Tech Review: NETCONF and YANG

Notes on NETCONF

NETCONF is an IETF Standard

IETF NETCONF Working Group IETF RFC 6242 – Network Configuration Protocol (NETCONF) Overview of the 2002 IAB Network Management Workshop – RFC 3535

NETCONF is protocol for exchanging configuration information from a management platform. YANG is the data modelling language for the format of data used by NETCONF to exchange data.

Comparing to SNMP

Conceptually, this is the similar to SNMP as the protocol, SMI is the data model using ASN.1 notation.

SNMP is too limited to be useful for exchanging configuration data.

  • SNMP is stateless. Therefore cannot handle multi-stage data transactions.
  • Not able to backup/restore elements – one SNMP sets a variable there is no recovery action. Therefore, setting multiple SNMP variable is risky and difficult.
  • Because of this, very few applications perform SNMP writes.
  • All of the problem of SNMP as a configuration tool are documented in RFC3535

Introduction to NETCONG & YANG

Carl Moberg’s 30 minute introduction to NETCONF & YANG

Disclosure – Carl Moberg from Tail-F was a sponsor on Packet Pushers

Exploring NETCONF

NETCONF supports capability exchange so that the client can discover the version of the server. This allows for dynamic upgrades of the client, and graceful fallback in the case that either client or server are not at the same version.

SNMP data is not semantically encapsulated – the client must know the the format of the data being read e.g. 32bit INTEGER, 64-bit INTEGER etc. It’s hard to program SNMP reader since you must explicitly define all data. If it changes or isn’t correct, your application needs to detect this and fail gracefully. There are no libraries available for this.

NETCONF not only defines the protocol from Client to server, but also the states in the server and client to support features like the following:

– Distinction between configuration and state data – Multiple configuration data stores (candidate, running, startup) – Configuration change validations – Configuration change transactions – Selective data retrieval with filtering – Streaming and playback of event notifications – E xtensible remote procedure call mechanism

Exploring YANG

– Human readable, and easy to learn representation – Hierarchical configuration data models – Structured data types – Extensibility through augmentation mechanisms – Supports definition of operations (RPCs) – configuration validation capability – Data modularity through modules and sub-modules – Well defined versioning

Things that Network Management wants to do

  • platforms should envisage the network as a whole not as individual devices.
  • compare configuration data between devices – render vendor specific data down to common data sets.
  • configure devices and rollback as necessary, or provide other risk mitigation features.
  • be consistent across a wide range of devices. SNMP might be a problem but at least it’ consistent across many devices.
  • *

NETCONF operations

Device = NETCONF server Software = NETCONF client

NETCONF supports multiple transport protocols – SSH, BEEP, SOAP(HTTP) and TLS.

Basic NETCONF Operations * Get configuration – Retrieve all or part of a specified configuration from a named data store * Get all information – Retrieve running configuration and device state information * Edit configuration – Loads all or part of a specified configuration to the specified target configuration * Copy configuration – Create or replace an entire configuration datastore with the contents of another complete configuration datastore.(HTTP) * Delete configuration – Delete a configuration datastore (not applicable to running) * Lock and unlock , – Short-lived lock and unlock of the configuration system of a device * Close and kill session , – Graceful (close) or forced (kill) termination of a NETCONF session

Vendor Support

Juniper, Brocade, Cisco, Huawei, and various smaller players.

Releated IETF RFC

IETF NETCONF Working Group

This page a very complete list of all IETF RFCs, including the latest revisions (so you don’t have to read the obsolete ones and locate the latest RFCs. )

RFC 6241: Network Configuration Protocol (NETCONF) RFC 6244: An Architecture for Network Management Using NETCONF and YANG RFC 6022: YANG Module for NETCONF Monitoring

Other Posts in A Series On The Same Topic

  1. Tech Review: NETCONF and YANG (13th February 2012)
About Greg Ferro

Greg Ferro is a Network Engineer/Architect, mostly focussed on Data Centre, Security Infrastructure, and recently Virtualization. He has over 20 years in IT, in wide range of employers working as a freelance consultant including Finance, Service Providers and Online Companies. He is CCIE#6920 and has a few ideas about the world, but not enough to really count.

He is a host on the Packet Pushers Podcast, blogger at EtherealMind.com and on Twitter @etherealmind and Google Plus

You can contact Greg via the site contact page.

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