Automate changes to your Cisco router with Kiwi CatTools

David Davis is always open to learning about new tools that help simplify Cisco administration, so when TechRepublic members told him about Kiwi CatTools, he decided to take a look. See what David thinks about using CatTools for router administration tasks, and find out if this toolset can make your job easier.

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article about handy Cisco administration tools ("Learn which three tools no Cisco admin should be without"). In that article's discussion, TechRepublic member grant.nicholas suggested adding Kiwi CatTools to the list.

Almost two years later, Kiwi CatTools scored another mention in a Cisco article discussion. Member ziutek recommended it for automating the process of preparing routers for the recent Daylight Saving Time (DST) changes.

With such recommendations, I wanted to see what the fuss was all about, so I decided to check out Kiwi CatTools. I've used Kiwi Syslog for several years, but I wasn't familiar with this toolset.

It's always good to know about tools that can simplify your daily administration tasks—and leave you free to get more work done! CatTools seems to be one to add to the list.

In addition to its popular Syslog tool, New Zealand-based Kiwi offers several other products: CatTools, Secure Tunnel, SyslogGen, Logfile Viewer, Harvester, Logger, HarvesterGen, and Squeaky Clean. CatTools is a freeware application that automates device configuration management on routers, switches, and firewalls. You can also purchase the Engineer Edition, Professional Edition, or Enterprise Edition, which range from about $150 to $450 for a single desktop.

However, the Freeware Edition supports up to five devices, five scheduled tasks, and two simultaneous TFTP sessions, and it's a single-threaded operation. For our purposes, this edition will do just fine. I downloaded the Freeware Edition from the Web site and got to work.

What can Kiwi CatTools do for you?

As I mentioned, CatTools is all about device configurations. These devices can be just about any network or device (including a Cisco router or switch) and even include some common Linux/UNIX variants.

How does CatTools work? It Telnets, SSHs, or TFTPs to a device, and it performs a function with the config (or text files) that it finds there. Here's a list of some of its common functions:

  • Backs up the config of a device.
  • Modifies the config of the device in some way and reports back.
  • Tests logging into each device and reports back.
  • Changes the password on the device.
  • Reports differences between the running and the startup configs.
  • Reports list of all device ports, such as switch ports.
  • Reports the version of the IOS.

Kiwi's Web site features a complete list of supported devices as well as a full list of supported activities. Keep in mind that not all functions are available on all devices.

Using CatTools, you can schedule activities, get reports, and get e-mails about results. Here are three examples of how using CatTools have help simplify the daily life of an administrator:

  • Change all passwords on all routers and switches within minutes.
  • Use the automated scheduling to enter a new command on all routers and switches at once. For example, you could add the Cisco IOS DST command to all routers and switches in minutes.
  • Schedule the backups of all device configurations, and receive an e-mail report of what was and wasn't successful.

To give you a better feel for using CatTools, let's look at some screenshots. Figure A shows the results of adding my router.

Figure A

Figure B displays the Device Information dialog box, showing the router properties and how CatTools connects to the router.

Figure B

Figure C displays the Device Information dialog box, showing the router properties and the masked password for the router.

Figure C

Figure D shows a backup job configured to back up the router.

Figure D

Figure E shows a generated report that displays the results of the router backup job.

Figure E

Figure F shows the downloaded configuration from the backup job of the router.

Figure F

In my experience, Kiwi CatTools is a powerful tool for any network administrator. It will save you time in repetitive tasks and automate backups for your network devices.

What's your take on CatTools? Have you used it? Do you think there's a better tool? Share your experiences in this article's discussion.

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David Davis has worked in the IT industry for 12 years and holds several certifications, including CCIE, MCSE+I, CISSP, CCNA, CCDA, and CCNP. He currently manages a group of systems/network administrators for a privately owned retail company and performs networking/systems consulting on a part-time basis.

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