Originally published on December 1, 1995.
Ten years ago, your company might have had two IBM PC’s sitting one one desk in the same office. It was trivially easy to know all there was to know about your computer and communications resources. Now you might find yourself keeping track of 1,000 computers, routers, hubs, and LAN and WAN links spread across 10 domestic cities and another three abroad. You certainly can’t keep track of it in your head any more, and even the gigantic, taped-up, scribbled-on paper chart on the wall has become cumbersome to maintain. If any of this sounds familiar, you need NetViz.
At first blush, NetViz looks like another template based drawing program like Corel Chart or Vizio. NetViz goes much deeper, however. Like its little cousins, NetViz provides customizable collections of equipment symbols on a “Node Pallets.” To put a router in your drawing, for example, just drag the router picture from the Pallet and drop it where you want it. Lots of links are available, like 10BaseT, T1, or Serial, to connect your equipment together. With just this, it is quick and easy to draw an accurate diagram of a single LAN.
Diagrams are nice, but need some data behind them to really make them useful. Each item dropped on the diagram can have attached to it an “attribute table” that lists such things as the name of who’s using the computer, in which room the computer is located, what software is loaded and licensed on it, what expansion cards are installed, how much RAM and how much disk. Although NetViz won’t reach out across the network and do the inventory for you, it will dump and load this data externally via ASCII files.
This is all fine for one LAN, but what about the Cairo office? What about Rome? Heck, what about the building just across the street? Of course such a diverse drawing would become unmanagable complex very quickly. The solution in NetViz is creating separate drawings for each local network, then linking them together into a hierarchal master drawing. This way, you can diagram your LAN in one drawing, diagram the LAN for the office across the street in another drawing, then connect them showing the wireless microwave link you used to bridge the gap. The links between the drawings mimics the actual links between the networks.
This holds true even as the scale gets bigger. An international organization would end up with a map of the world and red circles on each office. Links between the remote locations show whether it is a T1/E1, satellite, or whatever. Click on an office to zoom into that office, looking at the floor plan and a graphical depiction of where every piece of equipment is located. Click a computer, and see the manifest of what that computer contains.
NetViz comes on CD-ROM to make the installation easy if you have a CD-ROM drive, and on six 3.5″ diskettes to make it possible otherwise. There is no option to run from the CD, but during the instal l you can select parts not to install – notably the maps and graphics filters. Of the 57Mb default CD installation, 39Mb are maps of countries, states and counties. Installing from the floppies offers only a subset of the maps. The maps carry a high cost in disk space, perhaps, but are quite valuable in presenting a clear picture of the organization of far-flung networks, and you can select grow ups of maps (counties only, for instance) if your networks won’t soon be going national or international. Likewise, if you don’t anticipate using some of the dozens of graphics filters available, then omit them at installation and save some space. You can always go back later and install and stray ones you might need.
NetViz requires Windows, so I tried NetViz on a 75 Mhz Pentium with 8Mb running Windows for Workgroups 3.11 and it ran great. The same machine with Windows 95 required a small patch downloaded from Quyen’s BBS, but then ran as advertised. Under Windows95, however, the patch made it more difficult to go back and load different maps or filters from the install program.
NetViz 2.0 Queyen Systems Inc. 1300 Piccard Drive, Suite 108 Rockville, MD 20850 U.S.A. (301) 258-5087 Phone (301) 258-5088 Fax