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What tools do people use to manage port interconnection information?

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  • 1.  What tools do people use to manage port interconnection information?

    Posted Nov 21, 2022 01:34 PM
    I am managing a small college network which of course has grown in size and complexity over a long period of time. I've only been here 16 months, and am constantly having to track down network details. My predecessors have set this up on paper, in 3-ring binders in the various IDF closets, with a motley collection of spreadsheets and notes that got printed out to go in those binders. When things changed those spreadsheets/notes were occasionally updated and new pages printed out and replaced old pages. A lot of the spreadsheets and notes disappeared when they departed, and what I have left are floor plans (mostly correct) and hard copies. To solve problems and figure out what's going on, I can do a few things. I log into switches and look at port configurations. I go to closets and I follow patch cables where they come out of switches and go into patch panel jacks. I can look at my floor plans and see where the jack is at the other end. Most of that will be documented correctly on some hard copy somewhere. But some is completely undocumented, and -- much worse -- some is documented but the documentation is wrong because it never got updated when something changed. So most of the time I just go and follow cables for myself and don't even waste the time to look at the documentation.

    This must be a solved problem -- there are many networks out there much more complex than mine, and y'all have not collapsed into total chaos so you must have tools, right?!?

    I'm imagining something where I could dump port data out of switches and load it into a database. (I'm reasonably experienced in using grep & perl to do those sorts of things, and could learn python if I had a project.) Maybe something attached to an asset management tool which keeps track of physical equipment? It would need to understand physical locations -- maps and floor plans, and probably means that it can record something as latitude/longitude/elevation or at least something that can map to those numbers. The one kind of data that can only come from user entry is what's at the two ends of a patch cable, so I'm imagining some little app that runs on a cell phone and when you plug slot/port x/y into jack n you then spend 10 seconds recording that on your phone when you are standing in the closet. It needs to be something easy and fast so that it gets done every time something gets moved.

    So what do you use? What would you choose if you didn't have anything and could start from scratch?

    (Long ago in a previous job we used an ancient version of OCSinventory, and I got pretty good at scraping that database to solve similar problems. I have a conceptual idea of the information, just no knowledge of current tools to manage and organize this information.)

  • 2.  RE: What tools do people use to manage port interconnection information?

    Posted Nov 28, 2022 04:49 AM

    Personally I use a combination of network management software, diagrams, and good old documentation (for things which management tools can't track) to keep tabs on how things are connected.

    Since you're posting in our Network Management forum, have you looked at the Aruba management software available for this purpose? Which one you use really depends on the type of devices you have on your network, and I don't see any information in your post about this.

    However all of the Aruba software (Central, AirWave, NetEdit, IMC) provide some form of automated network discovery, and topology generation (onto which you can also apply your floor plans as a background if you like). Changes in the network can be automatically detected and updated, inventory reports generated, etc... and they all have some free trials available too.

    Justin Guse

  • 3.  RE: What tools do people use to manage port interconnection information?

    Posted Nov 28, 2022 06:08 PM
    We manage our AP fleet with AirWave, and my predecessor set up maps and floor plans for VisualRF, and placed APs on them. He made the floor plans with some CAD software that was his personal copy, and for older buildings the png files that he left behind are the closest things to blueprints that the college has.

    Those drawings are notated with jack numbers, but that's not data, those are just graphics.

    When I look at AirWave I can see what ports the APs are plugged into (more or less). But the only way that I know which APs are on which ports on the switch would be to go to the closet and start at the jack on the patch panel and follow the cable back to the switch. My predecessor in general tied everything down, and so that's a pretty major undertaking every time!

    I don't see anything in AirWave that would allow me to enter all of that documentation, so I'm thinking that I need a bigger tool? Or can AirWave track that?

    And that doesn't tell me anything at all about all of the other things that might be plugged into switches -- security cameras, door keycard systems, desktop devices, random student devices.

  • 4.  RE: What tools do people use to manage port interconnection information?

    Posted Nov 29, 2022 09:29 AM
    If you have your APs and switches configured with LLDP, you should be able to see APs on switches.

    See if the Airwave documentation here helps:

    Any opinions expressed here are solely my own and not necessarily that of Hewlett Packard Enterprise or Aruba Networks.

    HPE Design and Deploy Guides: