Welcome!

Containers Expo Blog Authors: Liz McMillan, Stefan Bernbo, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Flint Brenton

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog

Containers Expo Blog: Blog Post

Visualization Tools for Network Engineers

Networking is a visual field

Networking is a visual field.  In fact, we can generalize and say all of IT is.  Come to think of it, is there a technical field that isn’t?  In this post, I’ll cover a handful of visualization tools that have recently helped me think through and communicate difficult Network Engineering stuff.

Graphics Tablet

Earlier this year I acquired Wacom Cintiq Companion Hybrid tablet.  It has an array of features designed for artists that also happen to be quite useful in other applications such as vector graphics drawing tools.  For instance, it has extra buttons on the front panel that can be mapped to functions within your graphics apps.  The pen also has two buttons on it which similarly can be assigned to application functions.  If you are used to a tool like Visio or Inkscape, then these buttons come in very handy for things like multiple selection, grouping, saving, and undoing.  The menus in some of the graphics apps are cumbersome too use while drawing, so being able to assign buttons to certain actions brings the frustration level down when you are first getting used to using the pen.

Graphics tablets (and I include the i7 Surface Pro 3 here) generally have beefier processors, more RAM, and richer displays than your average tablet.  This makes the response time with the pen feel instantaneous.  On lesser tablets, the response time isn’t as great, and it seems like the tablet is trying to keep up with your hand.  The better screen on a graphics tablet causes the perceived depth between the tip of the pen and what you are drawing to be a lot less, and therefore drawing feels more natural.  All that extra hardware has other benefits too:  Video games and movies look and feel great. If you’re a comic book nerd, then I have good news for you.  The larger, richer display gives the comics more life while making them more immersive.

But back to networking.  The point here is that you will end up using a variety of tools loaded with features.  Network diagrams are detailed and large.  A decent graphics tablet with good response, a large clear display, and fine pen controls is a great match for the visual network engineer.  Especially if you make your own stencils or do other kinds of artwork.

The Wacom tablet has another excellent feature:  You can plug it into a Mac or Windows PC and it will “pause” Android and become a second screen!  This is particularly handy when collaborating on Google Hangouts.  You can share your second screen and draw on it with your pen.  When you attach the tablet to your PC, your PC automatically mounts the tablet’s storage.  So any drawings you create can be saved and later edited when you are back in “Android” mode.

Software

Omnigraffle and Visio are standards for network diagramming.  Neither of these is available on Android.  However, there are several options that are just as good.  The two highest quality tools are TouchDraw and Grapholite.  TouchDraw by Elevenworks is a bit ahead of Grapholite in terms of feature development, and their software is available on iPad, Mac, Google Play, Amazon Appstore, and Samsung Apps.  They are constantly adding new features, and overall the tool looks and feels great.  TouchDraw also supports assigning the volume buttons on your device to functions within the app.  The only thing that’s missing, for me, is an isometric grid.

Referential Space

Fig 1: Referential Space

However, there is a well-known tool now available on Android that provides such a grid:  Inkscape! With the better hardware, a decent graphics tablet can run this app with no problems.  I drew the “referential space” diagram with Inkscape.  Plus it comes with GIMP… and a super secret bonus for Android users:  These two apps are actually running inside of a VM on your android, and you have terminal access to this VM.  So you can install other packages on it as well using “apt-get.”

There is also SyncSpace.  This is a great way to blast out a diagram while in a meeting with remote people.  Just open the tool, start a new diagram, and share the URL for it.  Anybody can see you draw live with their browser on a Mac or PC, and folks with their own tablets can actually draw in the same space as you at the same time.

Whiteboard and Markers

There are several whiteboard notebook products out on the marketplace, but one came recommended to me:  Wipebook.  I carry this around with me everywhere I travel now.  What is it?  It’s a notebook with whiteboard pages.  One nice feature of the Wipebook is that you can get the “paper” with a grid on it.  Also, your drawings generally won’t smudge.  When you’re done with a drawing, you can simply erase it.  Although, erasing doesn’t work so good with the erasing end of the Wipebook markers.  I’ve found using a cloth with a little bit of whiteboard cleaner works great.  You can pull the pages out too, in case you want to scan them.  You might be wondering, what is the point?  Well for some reason when you pick up those markers, you go straight into visualizing your thoughts.  I think we’ve just been conditioned over time to associate dry-erase markers with a different mode of thinking.

Finally, if you have a home office, then do yourself a favor and spend the money on a large whiteboard and let it fill one of your walls.  Buy the 10 marker box-set (colors are good).  Sometimes standing and drawing on a large surface just makes everything better.  If you have kids, they’ll love it.  They’ll ruin your markers though because they don’t care about your feelings.  That’s OK.  You can celebrate the tears on their sad faces after you eat an entire pint of ice cream in front of them.

Conclusion

Whether you’re using an Android, iPad, or Windows tablet, a decent graphics tablet is a network engineer’s friend.  There is plenty of great graphics tools available on all varieties of tablets, so finding one that you like and that works on the various platforms you use should not be too difficult.  While technology is great, though, don’t forget how good it feels to draw with dry-erase markers.  Whiteboard notebooks are light and easy to use and for larger spaces, nothing beats a big ol’ whiteboard.

[Fun fact: The number "j" was not considered a planet until they found seeds in it.  Oh, the irony.]

[PS:  Seriously though, the letter "j" was not considered an official part of the alphabet until the 19th century.]

The post Visualization Tools for Network Engineers appeared first on Plexxi.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Derick Winkworth

Derick Winkworth has been a developer, network engineer, and IT architect in various verticals throughout his career.He is currently a Product Manager at Plexxi, Inc where he focuses on workflow automation and product UX.

@ThingsExpo Stories
"Dice has been around for the last 20 years. We have been helping tech professionals find new jobs and career opportunities," explained Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smar...
Successful digital transformation requires new organizational competencies and capabilities. Research tells us that the biggest impediment to successful transformation is human; consequently, the biggest enabler is a properly skilled and empowered workforce. In the digital age, new individual and collective competencies are required. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bob Newhouse, CEO and founder of Agilitiv, drew together recent research and lessons learned from emerging and established compa...
Extracting business value from Internet of Things (IoT) data doesn’t happen overnight. There are several requirements that must be satisfied, including IoT device enablement, data analysis, real-time detection of complex events and automated orchestration of actions. Unfortunately, too many companies fall short in achieving their business goals by implementing incomplete solutions or not focusing on tangible use cases. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products...
Businesses and business units of all sizes can benefit from cloud computing, but many don't want the cost, performance and security concerns of public cloud nor the complexity of building their own private clouds. Today, some cloud vendors are using artificial intelligence (AI) to simplify cloud deployment and management. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Ajay Gulati, Co-founder and CEO of ZeroStack, will discuss how AI can simplify cloud operations. He will cover the following topics: why clou...
The WebRTC Summit New York, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 20th International Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo. WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web ...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life sett...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web communications world. The 6th WebRTC Summit continues our tradition of delivering the latest and greatest presentations within the world of WebRTC. Topics include voice calling, video chat, P2P file sharing, and use cases that have already leveraged the power and convenience of WebRTC.
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their backend AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT - especially in the connected home and office. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Kocher, founder and managing director of Grey Heron, explained how Amazon is extending its reach to become a major force in IoT by building on its dominant cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strat...
Internet-of-Things discussions can end up either going down the consumer gadget rabbit hole or focused on the sort of data logging that industrial manufacturers have been doing forever. However, in fact, companies today are already using IoT data both to optimize their operational technology and to improve the experience of customer interactions in novel ways. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Gordon Haff, Red Hat Technology Evangelist, will share examples from a wide range of industries – includin...
"We build IoT infrastructure products - when you have to integrate different devices, different systems and cloud you have to build an application to do that but we eliminate the need to build an application. Our products can integrate any device, any system, any cloud regardless of protocol," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Once customers get a year into their IoT deployments, they start to realize that they may have been shortsighted in the ways they built out their deployment and the key thing I see a lot of people looking at is - how can I take equipment data, pull it back in an IoT solution and show it in a dashboard," stated Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, provided an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data professionals...
Fact is, enterprises have significant legacy voice infrastructure that’s costly to replace with pure IP solutions. How can we bring this analog infrastructure into our shiny new cloud applications? There are proven methods to bind both legacy voice applications and traditional PSTN audio into cloud-based applications and services at a carrier scale. Some of the most successful implementations leverage WebRTC, WebSockets, SIP and other open source technologies. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Da...
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
"IoT is going to be a huge industry with a lot of value for end users, for industries, for consumers, for manufacturers. How can we use cloud to effectively manage IoT applications," stated Ian Khan, Innovation & Marketing Manager at Solgeniakhela, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
@GonzalezCarmen has been ranked the Number One Influencer and @ThingsExpo has been named the Number One Brand in the “M2M 2016: Top 100 Influencers and Brands” by Onalytica. Onalytica analyzed tweets over the last 6 months mentioning the keywords M2M OR “Machine to Machine.” They then identified the top 100 most influential brands and individuals leading the discussion on Twitter.
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
Information technology is an industry that has always experienced change, and the dramatic change sweeping across the industry today could not be truthfully described as the first time we've seen such widespread change impacting customer investments. However, the rate of the change, and the potential outcomes from today's digital transformation has the distinct potential to separate the industry into two camps: Organizations that see the change coming, embrace it, and successful leverage it; and...