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Cisco EEM scripting gets a reboot -- and helps cut response times

Dubbed internally 'Cisco's best-kept secret,' Cisco's Embedded Event Manager (EEM) scripts have started to take off, giving network professionals deeper access to Cisco IOS while cutting out busywork.

Whether trying to cut electricity costs or get a heads-up on a sluggish router, the network manager's best unmet friend may be Cisco's Embedded Event Manager (EEM).

EEM scripts let network administrators (in Cisco's own words) "automate tasks, perform minor enhancements and create workarounds," all directly in Cisco IOS, the operating system on most of Cisco's routers and switches.

Two of the top downloaded EEM scripts, for example, automatically back up a router's configuration or automatically apply QoS commands to a switchport.

EEM has shipped on Cisco routers in one form or another for years, but its utility was only recently improved by an upgraded action and policies system included in IOS 12.4.

Jason Myers, a networking consultant with Indianapolis-based CoreBTS, said previous versions of EEM weren't useful to his current customer base without the more sophisticated response mechanisms now present.

Myers said he starting seeing a lot of blog chatter about the tool pop up after the latest release of EEM came on the market.

Curious, he investigated and found he could put some modified scripts to good use in automated reports and in creating service-level agreement notifications.

"As soon as I saw the ability to do responses and control the IOS in a programmatic way, that interested me," Myers said. "This is basically a brand-new thing for all intents and purposes."

Cisco has seen interest in EEM growing slowly as networking professionals have become more familiar with it.

"The momentum has gradually been [building] over the years as people have started to become aware of what the capabilities are," said Carl Solder, a Cisco Distinguished Engineer and EEM Script Evangelist. "It's up to your imagination how you use it."

Solder was on the team that helped create and launch Cisco Beyond, Cisco's scripting community, which prominently features EEM scripts divided up by category, top downloads, and more.

Cisco Beyond also sports an "Upload Script" option, one the company hopes will get more usage as networking professionals play with the current scripts -- the majority of which are Cisco created -- and learn what they can do with an EEM and a little TCL, which is the scripting language it uses.

Networking professionals appear eager to help.

Myers has been actively tracking and deploying EEM scripts since last August, repurposing available scripts to make valuable timesavers.

This has also forced him to flex some of his programming skills, which is uncommon among networking professionals.

"I get the impression right now that all the network guys are playing catch-up, being network focused and not program[ming] focused," he said. "I don't see why that won't change over time."

For now, Myers and others are learning the ins and outs of TCL and all the access it provides to Cisco IOS, but he said his company is working on some scripts they hope to eventually share with others once they are polished.

"Right now, the things we have done have all been for specific clients, so it gets weird pushing things back up," he said.

Myers has been generally pleased with the EEM scripts available, saying that some alerts have reduced response times to problems from minutes to seconds.

He said he hopes that, in the future, Cisco will go a bit further with how deep it lets networking professionals dive into IOS, giving network administrators more control over their routers and allowing more sophisticated scripting.

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