What do large enterprises and telcos use to configure thousands of Cisco devices with ease? Released December 2008, version 3.0 of the Cisco Configuration Engine (CCE) gives you the ability to manage and deploy a long list of Cisco and third-party devices. According to Cisco, CCE can reduce costs for large deployments by up to 14 percent because its “zero-touch” can eliminate the staging and manual processes associated with large-scale deployment of Cisco devices.

What does the Cisco Configuration Engine (CCE) offer?

Here are the features of the latest version of CCE, 3.0.

  • Secure and scalable: You can utilize this product for up to 30,000 devices on a single server.
  • Virtually zero-touch deployment: Implementations are a snap by eliminating many of the manual processes.
  • Secure configuration updates to 1000 devices in minutes.
  • Secure distribution of Signature files (SDF).
  • Web-based GUI: Provides configuration services by sending and acquiring configuration to and from devices via Web interfaces.
  • Supports routers and switches behind firewalls and dynamic IP addressing.
  • Image services: Distributes and activates images and obtains hardware inventory and file systems.
  • Command services: Executes show commands and reloads devices.
  • Image Activation: Cisco software images can be activated and devices reloaded and verified dynamically through interaction with the device.
  • Velocity Templates: Allows user customization via support of Java, Perl, and other scripting tools.

The following Cisco platforms are supported by CCE:

  • Several Cisco series routers such as 2600, 3600, 3700 series as well as the Cisco 500 series secure routers.
  • Various Cisco switches and voice and wireless technology, such as Cisco Catalyst 3560-E and Cisco catalyst 4500 series, as well as Cisco AS5300 and Cisco IAD2400 series.
  • Other platforms such as Telnet and HTTP as well as some third-party plug-in device modules.

Special considerations for CCE

Keep in mind that CCE isn’t just for any Cisco admin with one router or even for a SMB with 100 routers. CCE is ideal for large enterprises or telcos with thousands of Cisco devices to administer. To use CCE, you would purchase it and install it on either a Sun or Red Hat Enterprise Linux platform, and the power of the hardware would depend on the number of devices you would be administering with CCE.

How does CCE work?

Installing a new Cisco device with a “zero touch deployment” sounds too good to be true, right? To help you visualize how it is possible, here are some examples of true zero-touch and near zero-touch:

  • True Zero-Touch: Using DHCP, the new device sends a request and is offered a response with DHCP Option 150, pointing it to the correct CPE bootstrap.
  • Near Zero-Touch:
    • Using an Aladdin e-token inserted into the remote router, the proper configuration is automatically loaded.
    • A remote end user can tell CPE router to obtain configuration using Web GUI.
    • Cisco manufacturing loads configuration on the device before shipping it.

Once your device is configured, CCE allows the network administrator to:

  • Deploy configuration changes to thousands of devices with a few clicks.
  • Perform mass IOS upgrades and music on hold (MOH) file replacements.
  • Activate Cisco IOS device images.
  • Assign devices to groups and manage them hierarchically.
  • Perform full device inventory.
  • Configure devices using templates along with perl, java, or other scripting tools.

The latest version of CCE also offers high availability and load sharing for the CCE server.

Using the Cisco Configuration Engine, you can be more efficient when administering many Cisco devices. Large-scale deployments, configuration changes, and IOS upgrades can be performed exponentially faster. For more information on CCE, visit Cisco’s Configuration Engine Web page.

What do you think about Cisco Configuration Engine? Have you used it?