10 essential Mac tools for enterprise network admins

CCIE and Mac enthusiast Brandon Carroll lists his must-have apps for network admins who use a Mac and live in the Cisco World.

I've been an avid Mac user for a number of years now. I don't know what it is that makes the Mac so appealing to me, but I know its tightly related to the quality of the applications that I own and the usefulness of them. I'd like to share with you my top 10 must-have apps for someone who uses a Mac and lives in the Cisco World.

#1 Zoc6 (via Emtec)

Zoc6 is a fantastic terminal application that supports SSH, Telnet, SCP and Direct Console access.  Since the Mac doesn't have a serial port and I need access to the console port of my routers and firewalls I went with a Keyspan USB adapter that I can then use to connect a console cable to my Mac. The I use Zoc6 to connect to the CLI.  Sure you can use screen, but its limited in its features and with Zoc6's scripting capability and it's ability to record you actions and save them as a script as well I love this app.  One other aspect I appreciate is the colored tabs to indicate different connections.  I like to quickly be able to identify my favorite connections and the color coding helps me to do that.

#2 iTerm (via sourceforge)

I had to list iTerm here because I like it a lot, and I use it frequently.  It's not my ideal terminal application, however it is solid and gets the job done.  It works well for telnet and ssh connections as well as your standard shell workflows, but it doesn't have an easy serial connection capability that I have found, other than screen.

#3 ipcal (via Darwinports)

ipcalc is one of those little apps that are just handy.  Basically what you have here is a subnet calculator that hides itself well.  Being that I am on the command line most of the time anyhow I appreciate simple command line utilities like this.  Give it an address and mask and it will break down the Address, Netmask, Wildcard Mask [Useful in creating ACLs] as well as the Network address, First Host, Last Host, and Broadcast address.  Top it off with a decimal and binary representation of both and you have everything you were supposed to learn as an CCNA right in front of your eyes.

#4 Omnigraffle (via the Omni Group)

Omnigraffle is the best alternative to Visio for the Mac.  In fact, it's one of the only ones I've found.  It's very powerful and even has an iPad version.  If you have to create network diagrams this is the app for you.

#5 Wireshark (via Wireshark.org)

It's a no-brainer that Wireshark makes my list. I've used Wireshark since back in the "Ethereal" days and I can't go without it. If you are doing something like Flexible Packet Matching [FPM] on a Router or even configuring the Modular Policy Framework [MPF] on an ASA, Wireshark is your best friend.  If you don't have it, what are you using currently?

#6 CorD (via Sourceforge)

CorD is a great app for accessing Remote Desktop devices and picks up where the Windows Version for Mac falls short. Basically this little app gives you a nice drawer to house all of your saved connections and allows you to easily switch between them.

#7 TextWrangler (via Bare Bones)

If you spend a lot of time looking at config files then TextWrangler is a great free app. It highlights the lines you are looking at and has good find/replace capabilities.  I've tried other apps and for some reason I always go back to this one.  It's simple and effective and for that reason I don't see a real need to waste time looking at anything else.

#8 Transmit (via Panic)

When copying files to and from servers I recommend using Transmit. This well designed FTP/SFTP/WebDAV/S3 client is packet with power. I personally use the folders to save favorites. I like the fact that it supports Amazon S3 and also how it allows me to easily access my iDisk.

#9 iStumbler (via iStumbler.net)

Work in an Wireless Environment or just interested in what else is out there? iStumbler takes care of that for you. This app is similar to the Windows Application "Network Stumbler" but it's free and it does what I need it to do.

#10 Nmap (via Darwinports)

Nmap comes in handy if you want to find out what services are enabled on a particular server. I use this when I create firewall rules so that I can ensure that I either allow or deny ports based on what's needed, not what's open. I also use Nmap to make sure that my network doesn't have anything out there that's listening but that I don't expect to be there.

Well that's my top 10.  Please feel free to add you own in the comments section.

See the Gallery version of this post, which includes screenshots of each tool.

About Brandon Carroll

Brandon Carroll has been in the industry since the late 90s specializing in data networking and network security in the enterprise and data center. Brandon holds the CCIE in security and is a published author in network security.

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