There is no doubt that as we continue to move further into cloud networking and infrastructure our environments are evolving daily. This rapid pace of change is failing to keep up with the expectation that your team knows "how it works" and "what it looks like". Keeping network diagrams up to date is often the last thing on most engineers mind, until the time you need them which in some cases is too late.
Manual creation and updating of diagrams are tedious and time-consuming and not that effective with continuous change. These days we have the ability to automate the process of generating and drawing a diagram, getting the information straight from the source of truth.
"Network diagrams should just be something automated"
In the following video by Greg Ferro he explains his opinion about whats wrong with the modern practice of network diagrams - outlining the time and cost of updating and maintaining diagrams:
Video: Two Beer Networking – Whats Wrong With Network Diagrams ?
I think that the time for Network Diagrams is coming to a close.
1. It takes large amounts of time (and thus money) to produce diagrams.
2. Maintaining diagrams is difficult, costly and something that should be automated.
3. Networks are not static today. Overlays, IPsec Tunnels, VMs, virtual appliances. How can a diagram stay up to date with manual changes.
4. A diagram is better than nothing but anything is better than a diagram.
5. Who extracts value from a diagram? Executives, project managers? (Of course, you do but mostly that a by product of writing it down)
"Network diagrams tools will never be particularly successful. We're never going to see a market for network diagrams, and increasingly, that market is actually going away. Why? And I'll talk more about that in a little while, but of course, the answer is ..."
It takes a large amount of time.
"Network diagrams are incredibly hard to do, there are no tools that are optimized for it, yes we all use Visio, I use Omnigraffle for it, but really the time that we've taken to create that stuff is just not a very efficient use of time. It's incredibly expensive. I've spent weeks doing diagrams at highly inflated consultancy rates."
Hava is an automated network diagram tool for cloud providers like AWS and Azure, a product that was borne out of our frustration as IT consultants when it came to begin work on a new project. The answer to the question “so, what does it look like?” was almost always met with an inevitable shrug, so the first few days were spent coming up to speed with the new architecture. Time spent piecing together and mapping out their systems before recommendations be made and the real work commence.
Networks are no longer static.
"In reality, network diagrams are pretty awful. They don't really capture any of the information you want. As data centers get more complicated, we're looking at things like VMWare NSX, we're looking at virtual firewalls and virtual appliances. What's the meaning of a network diagram when your virtual appliances are actually dynamic, they actually move around?"
Hava uses automated layouts to display your cloud infrastructure as it is, right now. Different diagrams, with different intents are generated depending on the resources within your environment. Our Infrastructure diagram brings a resource-centric view to your VPCs and Virtual Networks, allowing you to see which instances, databases and load balancers belong to a particular subnet or network. You're able to see connections between resources (e.g. instances belonging to a load balancer backend), drill-down and see resource attributes, security configurations, cost estimates and more. At a glance you're able to see how resources are placed within subnets, balanced across availability zones, and potential misconfiguration or bottlenecks within your environments.
Start thinking about automated diagrams
"What I'm trying to say is, I think the time for network diagrams is probably passing us by, and over the next few years, this idea of manually creating diagrams is probably pretty much done, and we need to start thinking about a post-diagram world where the network configuration is automatically updated in some sort of a platform."
We all need to start somewhere, but in a post-manually-drawn-diagram world, spending time update diagrams for environments that change on a daily basis - those diagrams are only useful for you today, long-term it is becoming an increasingly pointless task.
Not only can Hava help with the initial creation of a diagram, versioning support will allow your team to track and display changes over time. Watch how your environments morph and change during their lifecycle. Better yet, make use of our output in a way that suits your organisation and audience. You can view and export our diagrams in many file formats including PNG, PDF, Visio, CSV
The future of network diagrams
Like Greg, we also believe that manually drawing network diagrams are going to be a thing of the past. Connecting directly to the source of truth to automatically generate a visualization of your network will be the way moving forward. Allowing you stay up to date with no effort, and giving your team more time to focus on the things that actually matter.