Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP) is a feature that aims to deliver the installation of a networking appliance without needing someone to configure the device locally. A new or replacement device can be sent to a site, physically installed and powered up by a local employee without any IT skills. ZTP carries out the configuration and connection to the management system automatically.
In short, Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP) installs or updates the software on your new devices without you having to do anything.
What is ZTP?
With Zero Touch Provisioning, you can automatically provision new devices in your network with very little manual interaction. Depending on your device, you can connect it to the network via administration ports or network ports. When you physically connect a device to the network and boot it with the factory default configuration, it updates (or downgrades) the software release and installs a configuration file from the network. A configuration file or a script can be used as the configuration file. You can use scripts to produce device-specific configuration files and HTTP request operations to get specific configuration files or software versions from web servers.
The device uses information from a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server to locate the appropriate software image and configuration files on the network. If the DHCP server is not configured to deliver this information, the device launches with the preinstalled software and factory settings.
Workflow in Zero Touch Provisioning
The following events occur when a device boots up with the default configuration:
- The DHCP client is used on interfaces that are supported.
- In response to the ZTP procedure, the DHCP server assigns an IP address and provides many DHCP options.
- The device looks for DHCP options, locates configuration files, runs scripts, and updates or downgrades software.
- The image is installed, and the configuration is applied if both the image and configuration files are present.
- The image is installed on the device if only the image file is provided.
- ZTP continues and skips the installation phase if the image is the same as the image previously installed on the device.
- If the device is unable to retrieve the image, ZTP will attempt to retrieve the image again. Installation fails if the image is corrupted. ZTP will restart if the installation fails for any reason.
- The configuration is downloaded if only the configuration file is present. If the file's first line contains the #! characters followed by an interpreter path, the file is regarded as a script, and the interpreter executes the script. If the script returns an error, the ZTP state machine will re-download it and try to run it again. The ZTP process will try to download the configuration file again if it is not available. The device will be unable to commit if the configuration file is malformed, has syntax mistakes, or contains commands that the device does not support, and the retry mechanism will restart. The ZTP process restarts if there is no image or configuration file.
- If no file server information is found, the ZTP procedure is restarted.
- When the configuration is committed, the ZTP process is considered complete and ends.
What are the benefits of using ZTP software?
ZTP completely automates the configuration of network devices, which has several advantages:
- It shortens the amount of time it takes to get them up and running.
- It removes the human errors that occur because of repetitive typing at the command line interface.
- It can save time and money by allowing the customer to activate the equipment without having to travel to the client's location.
- It simplifies the process of upgrading equipment.
- When dealing with technical issues, reinitializing a device with ZTP is a quick and simple solution.
- All these advantages add up to a large amount of money saved.
What are some of the drawbacks of using ZTP?
There are two important potential drawbacks to zero-touch provisioning that should be considered:
- Misconfiguration: If the configuration files are not thoroughly tested before being deployed, configuration issues may arise. Furthermore, if ZTP is used to configure many devices, a high number of misconfiguration issues may arise. This condition may result in security weaknesses that could allow connected devices to be compromised.
- There are security concerns. With ZTP, a high level of security is required. Remote devices may have less protection than other devices, but they have the same access to the network and data as other devices. An attacker who compromises a device may be able to employ a man-in-the-middle assault to gain control over a remote device.
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