of source you add. Adding physical network resources to vRealize Network Insight means giving it access to those devices. This could be via an API, SSH, or SNMP. The access method will vary depending on the device model.

vRealize Network Insight features native support for a variety of switches and routers, including:

  • Cisco ACI
  • Cisco Catalyst 3000, 4500, and 6500
  • Cisco Nexus 3K, 5K, 6K, 7K, and 9K
  • Brocade VDX 6740 / 6940
  • Juniper EX / QFX
  • Dell Force 10MXL10
  • Dell S4048 / 29100 / S6000
  • Huawei 6800 / 7800 / 8800 series
  • FortiGate via FortiManager
  • And many more..

Generic Switches and Routers

vRealize Network Insight also supports generic switches and routers. Even if your switch or router isn’t generic, you can use the Generic Router/Switch option to add a switch or router that doesn’t appear on the list of supported hardware.

Before you’re able to add a generic switch or router, you’ll need to create a device configuration file for the device. The device configuration file is a .ZIP file containing a collection of specially formatted .CSV files that contain information about the device that’s being added. For example, the Switch.csv file includes information such as the device’s name, IP address (or FQDN), and its host name. This .CSV file can optionally include additional information such as the switch’s name, serial number, make, model, and high-availability state.

Another example of a .CSV file that’s included within the device configuration file is the Switch-Ports.csv file. This file acts as a list of switch port names and contains information about the port mode, whether or not the port is connected, and the port’s administrative or operational status (up or down). The Switch-Ports.csv file can also optionally include information such as the port’s interface and operational speed, hardware address, VLAN configuration, and more. You can access full descriptions of the Switch.csv, the Switch-Ports.csv, and other .CSV files on GitHub.

While you could conceivably use the .CSV file descriptions from GitHub to manually build the .CSV files required in the Device Configuration File, there is another (and possibly easier) way to create the file.

Easy File Creation

VMware provides a free tool called Network-Insight-SDK-Generic-Datasources. This tool, available on GitHub, is an SDK designed to connect to physical networking devices and then perform automated queries to obtain the device’s configuration information. That information is normalized and exported to a series of .CSV files, which are then bundled together into a .ZIP file.

The Generic Datasources SDK tool is designed to be run on a Linux system that has Git and Python 3.5 or higher installed. Its dependencies include netmiko, requests, and PyYAML. The command used to install the dependencies is:

pip install –src . -r requirements.txt  

Once you’ve created the Device Configuration File for the device you want to import, go back to the vRealize Network Insight administrative interface, and click on the Generic Router/Switch link. You’ll now see an interface for adding a new generic router or switch.

This interface requires three pieces of information:

  1. The device configuration file you created.
  2. The Collector VM you want to use (this is normally just a matter of selecting the desired collector VM from a dropdown list).
  3. Either the device’s IP address or its FQDN.

When you’re done, click the Validate button to validate the information you provided.

Assuming that the validation process is successful, the final steps are to provide a nickname for the device (such as third floor Cisco router), as well as any notes you wish to include. Finally, click the Submit button to add the device.

It’s worth noting that when you add a generic switch or router in this way, vRealize Network Insight treats the object as static. It’s aware of the object’s existence, but it doesn’t automatically recognize configuration changes that are made to the object.

Scheduling Updates

When you use the Generic Datasources SDK tool to generate the .ZIP file, there is also a way to upload the .ZIP file directly to vRealize Network Insight with the tool. Using a scheduled task (i.e., every 10 minutes), the Generic datasource can be automatically updated. Just like regular, officially supported data sources, vRealize Network Insight will keep track of the changes that occur on these generic devices. Everything a configuration change is made on them, the scheduled task will update the configuration in the interface. Find a description on how to do this on GitHub.

Once that’s done, vRealize Network Insight can start monitoring the new device, and you’ll get more visibility into your operations.

Learn More

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