While the networking industry has dreamed of automation for years, network operations for many organizations are still dominated by manual interactions at the individual device CLI. Network engineers often lack comfort with automation tools and techniques developed by other parts of the infrastructure sphere. In addition, many automation courses assume learners already know Python or other scripting languages, or they expect students to download and deploy a variety of tools before they can even start learning. Finally, many tools and courses are not tailored to the needs or interests of network engineers.
NRE Labs was designed to eliminate as many of these obstacles as possible. It’s free. No complicated set up is required—everything runs in the browser. Users are not tracked, and no personal information is required to use the platform or participate in the community. It’s open source, vendor-inclusive, and assumes a heterogeneous environment. Lessons in NRE Labs are organized into real-life NetOps contexts and workflows.
Designed to be accessible by anyone, NRE Labs starts with the basics. Users can then select additional lessons as they see fit, based on their comfort level and interests. More advanced topics include troubleshooting, configuration, testing, and verification. In the future, new lessons will dive deeper into these topics, covering the spectrum of NetOps workflows.
NRE Labs Architecture
There are two main components of NRE Labs: the platform (“Antidote”) and the NRE Labs curriculum. Antidote, built on Kubernetes, automatically configures everything needed for each lesson, such as network devices, a container for a Python script, and calls to automation tool UIs or a terminal displaying the CLI. The Antidote platform provides curriculum authors with a wide selection of tools for designing and displaying their content, with minimal infrastructure setup. This allows authors to readily contribute their core expertise without requiring extensive development experience.
This approach, coupled with the browser-based UI, also streamlines learning for users, who get pre-configured environments where they can work with live automation tools and scripts.
NRE Labs Community
The open source, community-centric nature of the project provides a natural setting for working network engineers to collaborate with peers on NetOps challenges, to exchange sample scripts, and to teach others what they’ve learned by contributing lessons based on their experiences. Anyone can join the developer community and contribute their ideas and code.
NRE Labs is currently supported by Juniper Networks and plans to transition its operations to an independent open source foundation or conservancy in the near future. If your organization is interested in helping support the project, please email [email protected]