Expert Advice: Quickstart in Ruby for Junos Automation

By Erdem posted 08-10-2015 20:49



This document contains a blog post about getting started with Ruby for Junos Automation.


I need help getting started with Ruby


I’ve been asked by a few people to do a quick blog on getting started with Ruby.  The focus on this blog will be setting up your computer with the Ruby language and libraries that you can use to write programs to automate Junos based networking devices.


Step-1: Install Ruby


Chances are you already have Ruby on your computer.  If you have a Mac, you will, but the question is what version is installed (and what version you could use…).   If you want to check if you have Ruby already installed, just do the following from a terminal window:

1 jeremy@laptop$ ruby -v
2 ruby 1.9.3p327 (2012-11-10 revision 37606) [i386-cygwin]

If you do not have Ruby installed, you can find installation instructions here from the main Ruby language website here.

If you are using a Windows computer, you have two options: (1) Install Cygwin and all of the Ruby bits, or (2) use the native Ruby distribution for Windows.

Step-2: Install Ruby “Gem” Tool


The Ruby “gem” tool is the utility to manage Ruby libraries, aka “gems”.  Ruby gems are hosted on  The instructions for downloading the Ruby gems tool and installing it on your system can be found here. Once it’s installed, you can check the version:

1 jeremy@laptop$ gem -v
2 1.8.23

Step-3: Install Gems


There are a few gems that I would recommend you install.  You install these using the “gem” tool, and on Unix/like systems you will either need to do this as “root” or using “sudo”.  Here is a list of gems I’d recommend installing first:

  • rdoc – Get the latest copy of the Ruby Documentation tools
  • pry – This allows you to set breaks in your code for debugging
  • highline – This allows you to prompt users for “secret” input, like passwords

To install the “highline” gem, for example, you would do the following command:

1 jeremy@laptop$ gem install highline

You can get a listing of all the gems you installed, for example:

01 jeremy@laptop$ gem list
02 *** LOCAL GEMS ***
03 highline (1.6.15)
04 net-scp (1.0.4)
05 net-ssh (2.6.2)
06 netconf (0.2.5)
07 nokogiri (1.5.6)
08 pry (0.9.10)
09 psych (1.3.4)
10 rdoc (3.12)
11 rubyforge (2.0.4)
12 serialport (1.1.0)

Step-4: Write Your First Program


Here is a short program to ask you for a secret and then puts it to the screen:


1 require 'highline/import'
2 secret = ask("What's your secret? "){|a| a.echo = false}
3 puts "I'm telling your secret: #{secret}"

You execute this program on the shell and enter “magic” at the prompt:

1 jeremy@laptop$ ruby secret.rb
2 What's your secret?
3 I'm telling your secret: magic

Step-5: Install the Nokogiri Gem


Nokogiri is one of the most popular XML libraries for Ruby.  Junos management is XML “under the hood”, so we need a library to handle XML. If you’re not familiar with XML, don’t worry, I’ll cover the basics in an upcoming blog.

The Ruby gem to automate Junos is called “netconf” (next step), and it uses the nokogiri gem.  So if you just skip to the next step and install netconf, and if you don’t have nokogiri installed then the gem tool will install nokogiri first.  The issue that I’ve commonly seen is that nokogiri requires “native extensions”, which basically means you need to have some system libraries on your computer.  If you don’t have those libraries already installed, then the gem install will fail and you will need to follow the Nokogiri installation instructions on their website here.

1 jeremy@laptop$ gem install nokogiri
2 Fetching: nokogiri-1.5.6.gem (100%)
3 Building native extensions.  This could take a while...
4 Successfully installed nokogiri-1.5.6
5 1 gem installed
6 Installing ri documentation for nokogiri-1.5.6...
7 Installing RDoc documentation for nokogiri-1.5.6...

Step-6: Install the NETCONF Gem


Once you have Nokogiri installed, install the NETCONF gem.  This should go smoothly.

1 jeremy@laptop$ gem install netconf
2 Fetching: netconf-0.2.5.gem (100%)
3 Successfully installed netconf-0.2.5
4 1 gem installed
5 Installing ri documentation for netconf-0.2.5...
6 Installing RDoc documentation for netconf-0.2.5...

Now you’re ready to write your first Ruby program to automate Junos.

Step-7: Enable NETCONF on Junos


You will need to enable the NETCONF service on the Junos device, it is not enabled by default.  At the Junos CLI do the following:

1 jeremy@junos> configure
2 [edit]
3 user@junos# set system services netconf ssh
4 user@junos# commit and-quit

NETCONF is over TCP/830, so if you have a firewall along the path you will need to open access for that port.

Step-8: Write Your first Ruby Program for Junos


Here is a short program that will display the system up-time.  I’ll cover the basics of Junos Automation programming in another blog.  Here’s the sample output for this program

1 jeremy@laptop$ ruby get-sn.rb
2 password:
3 MX960: JN1096862AFA
01 require 'highline/import'
02 require 'net/netconf'
03 target = ARGV[0].split '@'
04 login =
05 login[:username] = ( target.count > 1 ) ? target.shift : ENV['USER']
06 login[:target] = target.shift
07 login[:password] = ask("password: "){ |a| a.echo = false }
08 login ) { |dev|
10   inv = dev.rpc.get_chassis_inventory
11   description = inv.xpath('chassis/description').text
12   serial_number = inv.xpath('chassis/serial-number').text
13   puts "#{description}: #{serial_number}"
14 }



I hope you’ve found this brief tutorial helpful and you now have an environment to start writing automation programs!