Sunday, December 30, 2012

Using Rancid to backup your configs (Part 1)

Where I work, budgets are tight.  It seems like we never have enough money to buy all the things we need.  That means looking at leveraging what we already own, and looking at free products.  We didn't have a means to back up our network gear configs.  I stumbled across a free, open source product called Rancid (Really Awesome New Cisco ConfIg Differ) while I was looking for a free Tacacs server.  Despite its name, Rancid is not limited to Cisco gear only, see this for details.  Rancid uses either CVS or SVN to store configs.  As the name suggests, it also diffs them and can show you the changes made.  Rancid can be configured to poll your gear on a schedule, poll your gear when changes are made, or both.  The folks at have links to some helpful config documents, some suggestions in their FAQ's and also maintain a Rancid mailing list.  The list archives are a good source of info, but from what I have seen so far, the list is currently very low activity. 

I used the walkthrough done by Rhys Evans here as the basis for my config.  Anything beyond that I figured out from the FAQ's or from Google searches, which often pointed me to the list archives.  I had to make a few changes Rhys's guide to make my install work.  This guide assumes a basic knowledge of Linux.  You'll need to know how to edit config files at the command line.  I used CVS.  There are examples out there of how to configure Rancid to use SVN, if you'd rather do that.  Here's what I did.

I started with a minimal CentOS 6.3 64-bit install in a VMware virtual machine.  I assigned the machine a static ip address during the setup process, and gave it a hostname of (substitute your domain name for  All of this is done from an SSH connection to the server.

We begin by installing the pre-requisites.

  • yum upgrade - because this is a new install, there will be updates to install.
  • yum install nano wget - minimal install does not include wget.  My preferred text editor is nano, so I installed that also.
You'll need packages from the EPEL (Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux) repository, so we'll install it next.
  • Download it - wget
  • Install it - rpm -ivh epel-release-6-8.noarch.rpm
Now we'll install the rest of the pre-requisites. 
  • yum install expect cvs python httpd mysql mysql-server gcc make autoconf kernel-devel mod_python python-devel
  • yum groupinstall “Development Tools” diffutils
  • yum install php-common php-gd php-mcrypt php-pear php-pecl-memcache php-mysql php-xml MySQL-python mod_ssl
Reboot your server.
  • shutdown -r now
Once you log back in, you need to create a group and a user for Rancid to run under.  I used netadm and rancid for the group and user respectively as shown in Rhys's guide.  You can use whatever names you like, you'll need to substitute those names in the latter parts of the config.  I am using /usr/local/rancid as the install location for Rancid, you can use any directory you like, just substitute it where appropriate.
  • groupadd netadm
  • useradd -g netadm -c "Networking Backups" -d /usr/local/rancid rancid
Now we need to create the directory to store the source.
  • mkdir /usr/local/rancid/tar
  • cd /usr/local/rancid/tar
Download the latest version, 2.3.8 as of this writing.  Once downloaded, extract and install.
  • wget
  • tar -zxvf rancid-2.3.8.tar.gz
  • cd rancid-2.3.8
  • ./configure --prefix=/usr/local/rancid/
  • make install
Copy sample .cloginrc file to the Rancid install and set security on the file.
  • cp cloginrc.sample /usr/local/rancid/.cloginrc
  • chmod 0640 /usr/local/rancid/.cloginrc
Configure ownership and permissions on the Rancid installation.
  • chown -R rancid:netadm /usr/local/rancid/
  • chmod 770 /usr/local/rancid/
Now you need to edit the Rancid config file.  The group(s) specified in this step are the categories the configurations will appear under.  I have mine separated out by type.
  • nano /usr/local/rancid/etc/rancid.conf
  • Look for LIST_OF_GROUPS and add group names.  Mine says: LIST_OF_GROUPS="Routers Firewalls Wireless_Controllers Load_Balancers"
Next you'll need to edit the aliases file to add aliases for your groups you just configured.  In my case, I am the only one that needs mail notifications.  You can configure different groups of devices to go to different people or groups.
  • nano /etc/aliases
  • Add this to the file. You'll want to create the same groups for each group in your rancid.conf: 
  • rancid-admin-Routers: rancid-Routers
  • rancid-Routers: noc
  • Edit the noc alias as appropriate. noc:
  • Once you've saved the file, you need to let your server know about the changes. Type in newaliases.
Time to add the Rancid info to CVS.
  • switch to the rancid user created earlier. su -rancid
  • /usr/local/rancid/bin/rancid-cvs - This sets up the Rancid info in CVS.  You should see output similar to:
      No conflicts created by this import
      cvs checkout: Updating Routers
      cvs checkout: Updating Routers/configs
      cvs add: scheduling file `router.db' for addition
      cvs add: use 'cvs commit' to add this file permanently
      RCS file: /usr/local/rancid//var/CVS/Routers/router.db,v
      Checking in router.db;
      /usr/local/rancid//var/CVS/Routers/router.db,v <-- router.db
      initial revision: 1.1

Now we can add crontab entries to schedule automatic polling of the devices and to cleanup the Rancid log files.  The following entries will have Rancid poll your devices once an hour 1 minute after the top of the hour and delete logs with a modified date older than 2 days at 11:50 pm every night.  You can adjust these to meet your needs.  The crontab command uses vi to edit the file.  In case you aren't familiar, you need to press i to enter insert mode.  Once you've added your entries hit escape to exit insert mode, and type :wq to save your changes and exit vi.
  • Type in crontab -e and add the following 2 lines
  • 1 * * * * /usr/local/rancid/bin/rancid-run #hourly router dump
    50 23 * * * /usr/bin/find /usr/local/rancid/var/logs -type f –mtime +2 -exec rm -rf {} \;

Now we need to supply Rancid with a list of devices and the credentials to log in to those devices.  You'll need to edit the router.db files for each group you created earlier.
  • nano /usr/local/rancid/var/Routers/router.db
  • Add a line in the format "hostname or ip:type:up", e.g.
  • nano /usr/local/rancid/.cloginrc
  • You'll need to comment out the sample groups in the file by adding a # in front of the line.
  • Add device credentials
  • add user user
  • add password password enablepassword (NOTE: passwords that contain special characters will need to have those characters escaped.  For example, if your password is password!, the ! will need to be escaped, like this: password\!)
  • add method ssh (Rancid defaults to telnet)
Once you've saved your changes, you can test your Rancid install.
  • /usr/local/rancid/bin/rancid-run
Once that completes, check the Rancid logs to verify that everything ranc correctly.
  • cd /usr/local/rancid/var/logs
  • ls (list the log files which are in the format Group.yyyymmdd.hhmmss)
  • cat logfilename
You should see something like this:
      [root@rancid logs]# cat Routers.20121228.200913
      starting: Fri Dec 28 20:09:13 EST 2012
      cvs add: scheduling file `' for addition
      cvs add: use 'cvs commit' to add this file permanently
      RCS file: /usr/local/rancid/var/CVS/Routers/configs/,v
      Checking in;
      /usr/local/rancid/var/CVS/Routers/configs/,v  <--
      initial revision: 1.1

      Trying to get all of the configs.
      All routers sucessfully completed.

      cvs diff: Diffing .
      cvs diff: Diffing configs
      cvs commit: Examining .
      cvs commit: Examining configs
      Checking in router.db;
      /usr/local/rancid/var/CVS/Routers/router.db,v  <--  router.db
      new revision: 1.2; previous revision: 1.1
      Checking in configs/;
      /usr/local/rancid/var/CVS/Routers/configs/,v  <--
      new revision: 1.2; previous revision: 1.1
      ending: Fri Dec 28 20:09:30 EST 2012

You should also see a file called in the folder /usr/local/rancid/var/Routers/configs.  This will be the most current config download from your device.  You could use this to restore a device if needed.  Note: the passwords are all redacted from these files.

Now you have a working Rancid installation.  In later parts of this guide, I'll walk through configuring a web interface for CVS, having Rancid pull your configs when a change is made, setting up e-mail alerts when changes are made.

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