Industrial Supplier Implements Network Refresh Weeks Ahead of Schedule

Kelly Yue
By Kelly Yue April 1, 2019 4 minute read

With more than 300 locations in the United States and Canada, this company is one of the largest industrial suppliers in North America. The company’s Global Support Center Network Team is responsible for overall network operations, including infrastructure management, event monitoring, and management, incident response, change management, and provisioning support.

This company selected NetBrain to automate its network documentation process and for supporting network operations management during the annual technology refresh project.

Customer Profile
Industry: Construction & Industrial (retail, Wholesale & Facilities Management
Annual Revenue: $5.12US
Customer Base: 500,000
Number of SKUs: 800,000
Locations: 300 (36 US states, 6 Cnadian provinces)
The Challenge

The network team manages a large and complex IT infrastructure comprising 1500+ routers, switches, and other devices. The task of documenting design and configuration consisted of gathering information from device tables and various tools and stitching this data together to create diagrams in MS Visio manually.

Network Refresh

The 10-person team was tasked with conducting a network discovery in preparation for the annual equipment refresh. However, performing the network discovery manually meant the team would have to dig through the ARP tables by hand identify the correlation between MAC addresses and IP addresses, a considerable manual effort.

Due to the significant time and effort that this process took, the team did not keep the network documentation up-to-date.

The lack of available network documentation meant the team had a very limited understanding of the current network design and configuration.

Engineers would also have to manually create the maps and diagrams that would serve as a reference for the technology refresh. These activities would be time-consuming, and prone to errors, so the company decided to automate the network discovery and documentation process ahead of the upgrade.

The Solution

The team has a few requirements when evaluating solutions:

  1. They wanted to automatic discovery of device configuration. This was needed to establish baselines and gain visibility of all the devices affected by the updates.
  2. The company wanted a solution that could automate site documentation and keep it up-to-date.
  3. The team was also looking for a simple method for equipment data searching, and a single tool that would consistently produce reliable data.
  4. Lastly, the company wanted a scalable solution that could form the foundation for automating network management tasks in the future.

NetBrain was selected to help accelerate the discovery and documentation phase of the technology refresh project. NetBrain was used initially to perform a full network discovery to automate the creation of diagrams and documents to highlight L3/L2 topology and design. The company selected NetBrain in part for the ease of capturing site documentation and equipment search data in a graphical interface (Dynamic Maps), as well as the ability to efficiently manage equipment regularly (adds/removes).

“The easy site documentation and equipment data searching capability were key in making our decision. The day to day equipment management (adds/removes) was also easy compared to some other tools”.

—Team Lead, Sr. Network Engineer

Dynamic Maps allow you to get a complete overview of your entire network infrastructure at any time on-demand in seconds.

Moreover, it only took two weeks for the company to begin realizing efficiencies such as quickly identifying device connections and configuration and even pinpointing rogue devices that were not visible before. The NetBrain deployment helped the company to meet the compressed schedule for the upgrade, reducing discovery and mapping from a month to 5 days.

The company was able to reduce discovery and mapping from a month to 5 days.

The Result

The team was able to update its knowledge of network design and configuration:

  • Documented baseline configuration: ARP, MAC, and CDP information for all network devices. Having this information readily available allowed the team to identify and isolate changes in the environment quickly.
  • Displayed a representation of the equipment connectivity and layout at a site on-demand, through NetBrain’s Dynamic Maps.
  • Provided a vendor match to MAC addresses; which allowed the team to identify rogue devices on the network. In a specific instance, they were able to locate a home class router connected to the network handing out invalid DHCP.

“We didn’t have a tool that provided the level of data that NetBrain did and the application provided some quick wins for us, so it became a no brainer.”

— Team Lead, Sr. Network Engineer

For one of the largest industrial suppliers in North America, selecting NetBrain for network discovery and documentation was only the beginning. For the refresh project, they were able to significantly shorten the prep phase and accelerate the deployment of new technology from weeks to days. They effectively minimized unplanned downtime by anticipating issues that could have otherwise resulted from blind network changes. Soon, the team will be utilizing NetBrain to automate more network management and maintenance tasks.

 

See NetBrain’s automated discovery and Dynamic Mapping for yourself in an engineer-led demo. Request one here.