Data Views & You: Our Customers’ Top 10.

Chris Lopez
By Chris Lopez December 21, 2018 7 minute read
Chris Lopez is a technical marketing professional at NetBrain. Chris entered the tech field in 2010, getting his first internship at Fortinet, and spent his career specializing in network engineering and security in finance, federal, and private sector environments.

Are you using 100% of your NetBrain? According to our client surveys, you might not be.

There’s been an ongoing effort to reach out to customers and see what exactly they’re using NetBrain for in their current deployment, and since then we’ve been able to compile a list of all the features they weren’t fully utilizing in their environment.

For this blog, we’re going into Data Views – a feature of NetBrain’s Dynamic maps that allows you to overlay networking and device information onto any Dynamic Map for your convenience. These Data Views are an expression of NetBrain going into these selected devices and collecting information for you – and while that sounds very good in theory it’s also important to remember why we’re collecting this information in the first place.

So, without further delay, let’s go into the Top 10 Data Views customers ought to apply to their dynamic maps, and why exactly they’re so important in your day to day operations!

Overall Health Monitor

I noticed, way back when, that a lot of my outages would occur because of basic things like the interface being down, or the device running out of memory and entering kernel panic. Fortunately, we have a Data View for the simple things. The overall health monitor is the bread and butter of NetBrain’s visualization. With it, NetBrain monitors each network device for a number of basic health metrics, like CPU & Memory usage, interface traffic (specifically telling you if a link is saturated), and general link status. Even better, you can click on any of the variables on the map and see a generalized graph of how this element of the device has been doing over any length of time – if you have a device that’s been hurting for a while, maybe it’s time to take a deeper look as to why.

Highlight Specified VLAN

When you deal with anything other than a small network, you’re dealing with VLANS. For the uninitiated, these are logical separations of the network that virtually isolate different devices, even though they might be on the same network. Troubleshooting a network for connectivity issues, device health, or network policies becomes a bit of a pain because you’re dealing with segmented devices. Here, the Highlight Specified VLAN Data View posts notes to the map that’ll not only tell you the trunk mode that the network device is in, but also tell you whether certain VLAN traffic is permitted.

Maintenance Information

This one is very simple – NetBrain collects maintenance information from your devices and displays them directly on the dynamic map, below the device icons. This information includes:

  • Software Version
  • Serial Number
  • Model
  • System Fan Health Status

Everyone doesn’t always have the answers at their fingertips. Some deeper troubleshooting issues are going to require people to read the manual or verify what features are available on certain OS versions. Maybe you’ll even need to put out a service ticket to the device manufacturer, but with this Data View all of that information will be at your fingertips instead.

Highlight Routing Protocols

It’s interesting dealing with networks that have multiple routing protocols enabled. Usually, for environments that are complex enough to need this setup, a number of hard choices about protocol configuration need to be made. Are you going to perform full route redistribution among the protocols, or are they not even going to be aware of each other, like ships passing in the night. When there’s an issue, are you going to troubleshoot these problems one CLI device at a time? Of course not. Use this Data View to visualize what protocols are present on which devices on any section of your network.

QoS

In a nutshell, Quality of Service is the ability for networking devices to allow specific types of traffic to be prioritized over others. You don’t necessarily want lunchtime browsing to have an impact on an important call, and you want to make sure that your database traffic isn’t impacted by trouble in another department. This is an increasingly important metric for application-driven businesses today – if the customer isn’t having a good experience of your product, you’d need to make that a priority right away. But how do you ensure that all of your devices honor the QoS metrics that you’ve put in place? If even one device isn’t compliant, then it defeats the purpose of the entire setup. This Data View allows you to easily pull information from your devices to let you confirm that you are good to go – or let you quickly know which errant nodes you need to tune up.

Interface Speed and MTU

One of the first problems I ever troubleshot was a duplex mismatch, and it’s funny how often some simple issues get overlooked – when interfaces are mismatched in either their duplex speed or maximum transmission units (MTU) value, then you end up with a lot of lost packets that people are going to mistake as network slowness. This Data View takes a lot of the guesswork out of the equation, annotating logical and physical devices on the interface, including the logical interface number and the physical interface number of the device for easy identification. Within moments, you’ll see whether any interfaces are going to be causing you or your users any trouble.

VRF

Virtualized Routing and Forwarding is commonplace in modern networking environments, thanks to how they can help condense your infrastructure and enable network paths to be segmented without using multiple devices. However, a problem you might experience is that it’s more difficult to keep track of a virtualized function than it was traditional one – the ability to have multiple instances of routing tables work simultaneously within a router makes networking easier while it works, but when it doesn’t suddenly you have twice or three times as much information to parse through while you’re troubleshooting. This Data View pulls interface-level information on a device and highlights it on the map, including:

  • VRF Name
  • Import Route-target & map
  • Export route-target & map
  • Default RD
  • VRF Forwarding Interface
  • And finally, it will draw your VRF configuration as a note on the map.

Spanning Tree Protocol

Also known as the ‘mother-in-law’ of network protocols, spanning tree can be a huge pain in the neck to troubleshoot if you’re not sure which interfaces are being shut off to prevent loops.  This Data View is going to pull configured instances of STP on your devices, along with sticky notes on the map that go over active ports, blocking ports, and the overall STP table in the context of your larger network. Finally, it’ll be highlighting your device’s STP mode on the map.

Collect Access List

Everyone who’s used a Cisco CLI before knows how important ACLs are to ensuring secure network operations across an environment. Much like QoS, even one bad ACL can disrupt communications for an entire department. NetBrain’s Data View here visualizes both the access-list item numbers and the access-list table per device, trivializing what would otherwise be a harrowing device crawl to find the needle in a haystack.

Network Table Summary

Finally, this Data View will highlight and annotate general network table information (ARP, MAC, NDP, Route) by using the built-in network table after a certain benchmark. For each device, you’ll learn the total number of network entries per setting, giving you a more complete understanding of your network, and more importantly where you might need to start optimizing certain routes.