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:
- 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.
- 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.
Best Practices Series: Network Discovery