US 5821937 Computer method for updating a network design

ABSTRACT – A method for designing networks including auditing a network to discover a present network configuration, creating a network design sheet from the discovered network configuration, placing device icons representing intelligent device objects on the network design sheet, selecting a media type representing an intelligent media object, and connecting the media type to a first one of the device icons. The method further includes validating the connection to the first one of the device icons.


This invention relates to auditing networks as an aid in designing, updating and managing networks.

In recent years telecommunications networks have evolved into one of the most crucial elements of business and society. During the 1980’s and early 1990’s major changes in network architectures have taken place. Data networks that were hierarchical in nature have moved to more distributed topologies. Voice, video, and data are now being combined into digital bit streams. The trend is for network services that are faster, cheaper, and open to wide ranges of services and information.

Local Area Networks (LANs) have become entrenched as the foundation for the new paradigm in corporate computing, known as Client-Server. For technical and economic reasons major corporations are moving away from large mainframe computers to higher-performance, lower-priced platforms. Standard desktop devices are now extremely powerful personal computers, connected to each other via LANs; and LANs themselves are interconnected to form what is known as an internetwork–the transport vehicle for wide ranges of applications, and the cornerstone for present and future communication architectures.

The internetwork is a mixture of hardware and software technologies. The hardware includes things such as routers, hubs, LAN adapters, digital and analog circuits, multiplexers, and switches of many varieties as well as desktop workstations and servers. Elements are combined into networks that extend from a single workgroup, floor, or building, to campuswide, metropolitan, and nationwide areas. Internetworking software includes elements such as protocol stacks (such as TCP/IP), device drivers, operating systems, and applications. When an internetwork infrastructure is assembled correctly it can create a computing environment which–while dauntingly complex–is nevertheless extremely powerful, and can be considered among a corporation’s most valuable assets.

Mission-critical applications depend on this complex internetwork–from off-the-shelf solutions like electronic mail and file sharing, to complex database inquiry and transaction-processing systems. Such applications will continue to flourish throughout this decade and on beyond 2000. Development continues at a frenetic pace in the areas of client-server and multimedia applications. In addition, the “Information Highway” is beginning to take shape, and commercial internetworking will soon be available to everyone from multinational enterprises to smaller service-oriented businesses.

Distributed networks are composed of such a large number of elements that are both network-specific (routers, hubs, switches, facilities, etc.) and non-network-specific (servers, workstations, operating systems, application software, etc.) that just keeping track of where they are is a tough task, let alone how they interact as a system. In addition, each element has its own behavioral characteristics and likely comes from a different vendor. As systems made up of these elements experience change or encounter problems–congestion, circuit failure, or component degradation–overall effects can range from a minor slowdown to complete collapse.

While businesses are becoming increasingly dependent on internetworking, little attention has been paid to the process of correctly designing and implementing these networks. On one hand businesses pay dearly for high-priced hardware resellers and systems integrators to recommend vendor solutions–and on the other hand businesses that recognize the critical nature of these networks pay an even higher price for after-the-fact “network management” solutions from hardware system vendors. Despite the high price tag, however, most data engineering shops validate their network design by building the network, throwing real live users’ traffic at it, and analyzing how well it runs.

An important aspect of designing and maintaining networks is being able to quickly assess the current network configuration down to the device configuration level. Such information is helpful in troubleshooting network problems and in updating a network system. Network documentation is typically created manually at great effort


In one aspect, the invention provides a software implemented method for auditing a network by using more than one soft probes to discover topology, host and interface information on devices in the network. The auditing includes gathering the data with soft probes that include a Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) probe and a Novell IPX probe. Other probes, such as a Hewlett Packard Open View (HP OV) probe, a Microsoft SMS probe, an IBM SNA probe, and the like can also be included in a suite of soft probes. The core data set discovered by an audit includes addresses, such as MAC, IP and IPX addresses, and system identifications, such as ID, name and description, of network components.

Implementations of the invention may include the following features. The method may include designing a revision to a network by generating a network design sheet representative of the network based upon the configuration discovered in the audit, placing device icons representing intelligent device objects on the network design sheet, selecting a media type representing an intelligent media object, connecting the media type to a first one of the device icons, and validating the connection to the first one of the device icons.

The invention further features a method of maintaining a network design sheet. The method includes auditing the network to discover a configuration of the network, comparing the discovered configuration to information stored in a design sheet, and reconciling the discovered configuration with the stored information from the design sheet, in which reconciling can include one or more of adding information to the design sheet based upon the discovered configuration, and removing information from the design sheet based upon the discovered configuration.






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