What is network topology mapping? Exploring the benefits, methods & types

What is network topology mapping? Exploring the benefits, methods & types

Table of Contents

What is network topology?

Network topology mapping is a crucial practice for efficient network management. With the help of specialized software, administrators can accurately map out the components and connections of their network in a comprehensive and visualizable way. Network mappers offer an array of features, including on-demand multi-level network discovery, real-time mapping, and asset inventory reports. Hence, administrators can get an overview of their entire infrastructure quickly. 

Additionally, they can optimize alternative network configurations to improve performance or troubleshoot potential issues. While network mapping focuses on recording what nodes are connected to the network, it does not attempt to gather any further information regarding its users or services. 

Enumeration plays a vital role here, probing connected nodes for sophisticated information such as usernames, groups, services, and ports. This advanced information collection aids administrators while employing proper enumeration. Simultaneously, administrators also carry out a process of mapping for extensive analysis. Through effective mapping and enumeration, administrators can understand their network’s performance and security better.

Why do you need a network topology mapper?

Network topology mapping is essential to ensure a well-functioning and secure IT infrastructure. Topology mappers allow IT administrators to create detailed network diagrams. Thus showing the different elements that make up the system, such as servers, routers, firewalls, and switches. 

It allows administrators to identify problems quickly—such as overloaded links or bottlenecks in certain areas of the network. It also helps them to anticipate potential failures before they occur.

Additionally, you can use topology maps to detect malicious connections on the network more efficiently than traditional methods. It is since they show the relationships between various devices. Organizations can take proactive steps towards improving their networks’ performance and security. They do it by using these maps in conjunction with other software, such as network performance monitoring tools.

Plus, keeping an up-to-date topology map is essential for businesses seeking compliance with specific industry regulations that require detailed insight into their networks’ structure. Ultimately, it helps you achieve the following:

  • Gain end-to-end visibility into your network
  • Monitor network updates in real-time
  • Troubleshoot issues as they occur
  • Discover assets from multiple environments in real-time
  • Better control over your network and its security

Types of network topology maps

You can use several types of network topology maps to get started. Here are a few examples:

Physical network maps

Physical network maps visually represent the layout of all the physical components. It includes desktops, printers, servers, and other devices connected to a particular network. These maps also document the cables and wires that connect these devices. Thus enabling technicians to identify faulty connections or potential problems. 

In addition, physical network maps help technicians plan out efficient cable routings. It is to optimize the performance of their networks and minimize congestion. Also, it can be beneficial when deploying new equipment or upgrading existing hardware. It is also an essential reference tool for locating specific hardware components when troubleshooting and repairing network issues.

Layer 2 & 3 network maps

Layer 2 and 3 network maps are invaluable mapping tools for IT and network professionals. It helps to visualize how devices are connected. Also, layer 2 maps visually represent the links between devices, showing the different paths they can take to communicate. It also provides an understanding of available bandwidth and potential congestion points in the network.

On the other hand, Layer 3 mapping scans for IPs of devices. It helps to build out a map and determine which networks and subnets they are associated with. It allows IT professionals to quickly identify issues or problems related to routing protocols and IP addressing systems.

With this information, IT professionals can effectively manage their networks by being able to see changes as soon as they occur and make adjustments to improve performance if needed. Additionally, tracking traffic levels on each device is vital for preventing dead zones from forming due to overloads within the infrastructure. 

Layer 2 and 3 mapping enable IT professionals to closely monitor their network’s status so that any issues can be addressed promptly, ensuring that all devices have reliable connectivity.

Logical flow network maps

Logical network maps illustrate the routing and communication of data from one device to another within a network. Unlike physical network maps, which show the physical locations of devices such as servers, routers, and switches, logical network maps provide an abstract representation of how data flows within a system. 

A typical logical network map includes components such as subnets, routing protocols, and firewalls, all essential elements for managing and regulating data flow across a given network. You can use these diagrams to detect potential data bottlenecks or misconfigurations in a network setting that could lead to security risks or performance issues. 

Additionally, by using logical network maps, IT administrators can see how different systems may be interconnected so that appropriate security measures can be implemented accordingly.

Automated live network topology maps

Automated network maps are digital diagrams that provide IT teams with an up-to-date view of their network infrastructure. These maps are generated from real-time data, allowing them to monitor the status of each device in the network—including its location, connections, and performance metrics. 

They offer enhanced visibility into the underlying structure and performance of the entire system. It makes it easier for IT teams to make informed decisions about their network, such as whether to upgrade equipment or troubleshoot connectivity issues. Additionally, they can quickly spot potential security risks before they become a serious problem. 

Automated live network maps also help reduce the time spent managing networks and making updates manually by providing IT teams with more accurate and comprehensive information in one centralized place. As a result, IT teams can save time while improving their overall efficiency. One such tool is Virima which uses automated discovery scans to locate assets in your network and create dynamic service maps from that data. This helps asset managers maintain an accurate inventory of their assets and know what is happening in their network at all times.

Network topology mapping methods

Here are the three most common methods used to map your network:

Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)

Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) is an internet protocol that collects information on managed devices across a computer network. It allows system administrators to query and change system variables for different IT assets.

SNMP is based on the management information base (MIB), which stores data about each of these managed devices. This data can be used to represent the network topology to understand the infrastructure better accurately.

SNMP consists of three components: managers, agents, and a database of object definitions referred to as MIBs. The manager is responsible for retrieving information from or sending commands to the agents; in turn, the agent is responsible for collecting or providing relevant information from or within its managed device. 

Additionally, SNMPv2 includes an extra component called proxy-agent which acts as a bridge between SNMP entities in different networks. For this communication protocol to work efficiently, the managers must define which objects will be monitored by each one of its agents via MIBs so that they can make sense of the collected data when it gets back from them.

Active Probing

Active probing uses data retrieved from probe packets to create a network topology, which helps diagnose any issues with the network. 

You can also use it to gather more detailed information about the performance of a specific network and its links. This technique can provide data on bandwidth utilization, packet loss rate, latency/delay, and other parameters critical for understanding a given network’s overall performance. 

Plus, it allows changes in the topology over time to be monitored and documented, making it easier to detect any potential issues or faults with existing links or nodes. It makes it possible for administrators to respond quickly and resolve potential problems before they become severe or widespread. 

One disadvantage of active probing is that it requires specialized applications and expertise, which is also why it is mainly used for diagnosis only. However, these tools are essential for ensuring optimal network performance.

Route Analytics Software

Route Analytics Software automatically discover devices in the network using layer 2 and layer 3 information. It provides real-time monitoring and actionable analytics to improve the overall efficiency of networks. Also, it offers an array of features such as route history, fault detection and isolation, performance diagnostics, traffic analytics, bandwidth management, and troubleshooting capabilities. 

It helps users understand their network’s infrastructure, performance issues, and compliance requirements. It also helps improve visibility over traffic paths, identify vulnerable segments in a network, and detect anomalies before they can cause serious damage. Administrators can proactively mitigate potential threats from malicious actors by gaining improved knowledge of flows between hosts or devices. 

Additionally, the network mapping software can quickly identify problematic devices or links that need to be modified or replaced for better performance.

Map your network with real-time topology maps using Virima

Network topology mapping is an invaluable asset for IT teams. By understanding the network’s structure, IT teams can more effectively troubleshoot and diagnose issues and optimize and secure the networks to ensure optimal performance. 

It provides IT teams with the critical insights they need to make informed network design, implementation, and maintenance decisions. With the advent of new technologies like IT discovery and service mapping, network visualization tools are becoming even more powerful, allowing IT teams to identify potential problems and establish effective mitigation strategies quickly. By leveraging data collected through topology mapping, IT teams can create comprehensive plans that promote efficient operations while safeguarding against potential risks.

Virima’s IT Discovery feature helps asset managers understand their network in detail by providing greater visibility into on-premise assets and cloud resources. Through agentless IP-based network scanning and an optional agent for Windows, Virima ensures full integration with its CMDB and leading ITSM platforms, such as ServiceNow, Ivanti, and more. With 100+ probes and integrations with cloud providers like AWS and Azure, Virima can automatically detect thousands of assets. 

ViVID (Virima Visual Impact Display) Service Mapping enables asset managers to map application dependencies, business services, and ITSM process relationships. It allows them to better visualize the structure of their IT infrastructure for improved performance and optimization. Additionally, it aids in understanding the impact of changes on the overall network to ensure stability and compliance. By leveraging these powerful tools to gain insight into how everything is connected in their environment, asset managers can reduce operational costs while keeping an eye on their network at all times.

Are you interested in mapping your network? Book a demo with Virima now, and let us show you can leverage it to map your IT infrastructure.

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