Need a Magic Red Button for Network Documentation? Read This.

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We get countless inquiries from people looking to ditch their spreadsheets and Visio diagrams: they are looking for an automated network documentation/network mapping solution.

More often than not, network folks want to find the holy grail, for example: “What exactly can I discover, and can it automatically place the network device inside my data center rack?”

Let me level with you: if you think Graphical Networks or yet anywhere else for that matter, has a telepathy protocol, you are SOL buddy…sorry!

Yes, we offer network diagramming and documentation software. We’re not, however, alchemists (yet).

“What is exactly is network documentation, anyways?”

Truth is: there’s not one single answer. Ask ten different people about what network documentation means: I guarantee you that you will get at least ten different answers! In the end, network documentation is in the eye of the beholder. Different roles and organizations may have different diagramming and documentation needs. The more important question is: what do you need your network diagramming software to do for you?

For example, some organizations want to connect network diagram software such as netTerrain to their various network monitoring systems. We can do that — and we almost have a magic red button for doing so. I recently wrote an article about the difference between network documentation and network monitoring/management systems, such as: Solarwinds, Zenoss, and Nagios. If, however, you want to get the same exact benefits that an NMS will give you from network diagram/documentation software such as netTerrain – sorry, no magic red button for that. For a review of my previous article, navigate over here.

Tip: You can learn more about what network diagramming software is, or is not, over at my colleague’s blog on the subject.

“Well…what about discovering the network? I’ve heard great things about netTerrain’s discovery, for example.”

netTerrain does come with powerful discovery functions, however, it’s not as simple as clicking a magic red button. netTerrain network discovery is housed in our new Collector, which can be installed in in your networks and, using an IP Address range, will go out and discover your SNMP enabled devices.

”Hey, how come I ran the discovery and it couldn’t find anything?”

This is a common question folks ask me. The first question I ask them is: are your devices SNMP enabled?

Um…it’s amazing how many people don’t realize if their device is SNMP enabled. Long story short: please check to be sure your SNMP function on your equipment is enabled.

“Great, now I can find my IT assets installed on my network! Now, how about how are my devices connected to each other? How can I avoid the zombie cable epidemic?”

In my colleague’s article on zombie cables, we discuss how netTerrain can help out. Sure, some network documentation tools out there also do Layer 2 discovery, like netTerrain. netTerrain, however, stands alone in that it uses LLDP, LLDP, NMAP, and SNMP protocols to discover your Layer 2 connections.

“Wooo hooo: it’s the magic cure all, heck I found everything! “

Wait for it….

“Well, hold on, do patch panels have SNMP capability?”

If you have Smart or Intelligent Patch Panels, they are usually detectable using SNMP. So — you are almost there in your quest for a fully automated, network mapping/documentation software!

“Great, so now I can discover my devices and connections, but I want to see them in nice pretty network and data center diagrams — and somehow place everything in their racks and position. Can netTerrain do that too?”

No, netTerrain nor anyone really have this red magic button to magically created your physical and logical diagrams in an instant.

But, one of the questions we do ask is do you have any other documentation, in say spreadsheets, or a CMBD solution, like Service Now, that has location information, where the devices are located, rack position, etc. Some of the organizations have some detailed information! If you do fantastic! And, with some professional services work (and for the record, we take a day, not weeks or months with Graphical Networks), we can synch the data and correlate the disparate data and massage its, so you can indeed get that shiny magic red button.

“I want to see network performance, bandwidth utilization, and predictive analysis too. Does network documentation cover that too?”

While some companies call this ‘network documentation’, I have to be honest: these features are really for network performance monitoring, like Solarwinds Orion NPM (no, we don’t get paid by Solarwinds for mentioning their product on this blog).

So, as you continue to go on on your quest for an automated, fully documented network topology maps and physical data center, telco rooms, and office equipment you can find what you need — but, you just need the right tools to make it happen.

Fred Koh
Fred Koh
As a seasoned sales executive, Fred Koh serves as Director of Sales and is responsible for Graphical Networks sales and channel partner program, marketing strategy, and operations.

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