In a network environment, configurations are often considered of incalculable value because a small change in a device’s configuration can make or break the entire network infrastructure in minutes.
These configurations are divided into two parts: startup and running configurations. In a network device, the first configuration version, by default, is considered the baseline version (a stable and efficient configuration) for both running and startup configurations.
Startup configuration: Whenever a device reboots or powers up, the configuration present at that moment on the device is called the startup configuration. Here, no changes can be applied.
Running configuration: The configuration present during the device’s runtime is called the running configuration, or the current version. Here, the running configuration contains all the recent changes you’ve made to the configuration since the last device reboot.
The majority of the configuration changes are performed in running configurations, and startup configurations are rarely touched and are kept intact.
For example, a core network organization consists of network devices such as core routers and firewalls in its inventory. These devices undergo constant changes to their running configurations to improve the overall network efficiency and security. From these continual modifications to the devices, there will be different baseline versions for every device and it will be difficult for admins to track all the devices and its corresponding baseline versions as well as remember which to upload immediately in case of an emergency.
Why baseline configuration labeling is vital: A use-case scenario
A core firewall device undergoes configuration changes almost constantly and might have, for example, 600 versions of the configuration. The network admin handling this device will also have many similar core firewalls to manage, with each containing different baseline versions. Also, the admin cannot use the same, original version given by default as the baseline configuration because the sole purpose of configuration changes is to improve the efficiency of the device and to ensure it is more secure in the updated versions.
Therefore, the network admin requires a configuration baseline version among the numerous versions which is efficient and secure. Let’s say, for example, that the admin selects version 590 from our example of 600 configuration versions to be used as a new baseline configuration version.
Now, suppose the admin is working in a manual environment. The admin cannot remember that version number 590 of this particular firewall device is the baseline configuration because there will be multiple core firewalls and each of them have a different baseline version. Here, it becomes difficult for the admin to solve network downtime which has occurred, for example, because version 600 is faulty. The admin has to restore the device to its previous stable version and has to search for the baseline configuration out of the 600 versions and upload it. This requires the organization to invest lots of time and money.
Instead, per our example, it would be best if the admin can choose to label the version number 590 as the baseline version. If the scenario of version 600 being faulty occurs, the admin can immediately select version number 590 and upload it. This protects the device as well as the network environment. Also, the admin can use this baseline configuration for a configuration comparison if any new changes are made in the future.
How users can improve network device quality with a baseline configuration label
The quality of a network configuration plays a major role in determining the performance of network devices. Faulty configuration changes often lead to disastrous events such as untimely network mishaps and that can result in hefty financial losses for the organization. These issues can be avoided by making the necessary configuration changes to improve the performance of the devices.
For example, when one device configuration is similar to another configuration but does not produce the same desired output as that configuration, then a network admin can improve the quality of the underperforming configuration by comparing it with the configuration’s baseline version. Through a comparison, an admin can check how and where the configuration can be improved.
This is why labeling baseline configurations is vital for network admins to perform and an action that saves the organization time and money.
Disadvantages for users without baseline configuration management
- It is difficult to identify the best configuration version promptly during a downtime
- Uploading a non-stable configuration instead of stable configuration can occur
- Confusion about startup and running configurations changes is common
Advantages for users with baseline configuration management
- Enables configurations to be labeled so uploading baseline configurations is easy
- Provides a clear distinction between startup and running configuration changes
- Associates the label to multiple devices to avoid hectic manual overload
Network Configuration Manager: A hassle-free baseline configuration management tool
ManageEngine Network Configuration Manager is solution supporting multiple vendors on all network devices. This comprehensive resource supports network configuration and change management for core routers, switches, firewalls, and other devices.
Network Configuration Manager is a network automation tool that detects if there are any configuration changes performed each time a user logs in and logs off. If there are any changes, it backs up that configuration and adds it with a new version number.
Network admins can select the device to which the baseline configuration is assigned. Then, they can select which version should be chosen as the baseline version and select the Set as Baseline option. Once selected, that particular version is the baseline version and it will be shown by default while comparing configurations using Diff View.
In Network Configuration Manager, the version labeled as baseline will be taken for comparison as default. With this, admins can easily determine if the newer versions will be safe for production by comparing them with the stable version. With this process, the network quality and efficiency of devices can be improved many-fold without any hassles.
Network Configuration Manager also provides a custom labeling option, where you can name the configuration whatever you want. This will be applied to either the current startup or running configuration only. Examples include names like “Stable”, “Efficient”, etc.
If there is any sudden network downtime or if a current startup or running configuration has failed, the network admins can revert to the baseline version or the version customized with a name. They can upload that efficient configuration containing both the startup and running configurations, and prevent downtime.
Another useful advantage with Network Configuration Manager enables associating the created label to multiple devices. This way, the admin can save time by avoiding associating the baseline to every device individually.
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