Microsoft Visio remains the tool most widely used by administrators for network diagramming and documentation. The Professional version of Visio comes with many shapes and objects for servers, devices, and other things you'll find in the data center, but it doesn't include many objects for diagramming rack servers.
In an earlier article, I explained how to use Visio to diagram rack-mounted hardware, and I included a downloadable stencil that offered objects representing various rack-mountable servers. I have now updated that stencil to include many rack-mountable network devices. Like its predecessor, this stencil is a free download.
Using the stencil
The stencil is for use in Visio 2000 or later. To install it, you simply need to place it in your \Program Files\Visio\Solutions folder, and it will show up on your Open Stencil menu, as shown in Figure A.
If you installed the earlier version of the stencil (rack_hardware.vss), you can delete it and add this new one. This new stencil has all of the original content but adds the following features:
- Various rack/cabinet sizes in ascending and descending numbers
- Popular Nortel, Cisco, Foundry, and Nokia devices
- Patch panel plates for 1-6 U rack sizes
- Generic router and switch add-ins with logos
- Some content delivery and encryption accelerator devices
Using the new devices in the stencil will let you document your rack-mounted hardware in greater detail. Figure B shows a sample Visio drawing using a combination of the new and original objects from the stencil.
Combine this with other tools
Keep in mind that when engaging in rack hardware design, you can find tools from your equipment suppliers that can help you deliver the best solution. Cisco, for example, offers the online Cisco Configuration Tool to aid in configuring Cisco equipment and accessories. This can definitely assist you best in prepurchase decisions, but it also offers a nice interface to add options to Cisco equipment. The Cisco Configuration Tool offers compatibility checking, an exportable inventory of your selected items, and a tutorial feature. Figure C shows a preview of the Cisco Configuration Tool.
For those who work with Compaq servers, a similar tool is the Compaq Rack Builder. Even though Compaq is now part of HP, its tool is still called the Compaq Rack Builder, and it works only with historically Compaq-branded products like the ProLiant, TaskSmart, and Alpha systems.
Poke around with the updated stencil and try many of the new shapes in a sample diagram. It should help you better document your network’s rack-mounted hardware.
Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.