Updated December 20, 2016
This video demonstrates how to use Network Configuration Manager and covers topics such as navigating the Web console, how to backup devices, how to check & compare configuration changes, how to set up the change approval process and run and customize reports.
All NCM versions
In this session, we’re going to show you how to get up to speed with Network Configuration Manger, also known as NCM.
Most customers purchase NCM to manage backups, but there are many more features that can help you begin to automate your configuration management tasks.
The objective of this video is to provide a better understanding of NCM’s common features and to demonstrate how these features can be implemented to allow you to become more proactive in addressing issues.
For the sake of time, we will assume NCM has been installed and that devices have been added for monitoring.
If you are new to SolarWinds products, I would suggest watching the Orion Platform series videos to get you familiar with common features, such as, Reporting & Alerting.
Let’s login to the Orion web console and get acquainted with the information presented in the NCM summary page.
Click on My Dashboards and Config. Summary.
What you are looking at is a collection of web resources, each displaying different types of information.
These resources can be customized by clicking Edit on a resource or, to control which resources are displayed on this page, you can go to Customize Page here.
Let’s look at the Node List resource. This is where all your managed devices will appear.
The Group By drop down menu allows you to sort the nodes in an organized fashion.
I have mine grouped by vendor in case I need to push updates to all devices of a specific vendor.
If you need to access a device in the list, you simply click and drill in to the device.
This pulls up the device details page.
I’d like to focus on the Configs tab.
The Configs tab provides access to all the ‘NCM-centric’ data for this device.
Below are several options for managing this device. There is no need to use a separate tool to download a configuration. You can do that directly from the Download Config resource. Just select the type of configuration you need and click Download.
Note that these task can also be done on the Configuration Management page.
You can execute a script (pause) or upload a configuration, simply by selecting what you want (pause) and clicking Upload.
On the right you’ll see the Last 5 Config Changes. If you want to see the last 10 configuration changes, just click edit on this resource and enter the desired number.
The Compare Configs resource allows you to select two configurations from different time periods to compare to one another based on certain dates.
You could also run a Config Change Report directly. These reports display where changes are detected and provide Before and After columns with colors that designate the changes.
Let’s go back to the summary page and look at helpful chart.
The Overall Devices Backed Up vs Not Backed Up resource provides a pie chart representing the percentage of backed up versus not-backed up devices over a specific period of time.
I have it set to the As of Last Update time frame.
This time frame is based on the last time an update occurred and any changes made thereafter. An update occurs when you run inventory, download configuration files, or execute a baseline of your network.
The chart itself is interactive and clickable.
Let’s take a look at the nodes that haven’t been backed up.
By simply clicking into the chart you’ll get a list of nodes.
Sometimes nodes don’t have backups or the backups fail. This could be happening for many reasons.
To find out why some of these devices haven’t been backed up, we’ll need to visit the Configuration Management feature.
To open the Configuration Management feature, I’m going to click on My Dashboards, then Configuration Management.
When I click on the Transfer Status tab I can find out exactly why the backups were not completed by looking in the Status/Details column. Also notice that there are suggested actions to resolve the issue.
Another resource I would like to draw your attention to on the Summary Page is the search feature, which is very powerful.
It allows you to search for specific text within configurations on all or some of your managed nodes.
You can specify whether you want to search all downloaded configuration files or only the most recently downloaded ones. You can also specify a date range within the past week, the current month, the last month or specific dates.
You can also specify the type of configurations to search: running, startup or edited.
If you perform a search based on a specific keyword, NCM will display the results with your keyword highlighted. Clicking on a result will take you to the Config Details page. From here, you can save the config to file or edit it.
Let’s talk about one of the main reasons people use NCM and that is for automated backups.
What we want to do is visit the jobs list to see what jobs are currently scheduled.
By default, NCM backs up any nodes you have added, using a TFTP copy running command.
All of the jobs you see here come out of the box. Some are already enabled by default, including the Nightly Config Backup job.
This is out-of-the-box job downloads the configuration files for all nodes in the database on a nightly basis.
By clicking Edit, you can modify the example for your specific needs, or you can create a new job by clicking Create New Job.
You simply name the job, (pause) and select Download Configs from Devices from the Job Type drop down menu.
Then select the Schedule Type.
If you are creating an advanced schedule, enter the appropriate ‘cron’ expressions.
Add a comment if needed, for example, this job relates to a business rule, and click Next.
Select the nodes to target with this job, (pause) and click Next.
Select your email notification option.
Most importantly, select the configuration types you want to download, then select the Send Config Change Notifications.
Review the settings for the job, and click Finish.
Suppose you need to find a previous configuration file.
There are several ways you can find an archived configuration. Use the search feature, particularly if you know specific details about the file, or go to the Nodes List and select the node. You’ll be presented with the most recent configurations for the device.
Just select a configuration and then Save to File. You can also edit the configuration directly from here.
Before you do that you may want to do a configuration comparison to ensure you have the correct file.
When you enable the change approval system, NCM prevents the system from executing device uploads until an NCM administrator has approved the scheduled job.
Setting up this system is pretty straightforward. You need to go into the NCM Settings and go through the Setup Wizard.
The wizard walks you through the types of approval modes. A one level approval, a two level mode for non-privileged users and a two-level mode for all users.
Select the desired level, (pause) setup your email server, (pause) and configure your email settings.
Finally, you need to ensure that the user roles have a Web-Uploader status. Click Manage Users, select the user role (pause) and then click Edit.
Scroll down the page to the NCM settings (pause) and confirm that the role is enabled.
This confirms that the user account will have future configuration changes approved.
If setting up an approval process is not applicable in your environment, yet you still want to be informed about changes occurring to your devices, you can enable the configuration change reports to be emailed to you.
Simply go to My Dashboards and click Jobs. Now locate the Example Daily Config Change Report. This is the report you are going to edit to fit your needs. This report comes out of the box with NCM. Click Edit.
You can change the title and setup the schedule for your report. Right now it’s defaulted at 6am. Click Next.
This is where you select the nodes you want the report to run against. Click Next.
You’ll want to verify that Email Results is selected and that the Sender and Recipient names are correct. This is who will be getting the email report at 6am. Click Next.
On the job specific details page you’ll want to select the configuration type to run the report against.
Select a configuration file by date to compare against the most recently downloaded one.
You can select to show changes over the past number of days or only changes made between certain time periods.
Most importantly you can check this if you only want to receive an email about the devices that have had changes.
Click Next to review and finish.
Next, you’ll need to go back and s elect the report from list and enable it. Now this report is scheduled.
Let’s talk about another powerful feature-- the Configuration Management console. This is where you do a majority of your tasks, such as, updating access lists, modifying community strings, or making other changes to multiple devices at once.
You’ll see the managed nodes in the left hand column and you’ll see the applicable actions you can take on the selected nodes.
Just select the nodes you want to make changes to and then select an action.
You can either upload or download configurations, compare them, and even run a Configuration Change Report.
Clicking the Upload button allows you to run a command--no CLI needed. Just enter the command and click Upload.
NCM will ask you to confirm the action.
Once you have executed an action, you can verify the results by looking on the Transfer Status tab.
Scroll to the right and click Show Upload Results.
Back on the Config. Management tab, you can take more actions, such as executing a script, by selecting a node and then clicking Execute Script.
You can load a script from a file or paste one in and save it for future use. You also have the option to Execute Script in Config Mode or reboot the device if needed.
Again, as with any action, NCM will ask you to confirm before continuing.
Inventory Reports are a must have for compliance reporting and needed for Cisco Smart Advisor reports. There is a free connector tool required for those reports.
You can choose from several unique inventory reports, or create your own.
NCM ships with many reports, including Cisco Chassis IDs and the Cisco IOS Image reports.
I’m going to search for “Inventory” to locate the IOS Versions report. Select it and click View Report. Here is a summary of all my Cisco nodes with IP addresses and IOS versions.
So, to wrap up our session; we took a look at how to start using NCM to automate some common everyday tasks, and how NCM can help you to move from having a reactive approach into having a proactive approach with configuration management. Here is a
brief list of some best practices you can implement in your environment:
For more information on Network Configuration Manager, please visit support.solarwinds.com.