The question is, were you born with--or without--talent?
Since your life is inextricably intertwined with the enterprise network, isn't it true that if you created a diagram of the network it would be almost the same thing as telling your life story? Of course it would! Besides, then you would have something to show the missus and the rug rats to explain what it is that you actually do all day long. A network diagram could be the very proof you need to show you really exist.
Many IT professionals use Visio as the preferred tool to communicate their network's life story and to diagram the wonderful complexity that earned them so many gray hairs. They fondly recall that Visio 2000 Enterprise Edition included Discovery Wizard, which allowed administrators to diagram large network segments automatically. Discovery Wizard could detect and diagram a network and automatically diagram a Novell Directory Services structure or a Microsoft Active Directory. Discovery Wizard could even build a database schema, making it possible to reverse-engineer a database.
With Visio 2002, Microsoft split the product into Visio 2002 Standard and Visio 2002 Professional, which had additional tools to create technical diagrams. Visio Enterprise Edition was discontinued and replaced with Visio Enterprise Network Tools, an add-on to Visio 2002 Professional. But guess what? Visio Enterprise Network Tools wasn't a big enough money-maker for Microsoft, so they canned it. That brilliant accomplishment meant that no matter how much you wanted it, you couldn't buy a version of Visio that contained the AutoDiscovery feature of Discovery Wizard. What to do? Some have said it's relatively easy to write your own scripts for Visio to do various sorts of network AutoDiscovery. All you need is a product that allows you to make SNMP queries from VB scripts. One person recommended System Scripting Runtime, which can be downloaded from http://www.netal.com. Solar Winds offers a Visio plug-in called LANsurveyor Express that will restore Visio's lost AutoDiscovery features. At $499, it's a little pricey, but the company has been known to offer promotional specials.
WhatsUp Gold from Ipswitch offers automated device discovery and network mapping, real-time network monitoring (including SNMP and SMI monitoring), alerting, notification, and reporting functions. This clearly is more than just a networking mapping tool by a long shot, and prices start around $600 for a small network and go up from there--way up. But you get what you pay for, right? The Ipswitch solutions, including the WhatsConnected plug-in, are in use at more than 70,000 locations and have received great reviews. In fact, the company even has a promotion going now in which a limited number of people (they say the first 20) will receive a free copy of Visio Professional 2007 when they buy the WhatsConnected plug-in (requires WhatsUp Gold V12.3.1).
Other auto-discovery products include 3COM Network Supervisor and NetCrunch 5 from AdRem Software, and if you don't need auto-discovery, then LanFlow, SmartDraw 2007, and ConceptDraw are popular replacements for Visio.
A Russian software company that has distributors in Europe and parts of the Middle East (but hasn't caught on in the U.S. just yet) is 10-Strike Software. Russia has a lot of very good programmers, and I remember that when I was learning QuickBASIC, the best book I could find on the subject was written in English by a pair of Russians. Just this week, 10-Strike Software released a new product they're calling 10-Strike Network Diagram, which scans a network by IP address and automatically generates a graphical diagram that you can export over to Visio, save as a vector or raster image, or print. It detects computers, routers, and printers and supports pinging over ICMP. You can also use the program to manually design a network diagram and forget about Visio. 10-Strike Network Diagram runs on Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Server 2008. The nice part about it is that it's only $149.95.
Now we get down to recession-era affordable software--as in free. You see, it was worth it to wade through the last 600 words in order to get to the good, free stuff. Dia is an open-source diagramming software package inspired by Visio. Though targeted at more informal diagrams, it can be used to draw many different kinds of diagrams and has special objects to help draw entity-relationship diagrams, UML diagrams, flowcharts, network diagrams, and many others. It can export diagrams in a variety of formats, including EPS, SVG, XFIG, WMF, and PNG as well as print them.
Network Notepad is a mature piece of freeware that has a collection of more than 100 object Library2 and Library3 icons, a donated hubs and switches library, as well as links to places like the Cisco Systems Web site, where you can download even more objects.
So that's a wrap, and if you can't tell your life's story--or your network's story--with any of the above tools, then you might wonder if maybe you were born absent any artistic talent whatsoever and, in pondering, reconsider why laying that nice gooey slab of cement on the weekends feels so frighteningly satisfying to the inner self.
MC Press Online