Building Network Automation Solutions: Frequently Asked Questions


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Knowledge Prerequisites

I don’t have a background in coding/programming/scripting. Is this course suitable for me?

Short answer: Yes.

Even more, you have a huge advantage over programmers trying to enter this field because you already understand what needs to be done (= configure and/or manage the network devices) … all you need to do is to distill your knowledge into the right format.

However, you also have to know what can be done, what tools to use to get the job done in a reasonably optimum way, and when/where to ask for help… and that’s what you’ll get in copious amounts in the online course – on top of detailed descriptions of various tools (Git, Ansible, NAPALM, NetBox, and Salt), there’s a whole section focused on selecting the right tool for the job, and another one on how to get fluent with new tools in a reasonably short time.

How much Python do I need to know?

Short answer: None

You can go through the whole course without ever touching Python (or any other “real” programming language)… although you’ll hit limits of what you can do with simpler tools like Ansible.

When you hit those limits, you have two options:

  • Learn some programming or
  • Find someone else to do that part of the job.

As we usually explain in the course introduction, you probably invested years into understanding networking and becoming a good networking engineer. Use that knowledge in a new domain (because after all, we’re talking about network automation) instead of trying to compete with high school kids.

After all, unless you want to be a lone consultant, you probably work in a team - and division of work and competences (while at the same time keeping in touch with what other people are doing) usually gets you better results than if everyone tries to be a jack-of-all-trades (and master of none).

Lab Environment and Lab Exercises

Do you provide the virtual environment for the hands-on exercises?

We were thinking about providing labs and concluded that it makes no sense because everyone wants to work on devices that they have in their production environment. It’s therefore impossible to create a lab that would suit everyone, so we decided to keep the lab exercises generic and give students plenty of room to be creative.

We do provide a guide that describes some of the potential approaches to building a network automation lab. You’ll get access to that guide immediately after registration.


You can use any lab environment you wish. Some people build virtual labs on their laptops using VIRL/CML/GNS3/EVE-NG. Others use Vagrant (assuming your preferred vendor provides Vagrant boxes). There are people using physical gear like Cisco ACI.

Apart from the usual stuff (Cisco IOS, IOS-XR, IOS-XE, Nexus-OS, Arista EOS, Junos), we’ve seen people working with Cisco ACI, Cumulus Linux, Extreme (which these days includes Brocade and Avaya - and yes, we’ve seen them all), Fortinet and ASA firewalls…

We recommend Ansible as the automation tool because it’s easiest to start with (and takes away all the boring stuff like connecting to devices). You’re free to use whatever you wish, although most students stick with Ansible, sometimes augmented with some cool Python stuff.

Do I have to use Vagrant?

No. We recommend that you set up a development environment in a Linux VM to prevent messing up your laptop too much, but feel free to set it up any way you wish.

We also recommend to use Vagrant with VirtualBox because it’s easy to set up (and free) on Windows and Mac OSX… but you’re free to use your Linux laptop, set things up in an ESXi server, on Synology (don’t ask me how)...

I never set up Linux. Will you help me?

Of course. The instructions on how to set up an Ubuntu VM in VirtualBox/Vagrant (the easiest environment to set up) and an installation script that installs Ansible, NAPALM and a few other bits and pieces on Ubuntu are available to all course attendees.

Automation Tools

What tools/platforms will be supported?

We’ll focus on building your own solution instead of deploying a humongous $vendor platform, and we’ll use Ansible in most examples as that’s what most networking engineers prefer these days. However, that should not stop you from using Python, NAPALM, Netmiko, Nornir, Salt, Netbox... or whatever other tool to complete the hands-on automation exercises.

What open-source frameworks are going to be covered?

Most networking engineers prefer to start their network automation journey with a tool that's as simple as possible and does not require programming knowledge. We'll thus use Ansible as our core tool, but you’ll also have to get somewhat fluent in using Git. You might want to use Vagrant and VirtualBox. We’ll definitely use NAPALM Ansible modules, and we might plug in a few more if needed.

Will I Learn How to Use Python in This Course?

No. While the course covers numerous automation tools to various degrees, it does not include tool-specific zero-to-hero material for any other tool but Ansible. You’re therefore most welcome to use Python to solve hands-on automation challenges that are part of the course, but you will have to learn Python programming, and using Python for network automation somewhere else.

What about Puppet/Chef/Salt/whatever platform that my company uses? Will, that be covered?

You'll briefly encounter Puppet and Chef, and see use cases where they make perfect sense. You'll also learn why it might make more sense to use Ansible for generic automation tasks.

Guest speakers covered numerous network automation tools in live sessions, including Chef, Git, GitLab, GitHub, GitLab CI/CD, NAPALM (including napalm-validate and napalm-yang), NetBox, Nornir, Salt, and Travis.

What vendors will be covered? We’re a big $vendor shop. Will this course still be useful?

Yes. Our existing examples work on Cisco IOS, Nexus-OS, Junos, and Arista EOS, but of course, you can work with devices from your preferred vendor as long as you can connect to them somehow.

Recent Ansible releases include modules covering dozens of different platforms from all major networking and network services vendors, so we’re positive you’ll find at least something that will be relevant to your environment (and we had people using external Perl scripts with Ansible because that was the only way to connect to their gear).

Course Materials

Does the course price include access to "Recommended Reading" materials?

Yes, all online courses include access to materials listed in the Recommended Reading sections of the course description.

When will I get access to "Recommended Reading" materials?

You get access to all Recommended Reading materials as soon as you register for the online course, so you can start preparing for the course as soon as you register.

Will I get the past and future recordings of live sessions?

All online sessions (guest speaker presentations and design/Q&A sessions) are recorded and available to future attendees of the course. The same applies in the other direction - recordings of future sessions will be available to anyone who registered for the course in the past. Note: This is applicable only to attendees who purchased the individual live course.

When choosing the Building Network Automation Solutions course within Expert yearly subscription, access to course materials is limited to the duration of Expert subscription and includes the recordings of the past live sessions and possible new live sessions recorded during the period someone's Expert subscription is valid.

The Duration of the Course

How long is the course?

The live sessions take place across a span of three months. You can start as early as you wish, and even complete hands-on assignments (and Ivan will review them) before the live sessions start.

So, you can start at the moment you register with self-study materials for the first module and with that you will be ready for the first live session, better prepared than others who start with the self-study at the last minute (one week before the start). You can go ahead and study also for the other modules, as there is a lot to take in. So, study at your own pace, write down your questions for the upcoming live session, or you can always ask via Automation Slack group or email.

You can also keep working on the course materials and complete all the hands-on assignments long after the live sessions finish. But we would suggest you don’t postpone too much with submitting your hand-on assignment, especially if you need a certification of completion (see the next question).

Do I have to complete the course in the 3 months period?

No. After all, it’s you working on acquiring new skills, and you know best how fast you can proceed. However, a few weeks after the course, Ivan will send out the certificates that will say “Joe attended the course” or “Joe attended the course and created a network automation solution that does X” ;)


Can I get a certificate at the end?


Is the course vendor-accredited?

Proudly, no. We believe in providing you a vendor-neutral knowledge.

Community and Support

Is the Automation Slack group open to everyone?

No. The Automation Slack group is a closed group for automation course attendees and guest speakers and is by invitation only.

Will Ivan answer all my questions?

Not every time. And the good news is that you don't need him to. The best option to get your answer is to post your question in the Automation Slack group. That will be faster, and your peers will benefit from the answer too. Remember, all guest speaker are also members of the Slack group, so you can get a first-hand reply.

Online Courses and Subscriptions

Is course material included in Standard subscription?

The online course and the Standard subscription are separate. The online courses focus on one specific topic, while the webinars included in the Standard subscription cover a wider range of topics (see existing and upcoming webinars).

Which Subscription plan provides access to the course materials?

Expert subscription.

Purchasing a Course as a Company or a Group

We are a big company. Is it possible to get the quote or proforma invoice?

Yes. As all paperwork is fully automated, you can generate the quote or proforma invoice by yourself.

Please proceed to the course shopping cart, and under the Select the payment method, select Send me a quote. You can enter whatever information you wish in the form to meet your company requirements.

You might raise a quote/proforma invoice if your internal procedures require you to do so, but we’ll still provision the service only when we receive your payment.

You will not have any obligation to us with just generating the quote/proforma invoice.

For more information, visit Buying Products: Frequently Asked Questions.