Map-Driven Network Automation

Automated documentation, troubleshooting and change management

Back to the top

CAD for Network Engineers CAD for Network Engineers

Mechanical engineers and building designers have relied on Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and modeling tools for decades - to visualize and interact with raw engineering data. Now, NetBrain’s Computer-Aided Network Engineering (CANE) tool applies this same benefit to network management. With NetBrain, Network Management professionals can visualize and interact with their critical networks through a model-driven interface - in the form of a network map. Each network map in NetBrain represents a rendering of a complex network model, built from inventory, topology and design data.

CAD Applied to Mechanical EngineeringCAD Applied to Network Management

Back to the top

Visual Network Intelligence Visual Network Intelligence

How Does NetBrain 'Know' My Network?

The network model, which NetBrain builds and maintains, represents a collective intelligence of the network’s topology, configuration, and underlying design. NetBrain builds this model during an initial network discovery. The ‘neighbor-walking’ discovery algorithm leverages a combination of SNMP and Telnet/SSH to index the network, as a Network Engineer would, through a combination of ‘show’, ‘get’, and similar commands. NetBrain issues thousands of these commands during the discovery and then parses and analyzes the results to build a mathematical representation of the network. This network model is kept up-to-date with recurring snapshots known as benchmarks.

How Computer-Aided Network Engineering Works

What does NetBrain Know about my Network?

NetBrain’s discovery algorithm collects and parses data from device configuration files, route tables, CDP tables, ARP tables, MAC tables, STP tables and more. NetBrain learns from the output of these tables to understand the network’s underlying design elements such as dynamic routing, QoS, spanning-tree design, etc. If it can be learned through the command line interface or SNMP, NetBrain knows about it.

NetBrain Collects detailed Data during Discovery

Back to the top

Dynamic Mapping Dynamic Mapping

Each dynamic map within NetBrain represents a high-fidelity rendering of the larger network model. A device on the map is far more than an icon - containing hundreds of properties and characteristics. When network changes occur, the dynamic maps are updated automatically by re-rendering the latest network snapshots. The data lying beneath the map is accessible through intuitive controls and actions, like NetBrain’s unique ‘Observer Cards’ or ‘Design Reader’. Each dynamic map serves as a user-interface, not just a diagram, allowing users to monitor live network performance or telnet/SSH to a device.

Learn more about dynamic mapping »

How Are Dynamic Maps Built?

A dynamic map is a highly interactive tool that allows users to harness the power of the network’s configuration and design data. NetBrain’s intuitive user interface allows Network Engineers to build dynamic maps on-demand in a variety of ways:

  • Search for any device or interface by IP Address, hostname, model number, serial number, MAC address, IOS/software version or any keyword in the configuration file.
  • Create a Layer-3 or Layer-2 map of an application path simply from source and destination IP addresses.
  • Create a multicasting Source Tree from multiple group addresses.

Simple Input Detailed Output

Back to the top

Customizable Automation Customizable Automation

In enterprise network management, automation is traditionally achieved through in-house scripting or select NCCM tools. In-house scripts are highly customizable but complex to create and maintain. Existing NCCM tools are often powerful but of limited use due to lack of customization. Map-driven automation fundamentally changes this landscape by offering an intuitive programming environment for customizable automation. The building block for this customizable automation is called Automation Procedures.

Hundreds of Automation Procedures are included with the NetBrain install. These built-in procedures provide just a sample of what can be accomplished through customizable automation, including the following:

  • Automatically check for routing table changes.
  • Run a diagnosis to troubleshoot a noisy link or BGP neighbor issue.
  • Execute compliance verification checks by parsing hundreds of configuration files.
  • Execute a set of pings against a group of targets to verify connectivity.
  • Measure delay, jitter, and packet loss across a VoIP path.

Automation Procedures Collect, Analyze, and Correlate Data from the Network

Introducing Qapp

Similar to adding a new app to your smartphone, you can extend NetBrain’s built-in capabilities with a NetBrain ‘Qapp’. A Qapp is a feature add-on (often consisting of one or more automation procedures) which adds functionality to the NetBrain UI. Unlike traditional smartphone apps that rely on a developer community, Qapps can be programmed by any network engineer with minimal training, and no scripting. A Qapp will digitize an engineer’s network expertise and makes it executable and re-usable for the whole team. Similar to an app store, NetBrain’s Qapp Exchange offers a resource for you to download or share a Qapp for virtually any task.

Visit Qapp Exchange »

Example Qapp - Diagnose Interface Issues

Benefits of Map-Driven Automation vs. Scripting

The table below summarizes the advantages of NetBrain’s automation procedures and customizable Qapps as compared to in-house scripts:

Traditional In-House Scripts

NetBrain’s Automation Procedures

Require a scripting expert to create and maintain. Any engineer can create. An intuitive programming environment uses sample data from live network and flow charts to define procedure logic.
Designed to run on a specific network segment. Can be run on any part of the network.
Difficult to execute – usually run by the same person who wrote the script. Procedures and Qapps are run from NetBrain UI on a dynamic map.
Difficult to analyze and store the results. Results are displayed directly on the map and easy to interpret. The map can then be saved and shared.
Back to the top

Summary

Leveraging the technology behind dynamic mapping and map-driven automation, NetBrain is designed to automate the time-consuming and manual tasks that network engineers face every day:

  • Troubleshooting

    Use NetBrain to troubleshoot virtually any network problem including:

    • Slow applications
    • Unstable networks
    • Multicasting issues
    • Spanning-tree problems
    • Dynamic routing protocol

    Learn more about Visual Troubleshooting »

  • Creation of Detailed Documentation

    NetBrain automates the process of creating documentation of your entire network. Having detailed documentation at your fingertips simplifies inventory management, design reviews, compliance audits, and more. NetBrain’s dynamic maps can also be exported to MS Visio or Word, making it easy to share critical network data within your team.

    Learn more about Automated Documentation »

  • Change Verification and Management

    NetBrain’s benchmarks keep a detailed record of historical network data. During a network change, you can compare this historical data against the current data to see changes in topology, configuration, routing, and more. By capturing benchmark data before and after a network change, you can verify the impact a change made to the network with comparative analysis.

    Learn more about Automated Change Verification »

Ready for more? See it in action. WATCH DEMO