The size of most enterprise networks requires detailed documentation. ZIn this video, you’ll learn about floor plans, distribution frames, network maps, audit reports, and more.
One common thread across all of information technology is the need for documentation. In this video, we’ll see how documentation is handled by the network team. If you walk into a wiring closet or a data center, you may notice that there are a series of floor plans that have probably been posted to the wall. This allows the network team to be able to document where the wires may be going overhead or under the floor, and it may show where access points may be located, and the coverage for wireless networks in a particular area.
You might also see floor plans with different numbers next to every desk, which would document what the labels are on the patch panel for each individual user. If we need to change part of the floor plan, or we need to move equipment around, we can see exactly what impact that might have.
Another good map to have would be one that shows how all of our equipment may be connected to each other. This could be shown as a physical network map, where we have individual wires and devices, and we show how each one of those devices is connected to the other. This is a great way to see the flow of data as it goes through the network, and it’s also very useful if you need to troubleshoot any of these connections.
Sometimes this physical map may include an actual physical layout of a particular rack, so you can see exactly where a switch or router may be located on the rack itself. If you look at the back wall of a data center, you may notice a huge wall of wires and punch down blocks. This is a distribution frame, and it’s a way to terminate all of the wires and cables coming into a room to make it much easier to manage as you’re connecting to other devices.
This is usually a set of punch down blocks or patch panels, and it usually includes a number of wires and cables for patching this from one device to another. This is usually located on the wall. We sometimes will mount plywood, and then we’ll put our punch down blocks on top of the plywood.
This is also a great central location to bring in all of the network connections, which makes it very easy when you need to then extend those network connections to other devices. That means that all of your copper and your fiber and any other network connections are probably going to be associated with this distribution frame.
This is so common that the name of the room is also used as a reference to this distribution frame. For example, the central facility where all of your cabling wiring and perhaps your data center may be is the main distribution frame, or the MDF. Not only are we terminating internal links as part of this MDF, we may be bringing outside lines in for wide area network or internet connectivity, and they may be also connected as part of this MDF.
This also makes a very good test point, since a lot of the data going across your network will be traversing the MDF. And if you need to analyze traffic that’s going in and out to the internet, or traffic that may be in the data center, connecting in the MDF may be a perfect location.
Sometimes an MDF may be its own room, but it’s probably more common to see it as part of your existing data center. This makes it easy to use the patch panels on the MDF to connect from a user’s workstation or server into the switches, routers, and other infrastructure devices in the data center. Here’s a better view of this MDF. You can see some of the infrastructure devices on the left hand side, and the punch down blocks and other connections are on the wall in the back of the room.
In larger buildings, where you may have multiple floors, there needs to be a midpoint between the user’s desk and the data center, which may be on a different floor. This midpoint is our intermediate distribution frame, or IDF. The IDF is usually closest to the users, so all of the users on a floor would connect to the IDF, and each IDF would then connect to the MDF. This makes it easy to manage connections because all of your user links can be modified in the IDF, and all of your server connections are usually associated with the MDF.
Here’s a layout that shows a centralized MDF that includes an internet connection with an internet router. There may be database and file servers, and a main central switch in the MDF. In other parts of the building, you might have individual IDFs. The IDFs may have a local work group switch and connect to the users on that particular floor. Sometimes you may not need to see the direct wired connection between devices, but it would be useful to get an overall view of connectivity for the organization.
Instead of having a physical network layout, you could have a logical network layout. You can usually create this using software such as Visio, OmniGraffle, or gliffy.com. This logical network map may show you information about the wide area network connections. It may give you an idea of wireless connectivity, or it may show you application flows. You might bring in a logical network map when trying to determine where to add additional access points or where all of the connections might be for your wide area network.
As network professionals, not only are we documenting our switches and our routers, but we’re also documenting all of the cables in our organization. Fortunately, there is a standard for documentation. This is the ANSI/TIA/EIA 606. It’s the Administration Standard for the Telecommunications Infrastructure of Commercial Buildings.
This can help you with best practices for creating reports, drawings, or work orders based on this cabling, and you can also get an idea of how to document the pathways, the space, the grounding, and how to label all of these cables that are in your organization. Having labels on these cables can be critical, because when problems occur, it’s important to know where both ends of that cable may be. So you need to make sure you have identifiers, labels, or perhaps even color coding or barcoding.
The 606 standard can help quite a bit with understanding the best way to label, and how you can keep that labeling consistent between locations. For example, each of your facilities may be labeled in a very specific way. For example, a label may show CB01-01A-D088.
And if you were to break these apart, you could see that the CB01 is referring to the primary facility. The 01A is referring to the floor and the space on the floor. And then the last value is associated specifically with the data port in that floor and on that space. For important links, it’s also useful to document all of this cabling, especially if you need to find wide area network internet connectivity, or important connections for an application.
If you’re implementing a wireless network, or making changes to your 802.11 network, then you may want to perform a site survey. This will analyze the wireless spectrum where your users might be working, and then you can decide how to make changes to the wireless network to provide the best possible connection.
The site survey will allow you to locate all of the access points, even if they are access points that may be outside of the scope of your organization. This is especially important if you’re in a building that has many different companies inside of it. This will also allow you to see what frequencies those access points may be using. And then, you can configure your access points to avoid any interference.
This is something you may want to do on an ongoing basis, because things may be changing that are outside the scope of your organization, and you may need to make changes to your wireless network based on the changes happening elsewhere. Some applications even allow you to move around the organization and create a heat map of where the best wireless access may be. You could then perform the same heat map later on, and see if you’re getting the same amount of connectivity on the wireless network, or if you may need to make changes to the frequencies and use.
Another type of ongoing documentation is an audit and assessment report. This ensures that your security policies are being properly followed, and you can perform ongoing checks to make sure that all of your data remains secure. You can perform these audits yourself internally, where you can check permissions, look at the access logs, and verify the account status for all of your users. Or you may bring a third party in to perform these audits and checks, and this may be required for compliance purposes.
Some organizations might also create a series of baselines that can help them understand how things might change over time. These baselines could be related to network throughput, or they may be related to application response time. This allows you to understand exactly how performance has been in the past.
You can get an understanding of what’s happening with performance today, and that might help you understand what you could predict for the future. This may allow you to see certain trend lines, where you can see traffic that is increasing or decreasing, or you may be able to see a sharp increase in access, and that may cause you to make some decisions about what you should do next to keep the network up and running.