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I'm looking to the community to see how people are drawing their networks, i.e. using symbols to represent complex topology. You can have hardware approach, where every hardware unit are represented. You can also have "entity" approach, where each "service" is shown. Both are interesting but it is difficult to have both on the same schema (but this is needed, especially using virtualization environment). Furthermore, it is difficult to have complex informations on such representation. For instance security parameters (encrypted link, need for authentication) or specific details (protocol type, ports, encapsulation).

So my question is: where your are drawing a representation of your network, what is your approach ? Are you using methodology and/or specific softwares ? What is your recommendations for information to put (or not) ? How to deal with the complexity when the network becomes large and/or you want to put a lot of information on it ?

Examples and links to good references will be appreciated.

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2  
If you really want a diagram of your whole network - hire a technical documentation expert to do it. It's actually quite amazing what they can do with visio. –  Zypher Feb 9 '10 at 18:44

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I don't have a network diagram.

I have:

  • a IP network topology diagram;
  • a switch physical connectivity diagram;
  • many service diagrams (ie mail, web, backups, sql, install, VPN, WAN, internet...)

Each diagram has a different purpose. By limiting diagrams to a purpose, you stand a much better chance of being able to communicate important information.

All of my diagrams are typically viso generated, box-and-cloud diagrams, in that the only symbols I use are boxes (for routers or computers) and clouds (for "networks", either specific like a particular subnet, or general like "the internet").

The problem with putting everything on one diagram is that it gets messy. In our case the layer2/layer3 jumble made everything too complicated that we just had to split them out into separate documents.

I also dislike specific object templates because when you have them you either waste all your time trying to get symbols for everything (oh no! I don't have a symbol for my HP thing!) and then trying to scale them all so they look right. With box-and-cloud you are forced to concentrate on the information, not on making it a pretty picture.

That's not to say that I won't convert parts of my diagrams into pretty pictures for powerpoint time during budget presentation to the suits. But those diagrams have a different purpose.

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we had the same problem: to much information for one image.

what helped a lot are layers. you can put the items on different layers. we than added some buttons with vba scripts to make layers visible or hide them.

this way you can put all information in one place but only show the information you currently need.

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There is no one answer that can fit all our needs and situations but I suggest you first decide whether or not a diagram is in fact the best method to document what you're interested in. Then diagram exactly the information you need. No more, no less. Too little tends to make the exercise pointless, whereas too much just makes it harder to read and use.

It might for example make sense to diagram the logical layout of your network but things like services may be better dealt with in a database, which makes management and searching so much easier. If you still want to have pretty pictures of everything create as many diagrams as are necessary to illustrate what you want but don't try to put it all in one diagram.

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I think you need to use hive plots.

hive plot — a rational visualization method for drawing networks in which nodes are mapped to and positioned on radially distributed linear axes based on network structural properties and edges are drawn as curved links.

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Pretty, but useless. –  Kartoch Jan 17 '11 at 9:24

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