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Planning Your Move

This guide outlines the steps necessary for planning a successful migration to NetBox. Although it is written under the context of a completely new installation, the general approach outlined here works just as well for adding new data to existing NetBox deployments.

Identify Current Sources of Truth

Before beginning to use NetBox for your own data, it's crucial to first understand where your existing sources of truth reside. A "source of truth" is really just any repository of data that is authoritative for a given domain. For example, you may have a spreadsheet which tracks all IP prefixes in use on your network. So long as everyone involved agrees that this spreadsheet is authoritative for the entire network, it is your source of truth for IP prefixes.

Anything can be a source of truth, provided it meets two conditions:

  1. It is agreed upon by all relevant parties that this source of data is correct.
  2. The domain to which it applies is well-defined.

Dedicate some time to take stock of your own sources of truth for your infrastructure. Upon attempting to catalog these, you're very likely to encounter some challenges, such as:

  • Multiple conflicting sources for a given domain. For example, there may be multiple versions of a spreadsheet circulating, each of which asserts a conflicting set of data.
  • Sources with no domain defined. You may encounter that different teams within your organization use different tools for the same purpose, with no normal definition of when either should be used.
  • Inaccessible data formatting. Some tools are better suited for programmatic usage than others. For example, spreadsheets are generally very easy to parse and export, however free-form notes on wiki or similar application are much more difficult to consume.
  • There is no source of truth. Sometimes you'll find that a source of truth simply doesn't exist for a domain. For example, when assigning IP addresses, operators may be just using any (presumed) available IP from a subnet without ever recording its usage.

See if you can identify each domain of infrastructure data for your organization, and the source of truth for each. Once you have these compiled, you'll need to determine what belongs in NetBox.

Determine What to Move

The general rule when determining what data to put into NetBox is this: If there's a model for it, it belongs in NetBox. For instance, NetBox has purpose-built models for racks, devices, cables, IP prefixes, VLANs, and so on. These are very straightforward to use. However, you'll inevitably reach the limits of NetBox's data model and question what additional data might make sense to record in NetBox. For example, you might wonder whether NetBox should function as the source of truth for infrastructure DNS records or DHCP scopes.

NetBox provides two core mechanisms for extending its data model. The first is custom fields: Most models in NetBox support the addition of custom fields to hold additional data for which a built-in field does not exist. For example, you might wish to add an "inventory ID" field to the device model. The second mechanism is plugins. Users can create their own plugins to introduce entirely new models, views, and API endpoints in NetBox. This can be incredibly powerful, as it enables rapid development and tight integration with core models.

That said, it doesn't always make sense to migrate a domain of data to NetBox. For example, many organizations opt to use only the IPAM components or only the DCIM components of NetBox, and integrate with other sources of truth for different domains. This is an entirely valid approach (so long as everyone involved agrees which tool is authoritative for each domain). Ultimately, you'll need to weigh the value of having non-native data models in NetBox against the effort required to define and maintain those models.

Consider also that NetBox is under constant development. Although the current release might not support a particular type of object, there may be plans to add support for it in a future release. (And if there aren't, consider submitting a feature request citing your use case.)

Validate Existing Data

The last step before migrating data to NetBox is the most crucial: validation. The GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) principle is in full effect: Your source of truth is only as good as the data it holds. While NetBox has very powerful data validation tools (including support for custom validation rules), ultimately the onus falls to a human operator to assert what is correct and what is not. For example, NetBox can validate the connection of a cable between two interfaces, but it cannot say whether the cable should be there.

Here are some tips to help ensure you're only importing valid data into NetBox:

  • Ensure you're starting with complete, well-formatted data. JSON or CSV is highly recommended for the best portability.
  • Consider defining custom validation rules in NetBox prior to import. (For example, to enforce device naming schemes.)
  • Use custom scripts to automatically populate patterned data. (For example, to automatically create a set of standard VLANs for each site.)

There are several methods available to import data into NetBox, which we'll cover in the next section.

Order of Operations

When starting with a completely empty database, it might not be immediately clear where to begin. Many models in NetBox rely on the advance creation of other types. For example, you cannot create a device type until after you have created its manufacturer.

Below is the (rough) recommended order in which NetBox objects should be created or imported. While it is not required to follow this exact order, doing so will help ensure the smoothest workflow.

  1. Tenant groups and tenants
  2. Regions, site groups, sites, and locations
  3. Rack roles and racks
  4. Manufacturers, device types, and module types
  5. Platforms and device roles
  6. Devices and modules
  7. Providers and provider networks
  8. Circuit types and circuits
  9. Wireless LAN groups and wireless LANs
  10. Route targets and VRFs
  11. RIRs and aggregates
  12. IP/VLAN roles
  13. Prefixes, IP ranges, and IP addresses
  14. VLAN groups and VLANs
  15. Cluster types, cluster groups, and clusters
  16. Virtual machines and VM interfaces

This is not a comprehensive list, but should suffice for the initial data imports. Beyond these, it the order in which objects are added doesn't have much if any impact.

The graphs below illustrate some of the core dependencies among different models in NetBox for your reference.

Self-Nesting Models

Each model in the graphs below which show a looping arrow pointing back to itself can be nested in a recursive hierarchy. For example, you can have regions representing both countries and cities, with the latter nested underneath the former.


flowchart TD
    TenantGroup --> TenantGroup & Tenant
    Tenant --> Site & Device & Prefix & VLAN & ...

click Device "../../models/dcim/device/"
click Prefix "../../models/ipam/prefix/"
click Site "../../models/dcim/site/"
click Tenant "../../models/tenancy/tenant/"
click TenantGroup "../../models/tenancy/tenantgroup/"
click VLAN "../../models/ipam/vlan/"

Sites, Racks, and Devices

flowchart TD
    Region --> Region
    SiteGroup --> SiteGroup
    DeviceRole & Platform --> Device
    Region & SiteGroup --> Site
    Site --> Location & Device
    Location --> Location
    Location --> Rack & Device
    Rack --> Device
    Manufacturer --> DeviceType & ModuleType
    DeviceType  --> Device
    Device & ModuleType ---> Module
    Device & Module --> Interface

click Device "../../models/dcim/device/"
click DeviceRole "../../models/dcim/devicerole/"
click DeviceType "../../models/dcim/devicetype/"
click Interface "../../models/dcim/interface/"
click Location "../../models/dcim/location/"
click Manufacturer "../../models/dcim/manufacturer/"
click Module "../../models/dcim/module/"
click ModuleType "../../models/dcim/moduletype/"
click Platform "../../models/dcim/platform/"
click Rack "../../models/dcim/rack/"
click RackRole "../../models/dcim/rackrole/"
click Region "../../models/dcim/region/"
click Site "../../models/dcim/site/"
click SiteGroup "../../models/dcim/sitegroup/"

VRFs, Prefixes, IP Addresses, and VLANs

flowchart TD
    VLANGroup --> VLAN
    Role --> VLAN & IPRange & Prefix
    RIR --> Aggregate
    RouteTarget --> VRF
    Aggregate & VRF --> Prefix
    VRF --> IPRange & IPAddress
    Prefix --> VLAN & IPRange & IPAddress

click Aggregate "../../models/ipam/aggregate/"
click IPAddress "../../models/ipam/ipaddress/"
click IPRange "../../models/ipam/iprange/"
click Prefix "../../models/ipam/prefix/"
click RIR "../../models/ipam/rir/"
click Role "../../models/ipam/role/"
click VLAN "../../models/ipam/vlan/"
click VLANGroup "../../models/ipam/vlangroup/"
click VRF "../../models/ipam/vrf/"


flowchart TD
    Provider & CircuitType --> Circuit
    Provider --> ProviderNetwork
    Circuit --> CircuitTermination

click Circuit "../../models/circuits/circuit/"
click CircuitTermination "../../models/circuits/circuittermination/"
click CircuitType "../../models/circuits/circuittype/"
click Provider "../../models/circuits/provider/"
click ProviderNetwork "../../models/circuits/providernetwork/"

Clusters and Virtual Machines

flowchart TD
    ClusterGroup & ClusterType --> Cluster
    Cluster --> VirtualMachine
    Site --> Cluster & VirtualMachine
    Device & Platform --> VirtualMachine
    VirtualMachine --> VMInterface

click Cluster "../../models/virtualization/cluster/"
click ClusterGroup "../../models/virtualization/clustergroup/"
click ClusterType "../../models/virtualization/clustertype/"
click Device "../../models/dcim/device/"
click Platform "../../models/dcim/platform/"
click VirtualMachine "../../models/virtualization/virtualmachine/"
click VMInterface "../../models/virtualization/vminterface/"