Documenting data center infrastructure

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I am getting a better picture of the overall environment at my new contract, and realizing there is a dearth of documentation. What does exist is a smattering of Word docs and Excel spreadsheets, only some of which are reasonably up-to-date. It’s a common situation I’ve seen in many companies, where the network/IT personnel are over-worked or not motivated to maintain updated documentation.

So one of my first mini-projects is improving the network documentation. I’m using a variation of this Infrastructure-focused taxonomy, originally designed for my personal knowledge base Wiki-

Knowledge Base Site Map

The first section titled “Tech Info” is key, and reflects my break-down of critical Infrastructure into –

  • Networking
  • Operating Systems
  • Infrastructure (now renamed to Utility)
  • Security
  • Applications
  • Data Center

With this information design in place, it’s relatively simple to create matching section pages in your favorite wiki or knowledge base tool, and add links or embedded documents at the bottom level in the hierarchy.

Your mileage may vary depending on your environment.  But I have found that conceptualizing a documentation system in advance, allowing flexibility for added categories and sub-categories later, is incredibly helpful.

You can download the source file (Word .docx with embedded Visio ) for your own use here .

Finally, I’m a big fan of the Socialtext wiki system, which hosts my personal wiki. I’ve found Socialtext to be easy to learn, feature-rich and stable.

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3 thoughts on “Documenting data center infrastructure

    […] Documenting data center infrastructure « 8 Miles High […]

    Nick Wade said:
    June 12, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Hi, I was swimming through the web to find some info on the best way to document an IT Systems Infrastructure and was interested in your model but the graphic is pretty grim and I could not understand what the purpose was of the areas outside the Tech Info were supposed to contain. I asusmed all the documents relating to a system would be contained in the Tech Info area. Perhaps you could put me straight? There is also the problem of different parts of the system affecting other parts of the system when an upgrade/change occurs – how to manage notification of that? I would be interested to know what you observations are.
    Rgds,
    Nick

      darowh said:
      June 18, 2010 at 10:32 pm

      Nick,

      Some explanation is in order – the other Top-level categories are meant to contain information which is not original or technical. For instance, I was planning to store vendor reference info in “Product Reference” and “System Documentation.”

      So – you are correct, the documentation relating to IT Systems should be placed into “Tech Info.”

      In reference to your question about dependencies, the original intent of this model was more to establish a repository of technical information pertaining to IT infrastructure, such as how to install important components into Linux, or how to troubleshoot errors on a Cisco switch. As such, the issue of component dependencies is not readily addressed. I am still searching for better methodologies of actual Systems Infrastructure documentation as well, so would be interested in what you’ve been able to find.

      P.S. To see a more detailed view of the Data Map, look for the Attachments column on the lower-right side and click on the Knowledge Base Site Map.jpg link.

      Cheers-

      Darow

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