In large networks, many devices are interconnected via Ethernet and WiFi, often forming quite cluttered structures. Tracking and monitoring a specific link or device in this chaos can be a daunting task. That is, unless you have access to the right technology. Today, Plasma Cloud is delighted to present its layer 2 topology, a new exciting feature that intelligently maps and visualizes the architecture of your network in a very intuitive way, providing essential information to network professionals. We built this feature to deliver on two fundamental principles: great visibility and simple troubleshooting.

You can find the layer 2 topology in the Plasma Cloud console. Navigate to Topology > Layer 2, and keep reading this article to learn how to get the most out of it.

Delivering great visibility

First, the Plasma Cloud console automatically maps all networking equipment in your network. Then, the layer 2 topology visualizes it in a hierarchical tree structure, clearly showing how your gear is wired. Thanks to the Plasma Cloud integration, the topology is able to provide detailed information on capabilities, name, etc. for all Plasma Cloud devices as well as third party hardware supporting the networking protocol called Link Layer Discovery Protocol (LLDP).

A layer 2 topology mapping a simple network with Switches and Access Points.

Now that you can easily monitor what’s connected where, all the cumbersome manual cable tracing can be completely eliminated. In the topology, lines represent wired connections, while icons indicate a connected device. Different icons help distinguish device types. For instance, a switching icon represents a networking Switch, while a WiFi symbol represents a WiFi Access Point. Layout tracing and discovery has never been simpler and more straightforward.

You can even visualize the architecture of your VLANs – simply select the VLAN of interest from the provided dropdown menu. Devices and links not part of the selected VLAN will be grayed out, allowing you to focus on what matters.

Layer 2 topology focusing on the architecture of the selected VLAN. Irrelevant devices are grayed out.

Information that matters

The Plasma Cloud layer 2 topology offers detailed information on links and devices, readily available in the topology chart or through a popup that appears when clicking on a link or icon. Device model, path speed, number of clients, link speed and type are at most one click away. Here, you can also see ports blocked by the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) to prevent data loops, as well as the specific connected ports for each link. Links blocked by STP from other links are represented by dashed lines.

Switches connected by two cables simultaneously. STP disabled one of the links to prevent a layer 2 bridge loop.

Not only wired devices

To show you a more complete overview of your whole network, we also visualize mesh links to gateways. These links are shown as dotted lines and are not meant to give a full picture of the complexity of your mesh network. However, it visualizes how mesh traffic flows into the wired network and may make network bottlenecks easy to spot, further enhancing the usefulness of the layer 2 topology tool.

Access Points connected via wireless mesh.

To further explore your mesh network in all its complexity, please check out our mesh topology tool.

Ensuring simple troubleshooting

The unmatched visibility into connections allows you to easily analyze and troubleshoot your network, even for large deployments and very sophisticated setups. This means you can visually pinpoint possible connectivity issues and performance bottlenecks even faster, significantly improving customer experience.

Speed bottlenecks and potential issues caused by faulty configuration or lower throughput devices in your network can be easily identified. The max path speed value reported in the device popups indicates the calculated traffic speed from a device to its uplink across the network. You can simply make sure this value is as high as expected and there are no reported errors (generally in the form of red links in the topology). Monitoring is really this straightforward.

A mismatching link reported by the layer 2 topology.

Pinpointing bottlenecks due to heavy traffic is also simple, as we visually show the number of connected clients on top of Access Point icons in the topology. For the best result, make sure you deploy enough APs in congested areas. No one likes a slow connection.

Four clients are connected to this AP.

If needed, you can even find further information in our knowledge base. Simply follow this link if you wish to have a more comprehensive explanation on how our layer 2 topology works. Interested in purchasing our cloud-managed hardware to try this out firsthand? Check out the Plasma Cloud product suite!

Planning for the future

Even though the layer 2 topology is still very new, we made sure it is a complete product. This useful tool already successfully delivers on the two most important aspects: great visibility and simple troubleshooting for your wired network. 

However, we at Plasma Cloud like to plan ahead and deliver continuous updates and features to our customers. The layer 2 topology is no exception, and its development does not stop here. Stay tuned, and always feel free to reach out to us for any enquiry or suggestion!