Network visualization refers to the process of producing and showcasing graphical representations of network devices, metrics, and data flows. Simply put, it represents the visual aspects of network management and analysis. Numerous forms of network visualization exist, including network maps, graphs, charts, and matrices. In the realm of IT networks, network management software often comes equipped with built-in network visualization features.
If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation during a Zoom or Teams call where sharing your screen was the easiest way to communicate your point, you’ll appreciate the benefits of network visualization. This practice embodies the sentiment, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” within our industry.
Network visualization enables administrators to rapidly and intuitively assimilate extensive information about the network’s state. For instance, a network map can deliver a comprehensive topology overview, elucidating both physical and logical data flows. Charts and graphs that depict network data over time are instrumental in identifying trends and facilitating capacity planning. Matrices and network topology maps can unveil dependencies crucial for troubleshooting and resolving outages or bottlenecks.
Let’s delve deeper into the core benefits of network visualization:
Enhanced Network Visibility: Network topology maps offer complete visibility into your entire network, enabling you to comprehend the network architecture and device dependencies intricately. Dynamic network maps, unlike their static counterparts, automatically update when changes occur, often allowing for more detailed inspection of traffic flows and resource utilization.
Expedited Troubleshooting: Without visibility, problem-solving becomes an uphill battle. Network visualization techniques, like maps and performance graphs, provide the necessary visibility to streamline troubleshooting and root cause analysis efforts. For example, resolving a VoIP phone issue could be as straightforward as locating the device on your network map, identifying the connected switch port, and verifying that the port is correctly configured for the appropriate VLAN.
Informed Network Planning: When you understand your current network dependencies, inventory, and resource utilization trends, planning for network upgrades and refreshes becomes simpler. A tool that offers real-time network asset management, topology mapping, and historical network traffic data visualization equips you with the information you need to make informed decisions.
Efficient Onboarding: Speed and understanding new scenarios are two key components to effective onboarding in network roles. An accurate network topology map can expedite the process by providing a new network engineer with a comprehensive view of the network, detailing device and cable connections, both logical and physical. This approach is equally valuable if you’re a network administrator starting a new job, a seasoned admin navigating a company acquisition, or an MSP onboarding a new client. A network visualization tool equipped with topology mapping and network discovery functionalities can rapidly accelerate your efforts to learn about and document the network.
Improved Communication: Accurately and succinctly conveying complex information in a manner that customers, managers, and engineers can understand and act upon is a formidable challenge. The appropriate visuals can substantially enhance clarity, enabling you to address specific problems effectively.
For beginners learning to implement network mapping, asset discovery and the creation of a dynamic network maps is generally an excellent starting point. A full featured discovery tool with network management tools will quickly enhance your troubleshooting efficacy. Additionally, if you’ve never previously had a comprehensive network map, you’re likely to gain new insights about your actual network topology. From this point, you can start focusing on specific business and performance objectives and the key performance indicators (KPIs) most relevant to you.