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  • Documenting Infrastructure

    I really wasn't sure which area to post this one ... I'm hoping I guessed right! BTW - Epic Rambling Ahead.

    What are you guys using to document your networks?

    My boss doesn't know it yet, but I'm seriously sick of the rats nest of patch leads that I inherited when I took over my current job. And so - in the not too distant future I will begin cleaning up the mess.

    That will be the perfect time for me to start documenting my network (yes MY ... typical territorial IT guy *lol*) and I've spent my spare moments during the last few weeks looking for tools to permit me to do so.

    Historically I've used the normal stuff - spreadsheets, a quickie DB in Access, etc. But none of those have ever been really satisfactory to me and I want to do it better this time.

    Given that I somehow became the DBA when I wasn't looking and also given that I'm the sole voice of open source in the organisation - I've been toying with the idea of a web front end for an SQL db.

    I found Patchmaker http://www.cs.princeton.edu/patchmaker/about.html and tried it out - but it was never completed and I can't use it. Got it going somewhat though - it could have been incredible.

    I found a number of alternatives on sourceforge: Racksmith, Rackmonkey, Racktables, (interesting trend there), opencabling and calia. None of them are what I'm after.

    I even broke down and requested a trial license for a closed-source software called PatchManger. After one email they never got back to me - which writes them off ... if their sales department can't be bothered to chase a potential sale, I'm sure not interested in depending on their support.

    What is it that I want?

    I want a front end to a DB which I can view remotely (ie if I'm in one of our interstate offices I should be able to access it as readily as if I'm at my desk).

    I'm looking at a couple of thousand patches nationwide, so it needs to scale pretty well.

    I need to be able to enter the destination for each patch port and switch port on my network.

    I need to be able to look up a particular port easily.

    I'd like (read love) for it to be visual ... ie an visual representation of each panel or switch with the ability to click on a port and bring up what it's patched to.

    Has anyone seen or used anything that is able to do what I'm after?

  • #2
    Re: Documenting Infrastructure

    If its cisco equipment you can use cdp to see what neighbors you have. This will tell you what devices are attached to that device and on what port locally and the remote port as well. This will only work for routers/switches/ip phones/ATA boxes etc. Spiceworks and programs like it can scan your subnets and tell you whats out there as well. I use visio to document my network infrastructure.
    CCNA, CCNA-Security, CCNP
    CCIE Security (In Progress)

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    • #3
      Re: Documenting Infrastructure

      Have a look at this to see if it helps: http://www.petri.com/csc_cisco_network_assistant.htm
      Not necessarily a web front end/ db backend type but with VPN technologies available today I can't see that being a deterrent.

      Ta
      Caesar's cipher - 3

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      • #4
        Re: Documenting Infrastructure

        Originally posted by auglan View Post
        I use visio to document my network infrastructure.
        I've frequently seen reference to using visio and have always rejected it based upon the assumption that it's basically used to draw pictures of the items in question (servers, switches, patch panels, etc) and doesn't encompass any kind of 'smart' in terms of doing querys to ascertain where something is, or what a particular something is connected to.

        In other words - at the end it's a static diagram.

        Is this how you use it?

        I use DIA to diagram our WAN which gives me a static picture that I can keep up to date quite readily ... but when I start grinding to finer granularity I am quite sure that I won't have time to keep static pictures of patching up to date - which is the most common problem with network documentation in my opinion ... it's tendency to lag badly behind reality.

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        • #5
          Re: Documenting Infrastructure

          Originally posted by L4ndy View Post
          Have a look at this to see if it helps: http://www.petri.com/csc_cisco_network_assistant.htm
          Not necessarily a web front end/ db backend type but with VPN technologies available today I can't see that being a deterrent.

          Ta
          I should have mentioned that I use Network Assistant to manage my switches.

          Absolutely love it.

          I'm also running MRTG with the Routers2.cgi front end for monitoring things like bandwidth etc.

          Which is why I'm so frustrated I guess - need a tool to help maintain/config of your hardware ... CNA (or it's other brand equivalents) is the go. Want to monitor what's actually happening on that hardware ... take your pick of several.

          Need to keep track of the thousands of patchleads, fiber runs, and the rest of it: There's a couple of commercial solutions which I haven't been able to evaluate (or assess the $ cost) or some old and incomplete opensource projects which never really got out of alpha. Or a spreadsheet.

          I'm seriously thinking I may have to write my own solution - trouble is I suck as a code-cutter.

          So I'm hoping someone will point me at a solution that I had overlooked.
          Last edited by Doormat; 12th June 2010, 01:00.

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          • #6
            Re: Documenting Infrastructure

            In my visio diagrams I include vlan information, subnets, trunks, circuit id's and descriptions etc. I will also document critcal servers including their vlans, switchports etc. Im not really concerned with regular hosts as I can figure out where they are connected via the mac table. Its easy for me to do that as we run a cisco callmanager cluster so every pc has a phone attached to it so I can just lookup the ext in CCM, get the mac of the phone and I then know where the pc is attached as the pc piggy backs off the phone. Your correct it is a static diagram but its pretty specific.

            We also use Orion NPM to monitor the switches/routers/AP,s as well.
            CCNA, CCNA-Security, CCNP
            CCIE Security (In Progress)

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            • #7
              Re: Documenting Infrastructure

              This is why I made my Switch Port -> IP script that's sitting in the Scripting forum (gotta update it a bit). Eventually it'll hit multiple switches, pop in config info and if the port's up or down, but that's for a lot later lol.
              ** Remember to give credit where credit is due and leave reputation points where appropriate **

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              • #8
                Re: Documenting Infrastructure

                Thanks for the input guys.

                Having spent far too much time on this search already I've come to the conclusion that my best bet is to try throwing something together myself.

                There's just too much cruft and bloat in the best of the projects I found to make it worth the effort of working with someone else's code.

                Wish me luck!

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