I think it would be fair to call the team here at Graphical Networks experts in diagrams. Afterall, we make netTerrain — IT mapping/documentation software for networks (Logical) and data centers (DCIM) with an add-on module for fiber plants (OSP). One of the most frequently asked questions we get is, ‘hey, what’s the difference between your Logical and Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) products?

The biggest difference between DCIM and Logical is that our DCIM product includes rack diagrams.

What’s a Rack Diagram?

Rack diagrams…what exactly is a rack diagram?

In a nutshell, a rack diagram (aka diagrams that show rack elevations) is a visual representation of your IT equipment inside a network/server racks or cabinets. With rack diagrams, you visually depict all the equipment within a rack.

They help you track and manage a rack’s capacity in terms of its space, power, and weight availability. Organizations use these to help manage servers, other equipment inside the rack, and track the cabling both inside and outside the rack(s). Data center floor plan diagrams can show you multiple racks at once — and then you can zoom in for a closer look. You can read more about what rack diagrams are here.

What’s a ‘Server Rack Diagram’?

Rack diagrams are often called ‘server rack diagrams’. Why?

Servers are the main pieces of equipment in a rack, but for organizations documenting its network infrastructure, there are other IT equipment that should be included in rack diagrams, such as switches, routers, and patch panels.

  • Switches are devices in a computer network that connects other devices together.
  • Routers connect to a switch that forwards data packets to enable communication between computer networks.
  • Patch panels contain jacks that connect to cables and direct them where to go.

As you can place both servers and network equipment on rack diagrams, we prefer to just call them rack diagrams because this term represents rack layouts, servers, and network equipment.

Why DCIM for Rack Diagrams?

You may be thinking: “Ok, but I can create rack diagrams in Visio…so why do I need DCIM to visualize rack diagrams?’

Now, if you’re happy with Visio and it’s meeting your organization’s needs, please by all means don’t switch. I’m not knocking it.

If, however, you need a tool to help manage your data center capacities space, power, and weight, with dashboard reports, list of all assets, see the connections of each device, and run searches to find information quickly, then it’s likely that you need a DCIM tool (like our software netTerrain). With software like netTerrain, you can automate your data and diagrams through network discovery and by pulling information from your existing data sources, like ServiceNow and Solarwinds (and you can also visualize your hybrid infrastructure, like AWS, Azure, and VMWare, etc).

What about 3D Rack Views?

Rack diagrams are usually drawn in a 2D elevation drawing showing the specific equipment on a rack and can also include the front and the rear elevation of the rack layout (see below) for one rack or multiple racks.

rack-elevation-view-in-netTerrain-dcimExample of a 2D rack elevation diagram

I get this question a lot: ‘does netTerrain offer 3D views of rack diagrams?’

netTerrain does not offer 3D views of data centers and racks.

Why not?

3D views don’t help you manage rack and data center capacity. While 3D views do give you pretty pictures to show management for some ‘oohs and aahs’, the truth is that 3D views are not helpful at all, maybe apart from showing air flow and heat maps, or computational fluid dynamics (CFD) — click here to read more about our stance against 3D views in IT visualization software.

If you do need CFD, netTerrain has a connector to one of the leading CFD solutions on the market today: Future Facilities’ 6SigmaRoom, which helps organizations to overcome thermal design challenges. If you need help with thermal designs of your data center, then I can see why you may want 3D views. If not, though, 3D views add expense to a software package and slow it down. Is that really something you want just for the wow factor? Probably not.

Beyond Rack Diagrams…

Having a visual representation of your IT equipment, both your server and network equipment, inside your data center or telecom rooms is essential in optimizing your network and data center.

IT documentation, of course, goes beyond rack diagrams.

Other areas that could benefit from documentation include:

  • Network topology
  • Cloud architecture
  • Hardware and software directories
  • IP address allocation

If you’d like to test-drive our software, netTerrain DCIM, click here now for a free trial.

For more reading on Rack Diagrams in DCIM software, check out these blogs:

About 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.