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A network map is a visualization of devices on a network, their inter-relationships, and the transport layers providing network services. Practically, a Network Map is one tool to provide network users, managers and administrators, and IT personnel with a better understanding of network performance, especially concerning data bottlenecks and associated root cause analysis.
Three techniques for producing a Network Map include: SNMP-based approaches, active probing; and route analytics.
SNMP-Based Maps: These obtain data from routers and switch MIBs (management information bases), which are hierarchical virtual databases of a network (or other entity)
Active Probing: These maps are created with data from a series of “traceroute-like probe packets," i.e. special data packets or frames, which report IP router and switch forwarding paths to the destination address. By compiling this data describing the actual forwarding paths taken by data through networks, Network Maps are created and used to find “peering links" between ISPs (Internet Service Providers); these are links (physical lines or channels) connecting distinct networks comprising the Internet which allow ISPs to exchange customers' traffic for mutual benefits.
Route Analytics: This approach uses routing protocol data for creating a Network Map through passively listening to layer 3 protocol exchanges between routers. This data facilitates network discovery, real-time network monitoring, and routing diagnostics as well as network mapping.