Software

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.

10 comments
DarwinSy
DarwinSy

CatTools provides a starting point template file (based on a Cisco Router) to help assist in the creation of a new custom device script. -Randall Alifano

dcmueller
dcmueller

My network consists of over 70 routers and 2000 switches. I've been using CatTools for many years now to keep the configurations straight, to keep an archive of all of the configurations, and to keep me posted on any changes to my network that I may not know about. It also assists my techs when it comes time to replace a device due to failure. They don't have to know how to configure a device, all they need to know is the name or IP Address of the device, and they copy and paste the config from the archive into a new device and viola! They're back up and running in no time. All at a price that won't break the bank The latest version adds many new features as well that I find useful on a daily basis. I also use Solarwinds Orion and Cirrus on a daily basis. Orion tells me what's going on in my network, and keeps the information all in one place. Cirrus does alot of what CatTools does, but also adds a ton of features, especially when it comes to the automation of daily housekeeping.

bright-side99
bright-side99

I've been using them for a number of years now and they are awsome. I don't see that you covered this in the article, but another really cool benefit of the most recent version is that it correlates ip address with mac address with switchport on the network - I've not had a chance to set this up yet in production but when I evaluated it I thought it would be quite useful in tracking down non authorized systems on our network. Especially nice is we've had pitches from vendors that charged in excess of 10K to do what kiwi does.

SOAdmin
SOAdmin

I've been using CatTools for a couple of years. Mainly for backing up configs on routers and switches. Some of the other uses I've discoverd with it, are: It compare configs, so it's great for security/troubleshooting/change mgmt.. It also emails the changes to me. It rolls out config changes with no problems. It gain added value when I did my DST changes to 28 routers in 1 minute. I also have it doing port status changes on some switches to check for unuse ports. The tftp server use to have a timeout issue on bigger ios images, but it looks like Kiwi fix that issue. All in all, it's a great tool for network device management, routers and switches.

emartin
emartin

Wonderful tool. Been using it for about 2 years now. I've used it to modify my configs for all my Cisco (and 1 Dell) devices so that they would be in line with the new DST changes. Took about 15 minutes and everything was done. I also have it back up my configurations ever 15 minutes. What it does is check to see if anything has changed since the last time the configs were backed up. If not, nothing really happens, but if they have, then it emails me to tell me about it. It also sends me a report showing me the changes between the older and newer configs. It's a nice way for me to track when someone else makes a change and doesn't tell me about it. It's also handy for having a history of the changes that have taken place over time with a device. I also use the software to create a Master Switch Port cross reference table. Tells me what MAC/IP address is talking on what switch port. Finally, I really like that I can run the software as a service rather than a stand alone application. That way if my server reboots for whatever reason, I know the software will fire back up when the server comes back online, regardless of if I have logged on or not. Eric

emartin
emartin

Would you mind telling me more about Orion and Solarwinds? What do you think of the product? How about the Tech Support or Solarwinds in general? We are looking to purchase this but would like to hear more from users.

danny.gullick
danny.gullick

I have been using cattools for a long time, probably since V1. Anyway, I use it to manage hundreds of routers and switches. I especially like the mac/ip to switch port cross reference reports. I schedule backups to run every night at midnight and will receive a report via email of what was backed up and what was not. My daily schedule is to recreate mac, arp and cross reference reports for over 5,000 ports. If I need to make changes to the devices, such as DST or even adding TACACS support, I simply setup a special change ?activity? and run it. Another handy use for Cattools, say I need to know how many switch ports on my network are running in half-duplex, I simply run a command against the devices using a pipe ?|? and I have it.. I could also run CDP commands to verify inter-connectivity between my Cisco gear? I guess I could go on and on? Just a great tool!! Best regards, Ciscokid?

emartin
emartin

If you don't mind me asking, how are you implementing CatTools to do your Port Status Change management? Thanks...

speculatrix
speculatrix

shame it's windows only. any recommendations for a linux variant?

SOAdmin
SOAdmin

Run two port status reports: I did one at midnight and the other at mid-day. Then they have a activity that can compare the reports and send you the difference.

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