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Icons, Icons, Icons

I've written in the past about the need to use network design templates. However, part of developing the templates is picking standard icons to use in the diagrams. The problem is there are just so many different formats to choose from; and everyone has their own favorite. Cisco adds to this problem. Just for a "router" they have a black icon:

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and a blue icon:

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and a grey icon:

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and the high quality Packet Magazine icon (even though the magazine doesn't exist anymore):

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and then, what seems to be the Cisco favorite, the PowerPoint blue icon:

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And that's just for routers. Then you get to choose which icons to use for everything else. Like switches and WAPs and clouds and IP Phones and users and MUXs and firewalls and........AHHHH.... Plus, have you ever copied and pasted the Packet Magazine or PowerPoint icons into Visio? The Visio file sizes are HUGE. Our normal Visio site diagram with four tabs is 7.3 MB. Our DC template had to be broken into several files because it ballooned to over 40 MB. It was fun to watch Windows and Visio choke on that monster. You'd need a reboot soon if you were not provided one. If you're a real geek you can take a shot at the Visio stencils Cisco provides. These can be very nice because they show the actual view of the device and you can add appropriate line cards or modules. For example, here's an empty Cisco 2821 router:

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Then you can use the stencils for modules and HWICs to complete the router. Now you have a complete device view and can connect lines to the actual physical interfaces making it a very useful visual tool for network builds. However, this is extremely time consuming and I've often been frustrated to find the Visio stencil for certain network modules missing. Then you end up with a big black hole in your diagram or you have to create your own stencil for that new line card. Just keeping track of all the stencils and icons is hard enough. There are 90 stencil files on that web page each with many individual stencils. The complete stencil collection is 85 MB. Our team struggled with choosing standard icons for nearly 6 months a few years back. Everyone had their favorite icons and didn't want to change. I actually came up with a different approach. I created my own icons - just a bunch of squares and circles.

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That went over like a ton of bricks. Everyone hated them and just kept on using their own favorite icons. We finally all sat down together and agreed on which icons to use. We now use the Cisco Packet Magazine Icons and have selected specific icons in that collection to represent an ISR or a 7600 or a WAP. That provided uniformity in our diagrams. But wow, it was amazing people's affinity for their favorite icons. Just let go. It's just an icon.

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