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(19) United States
(12) Patent Application Publication (io) Pub. No.: US 2004/0059813 Al
Bolder et al. (43) Pub. Date: Mar. 25,2004
(54) METHODS AND APPARATUS FOR
CONFIGURATION CHANGE MANAGEMENT
IN COMMUNICATIONS NETWORKS
(76) Inventors: Ron Scott Bolder, Nepean (CA); Sasa Nijemcevic, Nepean (CA); Craig Ellirt Timmerman, Ottawa (CA)
MARKS & CLERK
P.O. BOX 957
OTTAWA, ON KIP 5S7 (CA)
(21) Appl. No.: 10/456,489
(22) Filed: Jun. 9, 2003
(30) Foreign Application Priority Data
Sep. 19, 2002 (CA) 2,404,191
(51) Int. CI.7 G06F 15/173
(52) U.S. CI 709/224
A configuration change management system is provided. The configuration change management system includes a configuration information repository and a human-machine interface for interacting with field-installed communications network entities. Versions of communications network entity specific configuration information are stored in repository entries. Methods of managing configuration changes include: retrieving configuration information from communications network entities; storing thereof under version control in repository entries; comparing at least one retrieved repository entry from the repository; and configuration information retrieved from field-installed communication network entities; and submitting, for reconfiguration, of at least one field installed communication network entity, selected configuration information held in a corresponding repository entry. Advantages are derived from: a centralized tracking and storage of configuration information under version control, and the ability to compare versions of communications network entity configurations, reducing equipment downtime and reducing communications network management overheads. Further advantages are derived from an efficient method of debugging communications network entity configuration problems. The methods and system further enable easy migration of communications network entities to newer software/firmware releases, and fast provisioning of replacement communications network equipment.
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Submit Selected CLI
Commands to Selected
METHODS AND APPARATUS FOR CONFIGURATION CHANGE MANAGEMENT IN COMMUNICATIONS NETWORKS
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
 The invention relates to communication network management, and in particular to methods and apparatus for managing configuration changes.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 With regards to communication network equipment, for example data switching nodes schematically shown in FIG. 1, a communications equipment vendor may chose to implement an integral communication network node device 122X having a data switching processor operable to switch data packets between a group of ports 102, while another communication equipment vendor may chose a customizable implementation of a switching node 112Y including: a switching fabric, an equipment rack divided into shelves 122, each shelf 122 having slot connectors for connection with interface cards 124, each interface card 124 having at least one port 102. Physical transport links 108 are connected between ports 102.
 Although conceptually the two switching nodes 112X and 112Y provide a similar switching function, each communications equipment implementation is adapted for a different operational environment: the former switching node, 112X, is more adapted for enterprise solutions as a private communication network node, perhaps further adapted to be connected to carrier communication networks 100; while the latter switching node, 112Y, is better adapted for high data throughput in the core of public communication networks 100. Typically the former, 112X, implements a small number of data transport protocols while for the latter, 112Y, data transport protocols are implemented on interface cards 124 and/or ports 102—providing for a flexible/configurable deployment thereof. Communications network nodes 112 which are data switching nodes (122X/ 122Y) may also provide routing of the traffic conveyed. The integral switching node 112X, as mentioned above, is operable as a routing device 106, while the switching node 112Y may have at least one virtual router 106 associated therewith. Other data network nodes 112Z may be distinct from an associated router 106. The latter configuration is typically found in customer owned Local Area Network (LAN) segments.
 It is understood that the interconnected physical communications network equipment alluded to above is part of a larger body of managed communications network entities enabling the provision of communications services. The data network entities in the realm of management of a network management solution also include, but are not limited to: logical ports, logical interfaces, link trunks etc.
 Connectivity information, configuration information, service support information, etc. regardless of its origin is held by communications network entities. Suffice it to say that, the modification of: the connectivity information, configuration information, service support information, etc. is performed to optimize the operation of a communications network; and incorrect modifications thereof leads to communications network failures.
 The connectivity information, configuration information, service support information, etc. is provided to communications network entities using element management techniques and tools, typically including the use of Command Line Interface (CLI) commands. A command line interface is a command-driven text-based user interface to a communications network entity.
 Different vendor equipment uses a different CLI command set, typically vendor specific, which makes it difficult for an operator to obtain and manipulate configuration information in a typical multi-vendor communications network deployment.
 Configuration changes are also made using scripts of CLI commands, as it is very common for configuration changes to be made manually by entering the CLI commands via a console. Script-based and manual entry of CLI commands to change communications network entity configuration make it difficult to keep track of configuration changes, as the reasons of each configuration change and the reasons for the particular sequence of configuration changes made are only known to, if remembered by, a network analyst.
 The configuration of a communications network entity tends to change over time, for example due to software upgrades, firmware upgrades, hardware upgrades, new service/capacity provisioning, etc. It is often useful to track the changes made to the configuration of a communications network entity in case there is a need to return to a particular configuration, for example to mitigate a problem caused by a configuration change.
 In the prior art it is known to perform "baselining" of a router's configuration whereby a record is kept of the router's initial configuration. The initial configuration is then used as a template to which further changes are made. The Wide Area Network Design Laboratory (WANDL) Inc. provides a tool known as the Internet Protocol Analysis Tool (IPAT) for performing baselining on Cisco Systems routers. IPAT makes use of "configlets", which are router configuration scripts, to make configuration changes to a router.
 It is also known in the prior art to store CLI command configuration scripts run on a router to effect repeated configuration changes thereto. Prior practice includes naming CLI command configuration scripts with descriptions specifying what changes are being implemented.
 Communications network entities usually have at least one vendor specific CLI command or a specific CLI command sequence providing for retrieval of configuration information therefrom. This configuration information may be retrieved in the form of a file. However, ways to manage these retrieved files are not known in the prior art.
 Although descriptively naming "configlets" and CLI command configuration scripts, of the prior art, provides limited tracking of configuration changes made to a communications network entity, no tracking of the manual configuration changes made is provided. Therefore, simply knowing what changes were made to a communications network entity is not sufficient in tracking communications network entity configuration as, for example, the sequence in which the configuration changes were made is important.