I’ve been working on a lot of diagrams lately and pondering how to represent network architectures. I’ve been reading The Visual Display of Quantitative Information to get some inspiration on different approaches. I continue to be fascinated by the power of a network diagram that is well thought out and visually pleasing. And this fascination has led to my own focus on different network diagrams. In this post I’m thinking out loud one the different ways to represent information.
At some point, I drew this diagram. On first look it seems kind of cool but it is actually horrendous and doesn’t contain a lot of information:
You can spend some time rearranging this to get the following version which, I have to admit to myself is equally horrendous. I can see some of the connections but not he overall intent.
So I rearranged the diagrams some more and got this version. Now, I like to have curves in my diagrams and not a huge fan of the current “flat and square” finish that computer interfaces are adopting. I could probably fix the asymmetry that makes this particular diagram look ‘wrong’ but it’s still not easy to understand. It has some visual aspects that are pleasing to the eye but, not a lot of data. I think that it’s the symmetry that makes this somewhat appealing:
And finally, I have this version, familiar and instantly recognisable to most network engineers. Here is the question for me ?
- Does this diagram look better or more useful because it’s what I’m expecting to see ?
- Because I am used to interpreting network diagrams as a tree structure for 20 years, is this the only possoble way of considering the network structure ?
- Does this contain the most information ?
What would it look like if I inverted the tree structure ?
I find this view more interesting. Because this is how many people perceive the network. That is, Applications -> Servers -> Network -> Physical.
What about Leaf Spine Layouts ?
the use of Leaf/Spine networks is becoming more common and I think it’s most common to draw the Spine at the top and the access below.
But this representation is more conceptually accurate with the Spine at the centre of the Leaf nodes.
If you change your diagram to circular, it certainly looks great but doesn’t contain much useable information. Dramatic, foolish and ultimately pointless.
And equally, this is totally useless. It’s still accurate but there is no hint of the structure.
Diagrams. I get a kick out of good diagrams.