Modern Network Architecture

Mar 16 2013   8:39PM GMT

How to write a topology Document

James Murray James Murray Profile: James Murray

When IT experts do write documentation, it’s usually a “How To…” document.  As a Seattle IT Consulting firm I need my experts to be able to troubleshoot the entire system, not install the system.  Topology documents describe the network in a way that it can let the Tier 4 expert or outside expert understand the system well enough to begin troubleshooting without doing a discovery of the entire network first.  The topology document is where these discoveries are recorded.  Most IT experts keep this information stored in their heads.  The Topology document pulls this tribal understanding out of the head and onto paper in a way that teams of experts can begin troubleshooting.

Define your Topology document:


  • This document describes the design used by the architect to describe the flow through network.
  • This document is a physical topology that describes the physical location of every network component.
  • This document is a network inventory that lists each object including software, hardware and even settings

(Note:  Others are flowing documents that describe the flow of information through the system.  The topology map shows the demarks where the flow can be measure and compared against a baseline. Documents that fall under the Topology Create a visual image of the physical or logical topology of network, or dataflow. )

Mistakes many technicians make confusing the logical and physical topology document.

Definition: Logical Topology – A logical topology is not a scaled document of where everything is.  The idea is to understand where everything is flowing.  Business departments use these types of documents to describe the business process.  We use these document to describe the data flow from one system to the next.

Definition: Physical Topology – A physical topology identifies where the physical components (servers, desktops, wall ports, wiring and more) are located physical in the building.  What to know what rack and slot a server is located in the physical topology document does this.

To create a logical topology, Start at the beginning of the process.  (i.e. internet, a server, router etc.) A topology is a visual representation.  Start with a box.  This box represents a physical box.   A line defines the path from one component to another.  A triangle describes  2 paths that could be taken based on a logical construct of the network.  A triangle, also called a decision, is determined by a logical or series of logical decisions.

This document can be used for troubleshooting a system.  Each box in the system should have a log file or a measurement point.  By determining where the data stops in the system, the box represents the failure in the system. I am creating a list of document descriptions you’ll need to document your systems including, How to…, Settings, Topology and other documents you’ll want for your network.

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