As I’ve stated in previous posts, an accurate network diagram can be really important when it comes to troubleshooting and managing the network. In order for a diagram to be of use to us, we have to maintain it which means that we update it every time the network changes. Even in a relatively static environment, this can mean a significant number of revisions over time. As a personal story, when I was deployed to Iraq in 2008, I went through no less than 30 revisions over the course of the year as we moved equipment around, attached units redeployed, and we closed locations.
Another important part of a network diagram, just like a standard map, is that it uses accepted and recognized symbols to depict what it is trying to show. Standard symbols can be found in a number of locations. ADRP 1-02 (Terms and Military Symbols) does a great job of providing us with standardized symbols for units of various sizes, terrain features, and even many pieces of equipment, but almost nothing to symbolize current day military communications equipment.
The IT industry as a whole has put together a set of widely recognized symbols for various pieces of standard network devices (routers, switches, firewalls, etc.) but what about the military unique pieces of equipment (encryption devices, satellite systems, etc.) that fall well outside of industry standard equipment?
Sometime around 2008, 7th Signal Brigade recognized this problem and hired an outside company to produce a set of standardized Visio shapes that solved this problem. The “Visio Integrated Relational Diagram – Advanced Process” (VIRD-AP) was the result of this effort. It is a set of Visio shapes that symbolize both network devices (routers, switches, etc.) as well as nodes (JNN, CPN, STT, etc.). Aside from simply giving you icons to put on a Visio diagram, it also set them up in a way that allowed you to tie everything together into a Access database to help allow you to pull reports and other information.
The initial document talks about future revisions, but I have never come across any updates which means it hasn’t changed since 2008 and includes nothing for WIN-T Inc1B or Inc2 among many other changes. Still to this day, I have been using these shapes as the basis for my network diagrams.
Because the shapes haven’t been updated in nearly a year, I decided to take the basic shapes and update them to include current equipment, remove some of the information recorded on the various pieces of equipment which made the symbol on the network diagram very busy and hard to understand. These shapes still have some problems of their own (I can’t get the “lock-to-shape” feature for lines to work correctly for all of the shapes for some reason. If any of you happen to be Visio gurus and can help, let me know.
In the meantime, time here is a good starting point for you to use for your network diagrams. I am by no means saying that this is “the standard”, just a tool to add to your kit bag for now. If you have recommended changes, please drop me a note. It is my hope to add features in the future. You can download the shapes from here.