zero touch provisioning (ZTP)

Zero touch provisioning (ZTP) is a switch feature that allows the devices to be provisioned and configured automatically, eliminating most of the manual labor involved with adding them to a network.

ZTP allows the hardware to be installed directly into the environment and for that act to be the last hands-on moment.  When it’s powered on, the switch sends out a request through DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) or TFTP (Trivial File Transfer Protocol) to get the location of its centrally stored image and configuration, which it downloads and runs.

ZTP automates steps like updating operating systems, deploying patches and bug fixes and implementing added features prior to connection. The tool carries out basic configuration, after which the switch can be deployed in an environment where custom configuration changes are made. Through a user-provided script, ZTP can connect to a configuration management platform such as Puppet, CFEengine or Chef or a custom tool.

Network switches are often still configured one at a time through a command line interface, which has to be done  a single system or switch at a time. In data centers, which might have tens or hundreds of switches to be provisioned and configured, that process is time-consuming. Each automated step compounds in saved time across innumerable systems. This advance in networking automation helps it catch up to similar improvements in server technologies.

This was last updated in September 2016

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