Establishing a network necessitates the interconnection of physical assets using network cables. With a vast array of network equipment and cable types available, documenting these connections can be a challenging undertaking. It is essential to meticulously document cable links, as haphazard cable management and unplugging attempts can lead to network disruptions and potential outages once the network is configured and operational.
Building networks through a best-effort or “grow as you go” approach, where connections and configurations are added incrementally, can lead to challenges when the network expands to a large scale. Issues may arise due to redundant connectivity, misconfiguration, lack of redundancy during maintenance, high throughput, and network topology re-convergence. To tackle these challenges, IT engineers often visualize the existing network’s wireline topology, studying and analyzing how components are interconnected.
Imagine a network spanning numerous racks (40, 60, or 100) in a large data center or across a campus of buildings, interconnected using various types of cables (copper, multi-mode or single-mode fiber optic, or vendor-specific cabling). Now envision the difficulty of tracing and identifying connections without relying solely on network commands to isolate the source and target equipment. Additionally, locating equipment among these racks, buildings, or Intermediate Distribution Frame (IDF) rooms can be quite a hassle.
Unfortunately, many organizations begin the daunting task of an investigation by logging into equipment, running commands to discover connections, and manually documenting them. This process often involves passing on the information to others, potentially resulting in working on the faulty equipment or port on the network component. These activities increase the chances of errors on network equipment, such as:
- Accidental misconfigurations.
- We are leaving configuration terminals open and accessible, inviting further misconfigurations.
- Identifying improperly labeled equipment.
- Selecting and unplugging ports from different modules.
- Improper reseating of network cables leads to signal loss.
- Consistent manipulation of cables causes loosening and weakening of connectors.
- More importantly, wasting precious engineer time in performing discovery work.
The list of potential pitfalls continues, and many organizations may not have fully considered these risks.
Unilogic Systems tackles network topology diagramming with a focused approach, specifically using a Wireline (Layer 1) diagram. This diagram includes explicitly labeling assets and detailed listings of inter-equipment links with cable IDs. These cable IDs can be referenced to determine their characteristics, connector requirements, and criticality in the infrastructure. While some may underestimate their importance, certain cables in the network become critical as they serve as primary, alternate, or data transport highways between equipment. Therefore, documenting and identifying cable characteristics is crucial.
Moreover, wiring diagrams must clearly label each physical component based on their physical asset labels, including the building, rack, and U location. By referencing well-documented, vetted, verified, and validated diagrams, guesswork and the possibility of working with the wrong equipment can be eliminated. These diagrams ensure accuracy, clarity, and precision.
When network changes, equipment upgrades, or relocations occur, Unilogic Systems relies on existing blueprints/diagrams. They plan proposed revisions, undergo an approval process involving stakeholders, and then implement the changes. During implementation, the physical work is cross-referenced with the design parameters to ensure alignment. Approved implementations result in updated blueprint diagrams, which become the authoritative source for referencing network topology and wire connectivity.
Unilogic Systems IT specializes in blueprinting and diagramming services, dedicated to assisting organizations in developing, maintaining, and revising comprehensive technical network blueprint documentation. We aim to ensure consistency, provide reliable references, and deliver accurate information to all stakeholders. By implementing the Layered Infrastructure Approach (LIA) for architecture, IT departments can benefit from a curated collection of technical diagrams and documentation. This enables team members to gain a better understanding of their network architecture, traffic flows, and connectivity. As a result, security is enhanced, the workflow becomes more streamlined, and the need for assumptions and ad-hoc discovery work to identify network connections is eliminated.