best practices network mapping

In this blog, part of our series on IT best practices, I’ll share how network mapping works and how it will give you a complete vantage point of your entire network.

Modern networks are full of connected devices, interdependent systems, virtual assets and mobile components. Monitoring each of these systems calls for technology that can discover and map everything on your network. Understanding and enacting the best practices of network mapping will guarantee successful network monitoring.

An Overview of Network Mapping

Most forms of network management software require what’s known as “seed scope,” which is a range of addresses defining the network – a network map. Network mapping begins by discovering devices using a number of protocols such as SNMP, SSH, Ping, Telnet and ARP to determine everything connected to the network.

Adequately mapping a large network requires being able to make use of both Layer 2 and Layer 3 protocols. Together, they combine to create a comprehensive view of your network.

The Two Types of Network Maps

When discussing network protocols, they are broken up into two categories, or layers:

  1. Layer 2: Defined as the “data link layer,” these protocols discover port-to-port connections and linking properties. Layer 2 protocols are largely proprietary, meaning the universal Link Level Discovery Protocol (LLDP) must be enabled for every network device.
  2. Layer 3:  Defined as the “network layer,” these protocols explore entire neighborhoods of devices by using SNMP-based technology to discover which devices interact with other devices.

Surprisingly, most IT infrastructure monitoring solutions rely solely on Layer 3 protocols. While this succeeds in creating a comprehensive overview of the network, successful network mapping practices call for using Layer 2 protocols as well. Layer 2 protocols provide the important information about port-to-port connectivity and connected devices that allow for faster troubleshooting when problems arise.

Conveniently enough, Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold uses Layer 2 discovery with ARP cache and the Ping Sweep method, combined with Layer 3 SNMP-enabled discovery methods to provide all the information needed to quickly identify and address problems.

Creating Network Diagrams

Network diagrams make use of the data generated by Layer 2 and Layer 3 protocols, and are super helpful for visualizing the entire network. One important best practice for network mapping is using network diagrams to ensure that the existing networks and IT processes are fully documented – and updated when new processes are added.

Microsoft Visio is the leading network diagramming software on the market. When data is imported, Visio allows for creation of robust, customizable diagrams and easy sharing of them between different companies. Yet, network managers who rely on Visio quickly discover that the lack of an auto-discovery feature severely limits its use.

Ipswitch WhatsConnected was created to solve this problem by auto-generating topology diagrams, which can be useful on their own or exported to Visio, Excel and other formats with a single click. WhatsConnected makes use of Layer 2 and Layer 3 protocols to provide Visio with everything in needs to generate the powerful diagrams its known for.

Instituting solutions that follow these suggestions should provide the foundation needed for real-time network monitoring. Coming up next in our best IT practices series, we’ll review network monitoring. Learning how to make the most of network discovery and network mapping will give your organization cutting-edge network monitoring capabilities.

Related articles:

Best Practices Series: Network Discovery

Best Practices Series: IT Asset Management

Today I will cover Truth #8 from our eGuide entitled 9 Noble Truths of Network, Server and Application Monitoring that addresses network performance and discovery. To start, here are three fairly frightening statistics* if you happen to be an IT professional in charge of ensuring network performance:

  • 79% of IT teams experienced network events that were attributed to the wrong IT group
  • 77% of IT teams reported incorrect root causes of a network or security event to their executive team
  • 87% of IT teams reported the root cause of an issue to management without su?cient information
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To learn more about automatic discovery and continuous dependency mapping, be sure to check out the 9 Noble Truths of Network, Server and Application Monitoring

Do you see the pattern here? More importantly, do you see the solution?

The pattern is that IT teams—despite all the advances in technology—are spending more and more of their time searching for the root cause of network performance issues. Even then, they often times find and communicate the wrong information. Why such difficulty? Because today’s networks are highly dynamic, with changes happening quickly and continuously: everything from new application deployments, new infrastructure coming online, office reallocations, mergers/ acquisitions, new dependencies among components, and so on.

At the same time, network performance has never been more critical to the overall business, and user expectations have never been higher. In other words, not a great time to be spending countless hours tracking down sources.

The solution is a network monitoring tool with features like automatic network discovery & continuous dependency mapping.  Let’s take a closer look at two aspects of the solution:

Dependency Mapping

By making sure that your dependency maps are always up to date, you’ll actually be improving your infrastructure reliability. Easy enough, right? Well, keeping up with this changes manually presents a challenge that is often far too complicated, error-prone, and labor-intensive without investing far more resources than would make sense.

Automatic Discovery Tools

Automated network discovery (and network diagrams) also mitigate what we call “alarm fatigue”— i.e. what happens when one device fails and its entire hierarchy of dependent devices sends out alerts as well. With automatic discovery tools, you ensure that your team gets the most meaningful alerts about the right devices at the right time.

Essentially, without automated tools for discovery and dependency mapping, you’ll be sacrificing time, money, energy and accuracy. With such tools in place you will have the ability to accurately create a network diagram, automate reporting, and track hardware inventory.

>> Check out Ipswitch WhatsConnected to learn more about how we can help you with automatic discovery and continuous dependency mapping.

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Click here to learn more about Ipswitch Innovate, and register!

>> And be sure to engage with us next month during the Ipswitch Innovate 2015 User Summit, a two-day (October 21-22) online event for IT pros to learn from each other and our product experts.

(*Emulex study, July 2014)

An IT director, responsible for a network of five hospitals, called us with a problem. He couldn’t get any kind of reliable inventory of his network, applications or software. And he had to come up with a budget for software upgrades and felt like it was going to be a shot in the dark without network mapping and discovery.

Pink_Panther_2__A_Shot_In_The_Dark_(1964)He said didn’t have the time or staff for a manual inventory through every server room, wiring closet, wireless access point, operating theater and nurse’s station across five different hospitals. Even if he did, it would be hard to gather enough detail to sort out what needed updating. He needed a way to make network mapping and discovery automatic, in every location. And find out how many activations had been made on every piece of licensed software.

He tried a product from Solarwinds but it couldn’t give him enough details. He was also told by that vendor that he had to use a second product in order to create a full network map. He decided to use WhatsConnected from Ipswitch instead.  It gave him what he needed. Automatic inventory was done with a laptop instead of crawling around with a flashlight. And when he was done he exported the network maps to a PDF file and Visio so he could show other folks what he had found.

After using WhatsConnected, his final budget for software upgrades came to about 20% less than he originally planned. That shot was on target.

 

Today’s tale from the front lines of network monitoring comes to us from an IT director for a major container transportation company. To keep the containers moving, the company has a big network of virtual and physical servers and desktops across 12 locations. The IT director was told that service levels had fallen and an overhaul of the dated network was probably necessary. disconnect1

His staff shared an 8 month-old network map that had taken 3 weeks to create manually. A quick look around the data center showed a lot of changes since the map was created. He assumed the company’s other 11 locations wouldn’t match the map either.  He started to search for a network mapping solution but all he could find were products that were either too expensive, too loaded with features he didn’t want, or required extensive training to get up and running.  

Overwhelmed, he reached out to a former colleague who recommended he try Ipswitch WhatsConnected, a Layer 2 and Layer 3 network diagram product for network discovery and network mapping.

Getting a new view of the situation

Within hours after downloading WhatsConnected, he was had an accurate discovery of his entire data center. After performing a discovery on all 11 locations he was able to quickly sort out what needed replacing. As a result, SLAs went way up, while the need for manual audits became a thing of the past.

Today’s tale from the front lines of network monitoring comes to us from Edgar, a systems administrator at a bank in Northern Europe. Edgar has been at the bank long enough to know the systems inside and out, but his expertise was challenged each time the bank acquired a smaller bank or merged with a rival. The new banks had different systems and plenty of custom applications.    

Since Edgar was the trusted expert in IT, he was expected to deal with the toughest problems at all the banks. But as the number of different systems grew, so did Edgar’s stress. Naturally, the monitoring tools at each bank were a hodge-podge of software, some of which he didn’t know and didn’t have time to figure out. And since everyone used different products, the reports they created were inconsistent and hard to sort out the solid data.

toolbox-1The last straw came when a new admin in Latvia asked him for help creating a network map with SolarWinds. Never mind that Edgar didn’t speak Latvian. His experience with SolarWinds network maps had been disappointing. It didn’t make sense for the banks to have separate – and unequal – network mapping abilities, especially since accurate maps were needed for regulatory compliance.

Tired of the headaches caused by too many different tools, Edgar convinced his boss that it was past time to standardize on one product for monitoring across all the banks. Edgar decided to have a bake-off between WhatsUp Gold, which he’d been using for network monitoring for years, SolarWinds and Paessler. To be as open-minded as possible, he called each company and asked for a demo, with a particular emphasis on mapping, dashboards and reports.

For his final demo, Edgar called a WhatsUp Gold Sales Engineer and challenged him to prove that he should propose WhatsUp Gold as the new standard. The Sales Engineer gave Edgar a demo of the newest version including Application Performance Monitor (which Edgar hadn’t seen before). Not only were the maps better that in the competing products, the out-of-the-box reports were just what he needed. And Edgar was blown away that WhatsUp Gold’s single dashboard also included all the data from the Application Performance Monitor, so the staff wouldn’t have to switch interfaces to work with different parts of the IT environment. gbbakeoff

Edgar didn’t need long to decide that WhatsUp Gold was his answer. It wouldn’t help him speak Latvian, but perhaps now he wouldn’t have to.

Lessons learned:

  • When companies merge or acquire, the variety of monitoring tools can create a headache for IT
  • Standardizing on a monitoring suite saves time and reduces complexity and frustration
  • The ability to monitor applications in the same dashboard as all the infrastructure made every admin’s job easier

Todays tale from the front lines of network management comes to us from the UK. When a new network manager joined a British toy retailer with a huge store in London and nearly a dozen more spread throughout the UK, he immediately came face-to-face with complaints that business users were being dropped off the network intermittently.

aliens-action-figures-toys-necaHe frustratingly tried to chase down the intermittent drop-offs that would later seemingly resolve themselves. He found the firm had purchased Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold network management and monitoring software some time before he came on board but it hadn’t yet been put into production.

Although he was new to the product, he and his team were able to set it up quickly. WhatsUp Gold attacked the intermittent performance problems, performing a trend analysis linking performance metrics to the dates and time when a user got dropped from the network. This helped uncover the root cause and prevent future occurrences.

The IT team leveraged a single dashboard view to see the status of every device and real-time alerts to catch problems early. Combined with reports to correlate network performance with network problems, the mostly generalist IT staff can optimize network performance without specialized trouble-shooting skills.

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WhatsUp Gold continues to make his team proactive in addressing and solving problems quickly. He reckons that his team’s quality of service has risen to the same or higher level than larger, more specialized teams he has managed. “WhatsUp Gold deserves credit,” he says. “It does everything it says it does on the box.”

If you want to play with network management software from Ipswitch, download WhatsUp Gold free for 30 days.

Ipswitch Network Management Division is proud to announce that our award winning IT management solution WhatsUp Gold v16 is now offering its web interface in German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese, at no additional cost. Instructions to help you transition WhatsUp Gold from English to the language of your choice is available in Japanese, Chinese and Russian.

For more information and to download WhatsUp Gold v16 in your preferred language click here!

The WhatsUp Gold team is thrilled to announce the addition of the first UK WhatsUp Gold Authorized Training Centre (ATC), designed to help UK customers leverage the full power and functionality of their Ipswitch network management solution. The ATC is run by Ipswitch Network Management Division Gold partner Level 8 Solutions and is the only currently authorized provider of WhatsUp Gold training in the UK.

To become an ATC, Level 8 Solutions had to undertake extensive training over several weeks and pass a final certification exam from Ipswitch. It can now offer courses to any UK WhatsUp Gold end user that wishes to get the most out of their WhatsUp Gold installation, whether it be creating a custom home dashboard, creating and applying an action policy, or any of the other 30 tips and tricks covered during the sessions.

“We are pleased to be the first accredited training partner in the UK for Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold products,” says Dave Thornton, director, at Level 8 Solutions. “We provide a flexible approach to learning, where customers can opt for either a live webcast or onsite training for the entire WhatsUp Gold suite of products.”

Level 8 Solutions will offer two courses, designed by network engineers for network engineers. They give participants an overview of WhatsUp Gold features and functionality, and develop configuration and management skills. The two-day and three-day courses cover building optimized configurations and creating effective monitoring, management and alerting strategies. The three-day course also utilizes a practical, hands-on element to develop best practices. The courses can be delivered in an open classroom, at a customer’s facility, or online, depending on requirements and time schedules.

“While it is something we take pride in, the simplicity of setting up and configuring WhatsUp Gold can also mean that users are not aware of its full functionality,” stated Ennio Carboni, president of Ipswitch Network Management Division. “We have worked with our partners to design the new training programs to help our customers maximize their investment and harness the power of WhatsUp Gold to develop management systems that will improve the configuration and management of their network, and enhance the visibility and knowledge of their environment. As a result, network administrators will be able to identify and solve problems more quickly; improving the service they offer to their organizations.”

The WhatsUp Gold team is thrilled to announce that we have signed our 100th reseller in the UK – Edinburgh-based Grant McGregor, provider of corporate-quality IT expertise and network computer support services!

Grant McGregor joins the Ipswitch Network Management channel programme as a silver partner and will bolster the line up of seven Gold, 15 Silver and 78 Authorised partners. Grant McGregor is capable of serving as its client’s entire IT department with support, project and IT consultancy services. The addition of WhatsUp Gold to its range of products enables Grant McGregor to provide technical prowess in delivering enterprise level service, regardless of the organisation size.

“Ipswitch Network Management Division’s suite of solutions was something that we felt would perfectly complement our existing portfolio of products. This accompanied by the comprehensive and mature approach of the programme made it really attractive to us,” says Grant McGregor director Jon Towers. “WhatsUp Gold delivers real, tangible benefits to the end user and is capable of monitoring the physical network as well as the virtualised environment through the various plug-ins. We are delighted to be working with Ipswitch Network Management Division and will look to introduce WhatsUp Gold to our ever expanding customer base.”

To read the full press release about this exciting announcement, click here.

The WhatsUp Gold team is thrilled to announced that WhatsUp Gold Product Family has been awarded the “Best IT Product for Manufacturing” by the Network Products Guide!

The 7th annual achievements and recognition awards program with active participation from a broad spectrum of industry voices, the coveted annual Hot Companies and Best Products recognition program encompasses the world’s best in organizational performance, products and services, hot technologies, executives and management teams, successful deployments, product management and engineering, customer satisfaction, and public relations in every area of information technology.

Why did the WhatsUp Gold Product Family win this coveted award?

Manufacturing firms today seek to improve operational efficiency and consolidate IT resources whenever possible, to deliver the most cost-effective infrastructure possible.  Networks are living entities and planned and unplanned changes happen all the time.  It’s important to really understand your network – what you have and how everything is connected, so you can monitor and protect it.  WhatsUp Gold and WhatsUp Log Management monitor the health, availability and performance across all your infrastructure components, including network devices, servers, applications and virtual resources.  These powerful IT management solutions even provide an integrated view of layer 2 topology maps, performance and event logs auditing information, from a single interface.    

 Being a network engineer for a manufacturing firm of any size isn’t easy – especially when your network serves hundreds, or even thousands of people, who depend on seamless integration between your business and theirs.  Now more than ever, manufacturing firms must establish a secure, efficient and regulatory-compliant IT infrastructure.  Operational efficiency and cost efficiency rule – and its mandatory to consolidate and leverage every possible IT resource – including your staff.  

WhatsUp Gold offers all the capabilities you need to better balance your professional and personal life with the ability to react to events immediately.  And, WhatsUp Gold is cost effective from the beginning while scaling to handle growth.

Are you going to Interop Las Vegas next week? The WhatsUp Gold team is and we hope to see you there!

We’ll be located at Booth 1127 as part of the Cisco Partner Pavilion – swing by to see what we have in store this year! Stop by to meet members of the WhatsUp Gold team, including Brian Jacobs and Aaron Simonson, and check out the latest version of WhatsUp Gold. Before you head out, don’t forget to attend the Cisco Partner Presentation, “The Layers of Network Management,” on Wednesday, May 9th at 1:30pm – WhatsUp Gold’s Brian Jacobs will be presenting!

We hope to see you there!

The WhatsUp Gold team is thrilled to announce that we have been named a finalist in the 2012 MicroScope ACE Awards in the Networking category! The 5th annual MicroScope Awards for Channel Excellence (ACEs) recognize the best of the channel for delivering the greatest services, products, and support.

VOTE for WhatsUp Gold for the Best Overall Networking Product! Voting ends May 18th so vote before it’s too late!