US 7039724 Programmable command-line interface API for managing operation of a network device

ABSTRACT – A method of managing a network device, includes providing a command-line interface application programming interface (CLI-API) compatible with a command-line interface (CLI) of the network device, receiving instructions from an application that calls one or more routines in the CLI application programming interface, and generating at least one command in response to receiving instructions from the application wherein the at least one command is compatible with the CLI of the network device. An apparatus includes a remote serial command-line interface (RS-CLI) device having a storage device capable of storing instructions, a network port capable of being connected to the network and capable of processing a network protocol stack in addition to receiving the instructions, a serial port capable of processing a serial protocol and capable of being connected to the non-application enabled network device, and a processor capable of processing instructions stored in the storage area of the RS-CLI device.

TECHNICAL FIELD

This invention generally relates to performing network management remotely on network devices connected to a network.

BACKGROUND

Computer networks are becoming increasingly complex and difficult to manage. This is driven in part by the ever-increasing variety of network devices, computers, and software being combined together to integrate large enterprise-based intranets with the Internet. Network management tools have been produced to monitor these combinations of hardware and software and help troubleshoot network failures when they occurred.

Traditional network management tools use a protocol called simple network management protocol (SNMP) to monitor network devices such as routers, switches, hubs, remote access devices, or even computers in a network. The protocol used to interface with SNMP includes rudimentary commands to operate on data such as to “get” a variable, “set” a variable, or “test” a variable.

Having just a few simple commands can make it difficult to perform network management tasks. Specifically, it can be difficult using these basic commands to develop sophisticated network management applications to monitor and troubleshoot a network. Each task may need to be customized to the parameters and capabilities of each network device. Further, a network management task sending combinations of these commands to one or more network devices connected to the network may wait a significant period of time for all the necessary results to be returned. Network delays can be caused by network congestion and the unique processing bottlenecks associated with each network device.

Network management tasks must also be performed securely to prevent accidental or even malicious interlopers from altering network configurations and operation. The most widely used SNMP based networks do not provide the appropriate levels of security because commands are transmitted in the “clear”. Confidential information such as a community string and private string can be captured and used to gain access to networks. Further, sensitive business information transmitted in the course of an electronic business transaction can also be captured and misused for monetary gain. Advanced versions of SNMP such as SNMP Version 3 provide a degree of security but have not been widely adopted and therefore cannot be relied on.

It is also difficult to manage networks having network devices from different vendors and with different capabilities. Each network device generally requires the network administrators managing the network to have special network management training. Additionally, the interface used to manage the network devices may also hinder effective network management practices. For example, some network devices can only be managed using a terminal connected to a serial port on the network device while others can be managed by logging into the network device over a network connection using telnet, rlogin, or other remote login services. Often the network devices receiving commands over the serial interface implement proprietary command-line interfaces (CLI) and commands only accessible by a user entering commands on the serially attached terminal. Unfortunately, these command-line interfaces (CLI) are not standard and require the network administrators to learn and use different commands and network management methods.

SUMMARY

In one aspect of the present invention, a method of managing a network device, includes providing a command-line interface application programming interface (CLI-API) compatible with a command-line interface (CLI) of the network device, receiving instructions from an application that calls one or more routines in the CLI application programming interface, and generating at least one command in response to receiving instructions from the application wherein the at least one command is compatible with the CLI of the network device.

In another aspect of the invention, a network having network management capabilities, includes a non-application enabled network device having a CLI capable of controlling one or more network management aspects of the non-application enabled network device, and an application-enabled network device capable of executing applications that use a CLI-API to generate one or more commands compatible with the non-application enabled network device CLI and transmits the one or more commands to the non-application enabled network device over the network for execution.

Yet another aspect of the invention is a remote serial CLI (RS-CLI) device having a storage device capable of storing instructions, a network port capable of being connected to the network and capable of processing a network protocol stack in addition to receiving the instructions, a serial port capable of processing a serial protocol and capable of being connected to the non-application enabled network device, and a processor capable of processing instructions stored in the storage area of the RS-CLI device that at least generates commands compatible with a CLI of the non-application enabled network device in response to processing the instructions stored in the storage area.

Another aspect of the invention includes a method of managing a network device that receives an application having instructions compatible with a CLI application programming interface (CLI-API) configured to work with a CLI of the network device, creates CLI commands capable of controlling the network device in response to processing one or more of the instructions compatible with the CLI-API, transmits the CLI commands created by the CLI-API over a network to the network device, and processes the CLI commands on the network device.

In the various aspects of the invention and where appropriate, Java object-oriented applications and applets are executed that manage one or more network devices over the network. The instructions in these applications and applets generate command-line interface (CLI) commands through the CLI-API to manage the network devices.

The details of one or more embodiments of the invention are set forth in the accompanying drawings and the description below. Other features of the invention will be apparent from the description and drawings, and from the claims.

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