Developing Plugins

Plugins are either Python files or directories containing Python code plus configuration templates. netlab tries to locate them in the plugin search path (specified in the defaults.paths.plugin setting), which usually includes the user search path and the netsim/extra networklab package directory.


You can inspect the plugin search path with the netlab show defaults paths.plugin command and modify it if needed.

The plugin name specifies either a Python file name (without the .py extension) or a directory with the Python module, optional plugin defaults (defaults.yml), and Jinja2 templates (one per supported netlab_device_type/ansible_network_os).


This is an underdocumented feature. Performing operations beyond simple data transformation might require digging through the source code. Before proceeding, you might want to open a discussion on netlab GitHub repository.

Plugins can define well-known functions that are invoked during the topology transformation process, which includes these steps:

  • execute plugin init function

  • check topology top-level elements

  • adjust global parameters (defaults), node list, link list, and address pools

  • execute plugin pre_transform function

  • execute module pre_transform function

  • adjust groups (including setting node data from node_data)

  • execute plugin pre_node_transform function

  • transform node data

  • execute plugin post_node_transform function

  • execute plugin pre_link_transform function

  • transform link data

  • execute plugin post_link_transform function

  • execute module post_transform function

  • execute plugin post_transform function

Every plugin function is called with a single topology argument: the current topology data structure. The node or link-manipulation functions must iterate over the topology.nodes dictionary or the topology.links list.

Plugins extending configuration modules might have to define additional module attributes. The module attribute lists must be extended before any module validation code is executed, either with the plugin defaults or in the plugin init function.

Plugin Metadata

A plugin can specify global variables that are used to influence the plugin behavior or order of execution:

  • _requires: A list of prerequisite modules and plugins. netlab will abort if any prerequisite plugins are not listed in the topology.plugin list, or if any of the prerequisite modules are not used by at least one node.

  • _execute_after: A list of plugins that should execute before the current plugin. For example, the ebgp.multihop plugin has to be executed after ebgp.utils plugin, and therefore defines _execute_after = [ 'ebgp.utils' ]

  • _config_name: The name of extra configuration templates to add to the node config attribute when a node using the plugin functionality requires additional device configuration. This variable is set during the plugin initialization process, but it’s still recommended to define it in the plugin and set its value to a string to prevent mypy complaints.

Sample Plugin

All anycast servers in a BGP anycast topology should have the same AS number but do not need IBGP sessions between themselves. A custom plugin deletes IBGP sessions for any node with bgp.anycast attribute.

The topology file used in the BGP anycast example uses group node data on a BGP AS group to set bgp.anycast node attribute on any node in AS 65101

plugin: [ bgp.anycast ]

module: [ ospf, bgp ]

  device: iosv

      members: [ l1, l2, l3, s1 ]
      rr: [ s1 ]
      members: [ a1,a2,a3 ]


  [ l1, l2, l3, s1, a1, a2, a3 ]

links: [ s1-l1, s1-l2, s1-l3, l2-a1, l2-a2, l3-a3 ]

The bgp.anycast attribute is defined in the plugin defaults (anycast/defaults.yml) (see Lab Topology Attribute Validation for details):

  type: ipv4
  use: prefix

The plugin imports netsim.api module to get access to the plugin helper functions.

import sys
from box import Box
from netsim import api

The custom transformation is executed as the last step of the topology transformation – the post_transform function removes IBGP neighbors from all nodes with bgp.anycast attribute.

def post_transform(topo: Box) -> None:
  for node in topo.nodes.values():
    if 'bgp' in node:
      if 'anycast' in node.bgp:
        node.bgp.advertise_loopback = False
        node.bgp.neighbors = [
          n for n in node.bgp.neighbors
            if n.type != 'ibgp' ]

The post_transform function also sets the config node parameter to deploy a custom configuration template that creates additional loopback interface with the anycast IP address.

def post_transform(topo: Box) -> None:
  global _config_name
  for node in topo.nodes.values():
    if 'bgp' in node:
      if 'anycast' in node.bgp:


  • The global _config_name variable is set during the plugin initialization.

  • api.node_config appends the specified custom configuration template to the list of node configuration templates. While equivalent to…


    … the utility function handles edge cases like a missing config attribute or duplicate configuration templates.