Cisco Puts Forward Topology Standard to Eliminate Network Mapping Inconsistencies
SAN JOSE, Calif., Jan. 9, 1995 -- Cisco Systems has launched the CommonInternetworking Topology Initiative (CITI) to develop a standard format forcollecting and communicating configuration information from disparatenetwork devices, tools and platforms. Implementation of a standard formatwill significantly reduce the time, effort and cost of mapping the topologyof complex networks, according to Carole Crall, director of networkmanagement.
Under contract to Cisco, Steven Waldbusser, manager of networkdevelopment at Carnegie Mellon University, has drafted a white paperdiscussing a standard ASCII interchange format to describe theconnectivity, containment and dependencyamong devices and logical entities on a network. Cisco is making the whitepaper available to parties interested in supporting the CITI with theintention of submitting an informational request for comment (RFC) to theInternet Engineering Task Force (IETF) early in 1995 as a first step towardestablishing a formal standard.
Cisco hopes to attract a broad coalition of vendors to join theprocess. Companies that have already agreed to participate includeAccugraph, Cabletron, Chipcom, ISICAD, Ki Networks, Optical Data Systems,SunSoft and Remedy Corp.
"The difficulty generating complete and accurate topologyrepresentations caused by conflicting collection and reporting formats isone of the heaviest burdens placed on network administrators," Crall said."The problem affects almost every aspect of administration, planning andtroubleshooting."
Cisco's service organization, for example, has determined that, unlessa customer's network is registered with the Cisco ConnectionOnlineservice, five separate communications with a customer are typicallyrequired to define network topology before troubleshooting can begin.
Crall said, "While many administrators use IP addresses to organizetopology information, they do not always use them in a common way and somedevices don't have IP addresses. Hub and switch management applications,for example, also correlate information according to Level-2 MAC addresses.Even management platforms use different algorithms to discover and mapdevices, so that maps of the same network generated by HP OpenView andSunNet Manager, for example, may look completely different."
Waldbusser's white paper makes the case for a standard ASCII formatstructured to overcome problems faced by network developers.
Network administrators rely on many tools for network documentation,performance management, design and planning that require topology data.The lack of a standard representation forces administrators to inputinformation manually for each tool, or to develop a system that translatesa topology database to multiple tool formats.
Vendor service technicians must interpret network topology to correcttechnical problems or answer design questions. Because customers have noefficient way to transmit the information to the technician, they oftenfall back on tediously slow and error-prone faxes and verbal descriptions.
Application developers must spend time and effort translating multipleformats to a common representation internal to the application. Thecomplexity of such a task means that many useful applications cannot becost-justified.