Truth Teller » Linux Magazine


NetBox is a single source of information on your network where you can store all those important details that used to get lost.

As networks grow and increase in complexity, it becomes more and more difficult to document all of the devices that you manage and their relationships. In the worst of cases, knowledge of the network may be scrawled on a series of spreadsheets or hand-drawn sketches – or maybe even stored inside the heads of a few overworked IT staffers. A number of free and proprietary solutions provide a means for visualizing and documenting the network, often combined with additional management features. Many of these tools are useful, but some may be missing a critical feature that you need or, on the other end of the spectrum, might suffer from feature bloat. Others will lock you into a specific management or monitoring environment. With all of this in mind, it would be nice to use a software package with a solid base plus add-ons, allowing you to build out the best environment for documenting your specific network.

If you’re looking for a versatile solution that embraces complexity while still “keeping it simple,” you might be interested in NetBox [1]. NetBox claims to be “the premiere network source of truth.” It lets you model and document networks by combining traditional Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) and IP Address Management (IPAM) with extensions and APIs. You can check out an always-running NetBox demo [2] if you want to try it out before taking the plunge and investing your organization’s resources.

Information Hub

NetBox serves as a hub of information about your network (Figure 1). At my organization, NetBox has become much more than simply a way to manage IP addresses. Thanks to NetBox’s flexibility, you can add notes (using Markdown), add product images (as well as images of the product’s location), and much more. If you need to document which device is which in a rack, where that rack is located, and what it looks like, just take a photo of that specific device and upload it with your phone right then and there. Voila, everyone with NetBox access can see the exact machine in its exact location. If all of your devices are the same model and were bought at the same time, installed in the same place, and nicely and neatly aligned in endless rows of racks that go on for miles and miles, this might not be a big deal. For me, dealing with racks, offices, classrooms, libraries, boiler rooms, hallways, etc., and years upon years of undocumented changes, this ability is very useful. If I am uncertain which machine I need to work on once I get to a room or office, a quick glance at NetBox tells me without requiring me to power anything up, look for an asset tag, or see which port on a switch the device is plugged into. No need to search for product information either, because it’s right there, along with links to the drivers.


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