Get the Most out of Your Network Diagrams with Space Plans

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Julie Byrd and David Salaguinto

Microsoft Corporation

Applies to:

Microsoft Visio Enterprise Network Tools 2002
Microsoft Visio Professional 2002
Microsoft Visio Standard 2002

Could you use an accurate map showing the location of all your printers, computers, and wiring closets? If you have such a map, have you ever wished it was easier to update as people and assets moved, or that you could easily publish it to an internal Web site? If you're like most IT professionals, the answer is undoubtedly yes.

With the Space Plan solution in Microsoft® Visio® Professional, you can create a floor plan that contains data about all the spaces, personnel, and physical assets in your organization. A space plan not only maps the assets, it also allows you to relocate and track assets and personnel simply by dragging shapes on the drawing page.

With AutoDiscovery and Layout, you can discover all of your networking equipment (assets) and automatically add them to a space plan to track their physical location. You can even hyperlink areas on your space plan to other network diagrams so you can access all the information you need from one central location.

On This Page

What's a Space Plan?
What's AutoDiscovery and Layout?
Using Space Plans with AutoDiscovery and Layout
Hyperlinking Space Plan and Network Diagrams
Bottom Line

What's a Space Plan?

If you manage the network infrastructure for an organization, you know how important it is—and how difficult it can be—to keep track of what is where, especially in today's fast-changing environment. Managing assets, however, can be as easy as dragging shapes onto a Visio drawing page. With the Space Plan solution you can:

  • Import a CAD drawing or a scanned-in blueprint of your facility to get started quickly.

  • Import asset information from a spreadsheet or database.

  • Quickly populate your drawing with printers and computers (or any asset) using the data you imported.

  • Easily move those assets to keep track of changes, or have your drawing automatically updated from the spreadsheet or database.

  • Save your finished space plan as a Web page and generate great-looking reports.

In short, space plans are powerful tools for allocating resources, handling changes, and tracking equipment.

What's AutoDiscovery and Layout?

Whether you're a one-office business or your network spans the world, the AutoDiscovery and Layout technology gives you the power to create accurate network diagrams in a fraction of the time it takes to do them manually. With AutoDiscovery and Layout, you can create network topology diagrams that document all the devices on your network, their connectivity, and their relationships.

For example, you can create a diagram that shows all of the equipment in a wiring closet, a diagram that shows your frame relay devices, or a data link diagram that shows only your switched devices.

The discovery process sends SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) requests to network devices, and creates a database of network devices that are discovered.

Discovery does all this, but it cannot determine the physical location of a device. That's where the Space Plan solution can help.

Using Space Plans with AutoDiscovery and Layout

Space Plans really become useful when you combine them with the data obtained from AutoDiscovery and Layout.

Say that you've created a network diagram using AutoDiscovery and Layout. The diagram enables you to view and save a lot of information about your network, including your printers. For instance, by right-clicking a printer shape and then clicking Properties, you can enter and save information about the printer's manufacturer, its product number, and its part number. You can even store maintenance information.


Figure 1: Network Shape Properties dialog box

While you can indicate the printer's location in the Network Shape Properties dialog by clicking the Asset tab and typing the location in the Location field, you can't actually see where the printer is located on a floor map. That's where space plans come in.

You could start a new space plan and import a CAD drawing of your facility. Then, drag space shapes onto your drawing to indicate the offices, cubicles, and areas in your facility. Assign space IDs (room numbers) to your spaces. Next, use the Database Export Wizard to export the printer information in your network diagram to an Excel spreadsheet. Finally, enter the location of each printer into the Excel spreadsheet and import the printer information from the Excel spreadsheet into your space plan. The Space Plan solution automatically drops printer shapes onto the correct spaces in your space plan, creating an instant map of all your printers. (For more details about how to create a space plan from discovery data, see "How do I create a space plan from discovery data," below.)

With that basic space plan, you can take advantage of all the advanced features the solution provides. For instance, you can color-code spaces by department, or label printers with their asset numbers. You can even save your plan as a Web page and generate reports. And when you update your AutoDiscovery and Layout information (because, for example, your printers have changed), you can automatically update the data in your space plan.

How Do I Create a Space Plan From Discovery Data?

When creating a Space Plan using discovery data, you must first discover the devices, import them to an Excel spreadsheet, and then import them to a space plan drawing.

To create a space plan from discovery data

  1. Start a new AutoDiscovery and Layout drawing and discover your printers (or any other asset you want to map).

  2. Add the devices you discovered to the drawing page. The devices on this page will be exported to a Space Plan drawing.

  3. Open an Excel spreadsheet, save a blank spreadsheet, and then close it.

  4. In Visio, use the Database Export Wizard to export the discovery data to the Excel spreadsheet you just created. To open the Wizard, point to Tools, point to Macros, point to Visio Extras, and then click Database Export Wizard.

    • At the Choose a drawing or click Browse to open a drawing prompt, enter the name of the AutoDiscovery drawing you created in Step 2.

    • At the Select the shapes to export data from prompt, decide which shapes on the page you want to export.

    • At the Select the Visio data you wish to export prompt, select the types of data to import, but be sure to include the Prop.Location field. You will use this information when importing data into a Space Plan drawing.

    • At the Select an ODBC data source to export to prompt, select Excel Files.

    • At the Specify the export table details prompt, enter the name and location of the Excel file you created in step 3. Then enter a Table name in which the data will be imported. This creates a new page in the Excel document with the imported data.

    • At the Specify the export mapping details prompt, accept the defaults and click Next, and continue clicking Next to finish the wizard.

      Note Refer to the Database Export Wizard online Help for details about using the wizard to export databases.

  5. Open the Excel spreadsheet, and click the tab that was created in Step 4. Enter the location of all the devices in the Prop_Location column, and save the spreadsheet.

  6. In Visio, start a new Space Plan drawing. Import a CAD drawing or a scanned-in blueprint of your facility to get started quickly. Drag space shapes onto the drawing page to indicate the offices, cubicles, and spaces in your facility. Assign space IDs (room numbers) to each of those space shapes.

  7. Import the device data from the Excel spreadsheet using the Import Data wizard. On the Plan menu, click Import Data.

    Note Refer to the Import Data wizard online Help for details about using the wizard to import the data from the Excel spreadsheet.

When done, you should have something that looks like this:

Figure 2: Example Space Plan drawing

Figure 2: Example Space Plan drawing

For complete details about using the Space Plan template, refer to the Visio Professional online Help.

Hyperlinking Space Plan and Network Diagrams

Another feature that Visio provides is hyperlinking. Simply put, Visio lets you hyperlink any shape (such as a space shape in a space plan) to any file (such as a rack diagram). Just by right-clicking a shape and clicking a file name, you can open any file you've already created.


Figure 3: Example hyperlinked Space Plan drawing

With hyperlinks, your space plan becomes a central location for accessing your network diagrams.

For details about hyperlinking Visio diagrams, refer to the Visio online Help.

Bottom Line

Everything written here about printers and rack diagrams also applies to every other asset you manage. In fact, anything with a location (such as computers and wiring closets) can appear on a space plan. Space plans offer flexible solutions to a wide variety of asset management problems.

In the world of network management, using space plans with network diagramming tools helps you document, design, deploy, maintain, and upgrade your entire network infrastructure and map it to the real world.

For help getting started with Visio Space Plans, take the online tour at the Microsoft PressPass Web site, or read "Build a Space Plan from a List of Office Numbers in Visio 2002" at the Assistance on Microsoft® Office Online.