US 6684241 Apparatus and method of configuring a network device

ABSTRACT – An apparatus and method of configuring a first network device that is a part of a subnet ascertains configuration data from packets in a subnet having configuration dat. More particularly, the packets, which are transmitted by a second network device in the subnet, first are retrieved and then parsed to ascertain the configuration data. At least a portion of the configuration data is stored in a configuration database. In addition, at least one datum from the configuration data is processed to produce additional configuration data that also is stored in the configuration database. The first network device consequently operates in accord with the data in the configuration database.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention generally relates to networks and, more particularly, the invention relates to configuring a network device that is a member of a subnet.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The task of configuring network devices is becoming increasingly burdensome on overworked computer administrative staffs. As the size of individual networks grow, the complexity of their configuration and management increases. Moreover, with the addition of new networks, new protocols, and new services, the already difficult task of configuring and managing a network can become overwhelming.

The difficulties of network management arise from many sources. First, configuring a network device is a labor intensive process that requires training. Specifically, current configuration methods require an administrator to initiate and perform the actual configuration before the network device can become a functional part of the network. In addition, when a network device must be reconfigured due to network growth or change, an administrator again must be personally involved to execute the reconfiguration process.

Second, configuration is more complicated in the current multi-vendor network environment where there is no single standard configuration method for every network device. Specifically, there are many possible ways to configure network devices, such as by using SNMP, command line interfaces, and configuration files using FTP. In fact, the preferred method of configuring a single type of network device frequently varies from vendor to vendor. Recently, this problem has become worse by the increased number of acquisitions in the network industry. For example, an acquired company’s products often are configured differently than its acquiring vendor’s existing products. Accordingly, even within a single vendor’s product line, it often is necessary to support multiple configuration methods.

Finally, the process of configuring a network device is prone to error and difficult to debug. While some configuration tools are beginning to become available, most currently available tools do little or no semantic and/or consistency checking between related configuration options. As a consequence, overworked and understaffed network administration departments often perform the error and consistency checking.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with one aspect of the invention, an apparatus and method of configuring a first network device that is a part of a subnet ascertains configuration data from packets in a subnet having configuration data. More particularly, the packets, which are transmitted by a second network device in the subnet, first are retrieved and then parsed to ascertain the configuration data. At least a portion of the configuration data is stored in a configuration database. In addition, at least one datum from the configuration data is utilized to produce additional configuration data that also is stored in the configuration database. The first network device consequently operates in accord with the data in the configuration database.

In preferred embodiments, the subnet is a local area network having a plurality of other network devices in addition to the second network device. The retrieved packets may be transmitted in accord with an inter-router protocol, and may be control packets or data packets. Instead of or in addition to message data, the retrieved packets also may have configuration data relating to the inter-router protocol. The retrieved packets may have a destination field with a destination address. Accordingly, the first network device sets an interface to have the destination address and/or port number. The subnet may be coupled with a network.

In accordance with another aspect of the invention, an apparatus and method of configuring a first network device that is a part of a subnet first retrieves packets with configuration data. The retrieved packets are transmitted by a second network device that also is a part of the subnet. The retrieved packets are parsed to ascertain the configuration data, at least one datum of which being utilized to produce additional configuration data. The configuration data and additional configuration data are utilized to control the operation of the first network device.

In accordance with still another aspect of the invention, a method of configuring a first network device that is a part of a subnet first transmits packets having configuration data from a second network device to the first network device. In preferred embodiments, the second network device is a member of the subnet. The packet traffic in the subnet is monitored to retrieve the packets. The retrieved packets then are parsed to ascertain the configuration data. At least a portion of the configuration data parsed from the retrieved packets is stored in a configuration database. At least one datum of the configuration data is utilized to produce additional configuration data, which also is stored in the configuration database. The first network device therefore operates in accord with the data in the configuration database.

Preferred embodiments of the invention are implemented as a computer program product having a computer usable medium with computer readable program code thereon. The computer readable code may be read and utilized by the computer system in accordance with conventional processes.

 

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