Retire network diagrams, you say? How will you know where the servers are? What about the network connecting everything together? Isn’t this stuff important? Yes, absolutely! All of the above is important, but the details are becoming increasingly less important to you.
Network diagrams are a great for documenting the details of all the pieces that come together to delivery an application or service. The network diagram describes the critical pieces of infrastructure that you own and control, so when things don’t work right you know where to starting looking. Everything else gets bundled up into a ‘cloud.’ That’s the big, gray, ill-defined blob in the middle of your network diagram.
Clouds hide unnecessary complexity in network diagrams. When you see a cloud you know someone else is responsible for taking care of whatever is behind it. What used to contain just service provider connectivity components, the cloud now contains almost about anything.
Virtualization is clearly a significant force in datacenters today. Servers no longer have a physical place in the rack. They’re out there somewhere, but it isn’t always easy to reach out and touch them. The same virtualization process is occurring with cloud computing platforms, software as a service applications, content distribution networks, etc. These changes are leading to fundamental shift the network infrastructure and network diagrams.
Network diagrams match the physical reality of your environment. With details like switch port numbers, rack location and even physical location neatly buried inside a cloud. Network diagrams are beginning to look like a collection of clouds with sticky notes attached telling you what services are hosted within.
For those of us who take care of the details of infrastructure management, we’ll always have a need for network diagrams. But as our fundamental infrastructures change, so too must our network diagrams. Some people will simply cast their lot with their carriers and service providers, plugging into their clouds and making the best of it. But I suspect that many other IT and NOC managers and staffers will demand new, end-to-end network diagrams for their key services. And they’ll want these diagrams to have same level of clarity and specificity as in their old ones had.
Clouds are changing the way we think about IT. The role of networking continues on its evolution from physical device to virtual service, and that necessitates change to everything – including the humble network diagram.
– Chris Norris
Director, Product Management