As networking environments grow increasingly complex, keeping pace presents an ongoing challenge for network managers. With more devices, users, and applications to account for, it’s now more critical than ever to have comprehensive visibility and understanding. 

The 2023 Network IT Management Report shows some progress in this area. Of IT professionals surveyed, 45% don’t have full knowledge of their network configurations, down from a whopping 57% in 2022. Better, but there is still a pressing need for IT professionals to expand their network knowledge. Otherwise, they risk returning to the reactive firefighting that causes 60+ hour work weeks.

The solution?

Proper automation tools to help network admins efficiently manage documentation and change control as networks scale in complexity. Network discovery tools, also referred to as network asset discovery software, allow for greater productivity despite the continued evolution of corporate networks.

So, let’s better understand modern network discovery, then explore what constitutes the best network discovery tools for the job.

Lack of network visibility

Upon entering any new networking environment, a common early request from managed service providers and network administrators is documentation encompassing a current network map, a complete inventory detailing all hardware and software assets, a system security plan, and any other available records. Ideally, these documents would comprehensively showcase vital networking particulars: resources, inventories, interdependencies, ports, protocols, and more.

Unfortunately, that’s not the reality we live in. These requests are often deflected or met with telling glances. Either such documentation was never compiled, hasn’t been properly maintained, or only exists in incomplete fragments strewn across outdated spreadsheets. For overburdened IT teams, proper foundational network visibility has remained a perpetually unfinished item on the checklist.

This lack of accurate, up-to-date documentation is exacerbated by the fact that 21% of network changes originate from outside core network teams. Without change tracking and documentation, troubleshooting inevitable issues becomes vastly more challenging and time-consuming.

What is network discovery?

Network discovery, or network detection, refers to the process of locating all networking resources available on a given network. Traditional manual techniques—such as trace routing, ping sweeps, and spreadsheet tracking—remain valuable. However, modern approaches typically involve a comprehensive network management solution, emphasizing automated tools and software. This shift prioritizes accuracy and speed in network operations.

The goal of network discovery is to ensure that all assets are discovered, documented, and monitored. The process of managing your network starts with making sure you know exactly what’s on the network.

Network discovery software and IT discovery tools empower this process by systematically crawling specified segments or entire networks. Utilizing initial scans to map topology, the most capable solutions iterate on gathered intel to build a complete picture of device interrelations and dependencies. 

Much like web crawlers index sites, the best discovery platforms continually seek out additions and changes until fully up-to-date documentation of the live network is maintained.

G2 - Fall Leader 2023

G2 Grid Report for Network Management | Fall 2023

Compare all the top network management solutions in one place.

How do discovery tools work?

Automated network discovery tools search the network for a specific set of parameters. There are three general types of network discovery: IP address, MAC address, and open port discovery.

IP address discovery

Discovery by IP address usually starts with a ping of each potential device address in a range. If the ping returns a response, the discovery software will know there is a live device at that address. Good discovery tools will take this one step further by complementing IP addresses with additional asset details, such as device names.

IP address discovery can also determine which IP addresses are being used and which ones are left unused. This is very important in organizations that need to manage their IP addresses for future use and can be used as security when auditing unauthorized IP addresses.

MAC address discovery

Discovery by MAC usually starts by reading the network scanner’s MAC address table and may also use passive techniques such as packet captures to discover additional assets. The advantage of MAC address discovery is that devices configured with an incorrect IP address will still be discovered on the network.

Open port discovery

Open port discovery is a more detailed discovery as it also looks for open software ports on each device. These open ports can help you uncover running applications, perform additional device fingerprinting, and identify security vulnerabilities. 

For example, perhaps a port was open in the past to talk to a specific application. However, now the organization is no longer using the application and the port should be closed.

Many attackers are actively looking for open ports that they can exploit with specific malware. Open port discovery allows you to find and close these ports.

Benefits of network discovery tools

Network discovery tools offer invaluable visibility that is the foundation for efficient, resilient network operations. As environments scale in complexity across on-prem, hybrid, and cloud, comprehensive network visibility is critical for security, compliance, and performance. Key benefits provided by modern discovery platforms include:


Network discovery software will give you a completely different view of how your network is set up. For example, you can monitor traffic on your network to know exactly what’s talking to what, and what’s really in use and what’s not. This enhanced visibility will boost your confidence, both in understanding what you’re facing and your ability to manage it effectively.

Going into a critical networking situation with limited information can be highly stressful for administrators and detrimental for businesses. The best network discovery tools will provide you with the context you need to enable proactive management and significantly reduce the mean time to resolution for reactive issues. Context matters when troubleshooting.


Network discovery software will provide visibility into what assets you have, who is using them, usage patterns, and more. This knowledge will help you effectively plan and allocate resources.

When management wants to know what they’re paying for, not only will you be able to tell them, but you’ll also be able to show them. This asset management benefit alone can pay for a good network discovery software tool.


No discussion about IT and technology innovation is complete without a nod to cybersecurity.

Think like the bad guys. What’s a hacker looking for?

  • Assets that might not be up to date
  • Open, unused ports
  • Assets that are ghosted and open

In short, they’re looking for vulnerabilities. How do they do this? By doing discovery on your network.

So, who should be discovering what’s happening on your network? You and your IT staff or the hacker?

The answer is quite simple. If you don’t perform the discovery duties necessary to maintain your network, someone else will.

Challenges of network discovery software

While network discovery tools offer immense value, there are some challenges to consider when implementing and managing an automated discovery platform. However, these challenges are more about project scoping rather than the software itself.


When implementing network discovery, it’s important to carefully scope the process to your specific needs. If you’re overly zealous in your mapping approach, you risk oversaturating network bandwidth and resources. 

After all, there are 65,000 available ports to be discovered on each endpoint. Do you want to be scanning all of these? All the time? Maybe not.

The key is to align discovery criteria and scheduling with business priorities before starting the process. Work with stakeholders to determine must-have visibility metrics in advance versus nice-to-have data. For example, start by scanning high-risk areas, critical assets, and key infrastructure interdependencies. Also, consider scheduling comprehensive, organization-wide discovery during off-peak hours if needed.

Essentially, you should take an iterative approach. Once baseline mapping is complete, you can always expand the discovery framework to additional areas. Incremental scoping prevents overload while still providing the essential visibility you need.


Discovery implementations with overly constrained scoping can also miss the mark. If the solution or framework you choose is too narrow to provide you with complete visibility based on your actual business needs, it could make it challenging to accomplish your goals. 

Pay careful attention to the criteria for success and how it’s communicated to your staff. Determine precisely which metrics, infrastructure components, and mappings are truly essential for you to accomplish your security, compliance, and operational requirements. 

When your expectations align with actual capabilities, you set your team up for a smooth rollout and ongoing success. Have open and realistic conversations about which assets absolutely must be tracked versus lower priority visibility. First, focus the discovery framework on mapping the most important assets that are required by mandates or compliance policies. Then expand from there.

How to choose the best network discovery software

business man using modern tablet computer. software concept. business tehnology and internet concept.

When choosing a good network discovery software solution, certain criteria should be considered, starting with ease of use and set-up duration.

1. Ease of use

The point of network automation tools and network discovery tools initially is to lift a burden off your limited IT resources. Network discovery software should be able to do this seamlessly. Make sure anyone can come in and operate the system quickly and efficiently as resources change or merge.

2. Compatibility

Another criterion you want to look at is how well the product works in your current environment. Look for compatibility with other systems and proprietary functions that would make it less useful.

A good example of a proprietary function is Cisco’s network discovery protocol called CDP. It’s extremely useful and is employed throughout Cisco’s products. But if you have mostly non-Cisco devices on your network, it can be a problem. 

If you use CDP on a network with lots of non-Cisco devices, you’ll have holes in your network discovery map. So, industry-wide compatibility is essential.

3. Features

Before you start your selection process, make a list of must-have features versus nice-to-have. An example of an important feature is simple reporting, such as documenting and cataloging IP addresses and device names.

Another one is the ability to automatically tell you when subnets are being used, or when they’re changing. You’ll be amazed how often this can change—and how quickly—over just one year.

4. Deployment platform support

Is your organization moving applications to the cloud, or are there explicit policies against leveraging cloud-deployed and SaaS solutions?

How the network discovery software will be deployed is an important consideration when evaluating network discovery software. 

An on-site solution will enable you to keep network data within your data center, but using a cloud-hosted or SaaS application will ensure your network documentation is always available, even in network outages.

5. Network mapping

Network mapping has become an essential component for any network discovery software. It provides a visual understanding of the network and how devices work together, enabling IT teams inside and outside of the organization to quickly understand the network. A network map can be incredibly helpful when troubleshooting and is a critical part of network discovery.

Having the analysis readily available before any network issues arise can be a lifesaver. Network maps aren’t just pretty pictures with lots of colors to impress management. They’re a fundamental part of your network knowledge.

G2 - Fall Leader 2023

G2 Grid Report for Network Management | Fall 2023

Compare all the top network management solutions in one place.

Best network discovery tools for 2024

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s explore some of the best network discovery tools for 2024.

We’ll be looking at the key capabilities, as well as the pros and cons, of both paid and open-source network discovery software.

1. Auvik

Auvik simplifies network discovery with a fast, automated SaaS solution that provides comprehensive visibility without complex instrumentation. It sets itself apart by enabling admins to map topology and inventory devices in minutes rather than weeks.

The platform requires only a lightweight collector that can be quickly deployed without needing on-premises infrastructure. Once connected, Auvik leverages protocols like CDP and ARP tables to immediately start mapping network topology across Layers 1 to 3.

This automated approach visualizes global network infrastructure faster than traditional manual documentation processes. Continuous automated discovery ensures maps and inventory stay updated as networks scale and change.

With an intuitive browser-based interface, Auvik has a much lower learning curve than alternatives. Less networking expertise is required to leverage its visualization and documentation.

As a cloud platform, Auvik consolidates visibility across on-prem, hybrid, and cloud environments instead of introducing yet another monitoring silo. Its scalable architecture supports large deployments with distributed networks.


  • Speeds time-to-value with fast automated discovery
  • Simplifies visibility across all network environments
  • Lowers barriers with an intuitive browser interface
  • Enables proactive insights through ongoing updates


  • Cloud-based, lacks on-premises deployment option
  • Higher data collection volume may impact bandwidth

Top Features

  • Global topology and dependency mapping
  • Customizable network visualization
  • Continuous automated discovery
  • Detailed device inventory and lifecycle tracking
  • Change monitoring, alerting and reporting
  • Configuration backup and versioning
  • Integrations to sync data with IT systems
Auvik logo

See Auvik in Action on Your Network

Deploy Auvik and monitor as many sites and devices as you like in this 14-day free trial.

2. LogicMonitor

LogicMonitor simplifies network visibility through automated discovery and real-time mapping of devices and dependencies. The platform leverages on-prem collectors to detect infrastructure using SNMP, WMI, APIs, and other protocols.

Discovered devices are automatically structured into logical groups and monitored using over 2,000 out-of-the-box profiles tuned to specific vendors and technologies. Custom profiles can also be created to tailor monitoring for unique systems.

As changes occur, LogicMonitor continually scans for new devices and updates topology maps that visualize relationships across distributed infrastructure. These living maps provide admins with an up-to-date view even as hybrid environments scale rapidly.

Alerts, dashboards, and reports can all leverage rich data captured during discovery, including detailed device inventories, configuration changes, software versions, and lifecycle tracking.


  • Replaces manual documentation and diagramming
  • Applies intelligent monitoring profiles automatically
  • Maps communication paths across complex hybrid environments


  • On-prem component required
  • Potential network bandwidth impact

Top Features

  • Automated discovery and dependency mapping
  • Intelligent grouping based on device profiles
  • Customizable topology and network visualization
  • Continuous scanning and monitoring of infrastructure
  • Optimized for large, distributed networks


PRTG automatically discovers and monitors devices across complex IT environments using a combination of distributed remote probes and built-in detection technologies. The software maps communication paths between infrastructure components while applying intelligent default sensors tailored to recognized technologies.

Agents are not required for discovery and monitoring. Instead, PRTG leverages protocols like SNMP, WMI, NetFlow along with SSH, HTTP requests, and flow data to assemble detailed maps reflecting relationships between devices.

Both physical and virtual devices are incorporated into topological maps that administrators can customize to match their unique network architectures. These living diagrams visualize connections that may be obscured across distributed systems but are vital for performance analysis.

In addition to mapping, the discovery process assembles granular device inventories capturing hardware and software details including configuration changes. This comprehensive device data enables focused troubleshooting across IT infrastructure.


  • Agentless automated discovery and mapping
  • Centralized network visualization
  • In-depth, searchable device inventories
  • Continuous topology updates


  • Must deploy Windows probe servers
  • Potential strain on network connections

Top Features

  • Multi-technology discovery protocols
  • Integrated network mapping
  • Intelligent default monitoring profiles
  • On-demand and scheduled discovery scans
  • Detailed hardware and software inventories

4. Nagios XI

Nagios XI takes an agentless approach to discovery, mapping communication paths and relationships across infrastructure components. Discovery jobs leverage protocols like SNMP, WMI, JMX and NRPE to assemble detailed topology maps reflecting dependencies between devices.

Both physical and virtual nodes are incorporated into visual architecture diagrams that administrators can customize to match their unique environments. These living topology renderings show connections obscured across distributed systems, enabling better performance analysis.

In addition to mapping, Nagios XI builds comprehensive device inventories during discovery including hardware, software, configurations and lifecycle details. This equipment data facilitates faster troubleshooting by providing contextual details on infrastructure components.


  • Agentless topology mapping
  • Centralized network visualization
  • Granular device inventory auditing


  • Complex initial setup
  • Manual configuration for many devices

Top Features

  • Multi-protocol discovery
  • Integrated diagramming of device relationships
  • Detailed hardware and software auditing
  • Custom network topology visualization

5. SolarWinds NPM

SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor features automated network discovery and mapping to provide visibility into overall infrastructure health and performance. NPM leverages ICMP, SNMP, and WMI protocols to detect devices across complex on-prem and cloud environments.

Once discovered, devices are auto-grouped based on type and vendor to simplify monitoring and management. NPM continually scans the network, updating maps to reflect changes in real-time. The dynamic visualization shows communication dependencies between nodes, helping to quickly isolate issues.

Tools like NetPath allow admins to visualize end-to-end paths to critical business services, analyzing each hop. This simplifies tracing performance problems and bottlenecks to their root cause. Network Insight takes this further for select vendors like Cisco, Palo Alto Networks, and F5 BIG-IP by providing component-level mapping and metrics.

The network topology view gives both high-level and granular visibility based on customizable grouping rules. Historical snapshots allow comparison of infrastructure changes over time. Integrations with other SolarWinds modules allow correlated analysis across stacks.


  • Automatically discovers and maps most network devices
  • NetPath provides hop-by-hop mapping for troubleshooting
  • Dynamic network mapping shows changes over time


  • Discovery limited to SNMP/ICMP/WMI-enabled devices
  • Interface for viewing maps could be more intuitive
  • Many advanced features and add-ons require additional licensing fees (can get expensive)

Top Features

  • Automated discovery through multiple protocols
  • NetPath critical path mapping
  • Customizable network topology visualization
  • Continuous scanning for new devices
  • Historical snapshots for comparison
  • Cross-stack correlation analysis

6. Datadog

Instead of auto-detecting devices, Datadog leverages an agent-based model that must be installed on each system. Once deployed, these agents automatically map themselves into Datadog’s network topology visualization. They detect details like hostname, OS, and IP addresses and immediately begin reporting granular performance data.

Users enable integrations on top of the base agents to extract metrics from specific applications, cloud platforms, containers, and more. For example, turning on AWS integration allows mapping EC2 instances, RDS databases, and other AWS services.

As changes occur, the agents continue to phone home new information about hosts and software. This allows Datadog to dynamically update network communication maps across complex, ephemeral environments.

The platform relies less on the discovery of physical devices and more on tracing intra-service communications. The visualization focuses on mapping app-level dependencies rather than the devices themselves. Datadog is optimized to provide application awareness rather than pure network visibility.


  • Agents provide real-time visibility into infrastructure
  • Integrations extend monitoring to services and apps
  • Dashboards map communication paths dynamically


  • Requires agent installation on all devices
  • Mostly focused on cloud vs. on-prem
  • No automated discovery features

Top Features

  • Agent-based auto-detection of hosts
  • Customizable network topology mapping
  • Performance monitoring and alerting
  • Wide range of log collection integrations
  • APIs to feed in custom telemetry

7. OpUtils

OpUtils features automated discovery of devices on local subnets and VLANs. It leverages protocols like SNMP, WMI, SSH, and ICMP to map infrastructure.

Once deployed, OpUtils scans specified IP ranges to detect networking hardware like routers, switches, and firewalls as well as servers and virtual machines. Devices are organized by type with granular inventory details pulled directly from components via SNMP.

The dynamic network map visualizes communication paths between devices, providing visibility into connectivity. OpUtils automatically updates the mapping if devices go offline, shift locations, or new assets come online to maintain accuracy.

Dashboard reporting gives administrators high-level awareness of inventory and configuration changes over time. OpUtils also integrates with sister products from ManageEngine including OpManager for performance monitoring and NetFlow Analyzer for traffic analytics.


  • Automatically discovers most network infrastructure
  • Detailed asset inventory and reporting
  • Tracks infrastructure changes


  • Mostly focused on device-level vs. application visibility
  • Discovery relies on standard protocols only

Top Features

  • Comprehensive automated network mapping
  • Device-type and vendor organization
  • Customizable network topology visualization
  • Change tracking dashboards
  • Hardware component monitoring

8. Atera

Atera’s Network Discovery provides comprehensive visibility and security scanning across domains and subnets. It auto-detects all endpoints and infrastructure, mapping communication paths between devices.

Discovery runs daily, non-disruptive scans that check for new or changed assets. The solution checks hardware and software details like warranty status, configuration changes, monitoring status, and potential vulnerabilities.

Scanning agents can be installed remotely via the platform to gain visibility into additional networks. Custom alerts notify IT teams if any unrecognized or offline systems are detected, enabling quick response to potential threats.

Detailed scan reports provide a complete inventory to track assets, ensure monitoring coverage, simplify audits and client onboarding. Discovery integrates closely with Atera’s RMM, creating monitored devices for any unmanaged endpoints.


  • Automatic network mapping and device detection
  • Software and hardware inventory details
  • Alerting for rogue device detection
  • Remote agent installation capabilities
  • Integrates scanned device data with RMM platform


  • No customization of scan frequency
  • Potential network bandwidth impact during scans
  • Doesn’t auto-generate network topology maps
  • Additional cost for multiple scanning agents

Top Features

  • Scheduled network-wide discovery scans
  • Remote agent installation to extend scanning range
  • Software inventory including versions and licensing
  • Hardware warranty and configuration tracking
  • Mapping of communication paths between devices

9. simplifies asset management and infrastructure visibility through an AI-powered discovery engine that provides complete visibility over clients’ networks.

The software leverages lightweight, non-intrusive agents to scan endpoints across an environment, detecting all hardware and software assets. Collected inventory data allows to map devices, their specifications, configurations, and interdependencies.

The platform auto-generates always up-to-date topology maps that visualize relationships between assets across entire distributed networks. These living maps enable admins to quickly understand even very complex hybrid environments.

As the network changes,’s discovery engine continually rescans, updating the central asset repository and maps in real-time. This ensures teams maintain an accurate, current view as infrastructure scales.

Rich details captured during discovery power advanced alerting, monitoring, reporting and more. The software can track assets across their full lifecycle, monitoring configuration drift and software versions.


  • Broad discovery techniques identify all asset types
  • Automatic dependency mapping
  • Real-time updating as environments change
  • Tracking of configuration drift
  • Optimized for complex hybrid environments


  • Limited default monitoring profiles
  • More focused on assets than network infrastructure
  • Onboarding assistance may be needed for larger networks

Top Features

  • AI-powered discovery engine
  • Customizable topology and network maps
  • Alerting and automation workflows
  • Mobile access and management
  • API integrations with other tools

[G2 CTA]

10. Intermapper

Intermapper automatically discovers and maps devices across IP networks through several methods. It leverages SNMP polling to identify routers, switches, servers, and other infrastructure. ICMP ping sweeps also detect devices. Beyond basic IP scanning, Intermapper can interface with additional protocols like WMI, SSH, HTTPS, FTP, and more to gather detailed device data.

Once infrastructure is discovered, Intermapper draws live network maps presenting each component with its real-time status. Maps self-update as new devices are detected or infrastructure changes. The software auto-generates layered hierarchy views, allowing you to zoom in on specific sites, networks, or subnets while maintaining a big picture perspective.

Detailed device data is captured during discovery including hardware and software versions, configurations, location information, and granular performance metrics. This inventory is continually referenced, so changes over time are also tracked.

With automated asset discovery and rich infrastructure data fueling constantly updated network diagrams, Intermapper gives IT administrators comprehensive visibility and insights into distributed technology environments. Intuitive visualization and custom topology mapping make even large, complex networks easy to navigate and understand.


  • Auto-generates layered network maps
  • Captures granular device details
  • Visualizes performance and dependencies
  • Identifies new devices immediately
  • Customizable topology views


  • Complex setup for some environments
  • Can generate cluttered maps for large networks
  • Limited default reporting compared to some tools

Top Features

  • Live network mapping with status visualization
  • Automated discovery and inventory collection
  • Customizable topology and hierarchy
  • Alerts on infrastructure changes
  • Cross-platform support

11. Advanced IP Scanner

Advanced IP Scanner is a free network scanning tool that provides rapid visibility into devices on local area networks. It leverages ARP and other protocols to detect live hosts and compile device inventories including IP addresses, MAC addresses, hostnames, and vendor information.

Scans complete in seconds, even for large subnets, and continuously monitor the network for any topology changes. Granular scan options allow targeting specific IP ranges or device types. Inventory data can also be exported to CSV files for documentation.

Beyond discovery, Advanced IP Scanner enables administrators to access file shares, RDP into Windows devices, power cycle ports via SNMP, and control other functions for troubleshooting.


  • Free and fast network scanner
  • Automatic device detection
  • Detailed device inventory reporting
  • Continuously monitors for new devices
  • Remote management and troubleshooting


  • Windows-only
  • Lacks custom reporting

Top Features

  • Rapid LAN scanning and mapping
  • Device inventory including IPs, MACs, hostnames
  • Network change monitoring
  • File share access
  • SNMP management

12. NetBrain

NetBrain features an advanced discovery engine that automatically models the entire network infrastructure, including traditional, software-defined, and cloud components. It leverages protocols like SNMP, CLI, APIs, and more to continuously inventory all devices, their configurations, connectivity, traffic flow patterns, and protocols in real-time.

Specifically, NetBrain’s engine builds Layer 2 and Layer 3 topology visibility by parsing device configurations, routing tables, NDP tables (CDP, LLDP, FDP), ARP tables, and MAC tables. This data is used to calculate inter-switch connections and map relationships between switches, routers, servers, and other infrastructure.

The discovery process runs scheduled benchmarks to build an evolving, accurate digital twin model of the live hybrid network environment. The digital twin includes granular device inventory details, topology connectivity maps, traffic flow data, and captured network intents that define the desired network state and behavior.

As infrastructure changes occur, NetBrain continually scans for new devices, updates topology visualization maps, and validates network behavior against predefined intents. This provides up-to-date visibility and ensures model accuracy even as hybrid environments rapidly scale up. Detailed device data like configurations, software versions, and lifecycle tracking are also captured for monitoring and auditing.


  • Auto-discovers entire hybrid network
  • Intuitive visualization and navigation
  • Real-time map updates
  • Detailed device inventories
  • Customizable monitoring profiles


  • Complex pricing model
  • Potential network bandwidth impact
  • 100% on-prem

Top Features

  • Automated discovery and dependency mapping
  • Dynamic topology and network visualization
  • Continuous scanning for infrastructure changes
  • Device grouping and monitoring profiles
  • Integrations with third-party management tools

13. WhatsUp Gold

WhatsUp Gold features a powerful Layer 2/3 discovery that automatically maps network infrastructure from the top down. Discovery can be initiated via an IP range scan or an SNMP scan of a core router’s bridge forwarding table. Using protocols like SNMP, SSH, WMI, and more, WhatsUp Gold detects all devices connected to the network across physical, virtual, and cloud environments.

The software catalogs all discovered devices, gathering detailed inventories with hardware specifications, software and firmware versions, configuration data, and more. It also determines dependencies between components, marking directional relationships on automatically generated network maps.

Network admins can schedule discovery scans to run on a regular basis or trigger them manually as needed. As the scan runs, WhatsUp Gold employs intelligent monitoring profiles tailored to specific vendors and technologies to begin gathering performance metrics. Over 2,000 out-of-the-box profiles are available covering networking gear, servers, virtualization platforms, and other infrastructure. Custom profiles can also be created.

The software auto-generates integrated Layer 2 and Layer 3 network maps that provide a clear, holistic view of physical and logical connectivity. Maps visualize topology, display status, and enable easy troubleshooting of infrastructure issues across on-prem, hybrid, and cloud environments. WhatsUp Gold dynamically updates maps to reflect network changes in real time.


  • Automated network discovery and mapping
  • Intuitive visualization of network topology
  • Continuous scanning for new devices
  • Layer 2 trace and IP/MAC finder troubleshooting tools
  • Monitoring profile library for 2,000+ device types


  • Complex maps for very large networks
  • Higher licensing costs for extended infrastructure visibility
  • Dependence on on-prem probe for some discovery tasks

Top Features

  • Layer 2/3 discovery using SNMP, SSH, WMI, etc.
  • Auto-generated topological network maps
  • Customizable alerts and reporting
  • Monitoring profile library for thousands of device types
  • Inventory collection, including hardware and configurations

14. Faddom

Faddom provides comprehensive visibility into hybrid environments through multi-protocol automated discovery and dependency mapping. The agentless platform leverages APIs, SNMP, SSH, and other non-intrusive methods to scan on-prem and cloud-based infrastructure.

Servers, applications, network devices and communication paths are detected across environments. Collected assets are visualized in live dependency maps that structure relationships between distributed systems spanning data centers, clouds and remote locations.

Intelligent grouping, filtering and navigation allow admins to organize infrastructure views based on technologies, locations, owners and other attributes matching organizational taxonomy. Maps can be filtered to focus on specific areas or drill down to dependencies between individual devices.

Discovery jobs run continuously or on flexible schedules to scan infrastructure. Change tracking detects additions, modifications and deletions across environments while alerts notify administrators of unplanned or suspicious alterations.

Detailed device inventories supplement mapped connections by collecting configuration data, hardware/software inventories, security posture, statistics, trends and usage data. This enriches visibility with actionable context for planning and managing infrastructure.


  • Agentless discovery simplifies deployment
  • Uncovers hidden dependencies between systems
  • Simplifies cloud migration planning
  • Scales to scan large environments
  • Flexible grouping and filtering of results


  • Limited application recognition out of the box
  • No integrated config management database
  • Training required for maximum benefit

Top Features

  • Agentless discovery of on-prem and cloud environments
  • Application dependency mapping
  • Customizable topology and network visualization
  • Intelligent grouping based on device profiles
  • Granular device inventory data collection

15. Cacti

Cacti is a free, open-source network monitoring platform that includes powerful automated discovery features. Its modular architecture centers around devices, data sources, graphs, and templates to provide extensive monitoring capabilities out of the box.

A key benefit of Cacti is its inclusion of an automated network discovery engine at no additional cost. This engine periodically scans subnets utilizing SNMP, WMI, APIs and other protocols to detect new infrastructure. New devices found during discovery can automatically have monitoring configured based on assigned templates that collect relevant performance data.

The discovery process runs on a customizable schedule to continually update Cacti’s inventory and topology visibility over time. Since it is free and open-source, Cacti provides excellent discovery capabilities without the overhead and costs of commercial alternatives. Users can leverage its automation to detect assets, map dependencies, and begin graphing performance metrics quickly for infrastructure insights.

As a free discovery tool, Cacti does require more hands-on configuration expertise compared to paid solutions with guided setups. However, its core discovery functionality works reliably once up and running for most networks. For organizations seeking an affordable way to gain dynamic visibility without vendor lock-in, Cacti is a compelling option.


  • Automatic discovery and mapping of new devices
  • Intelligent device profiling based on templates
  • Customizable scanning frequency and performance
  • Free and open-source solution
  • Plugin architecture for extensibility


  • Complex initial setup and configuration
  • Steep learning curve for customization
  • Less out-of-the-box custom alerts compared to commercial alternatives

Top Features

  • Distributed, automated discovery engine
  • Device templating for automatic monitoring configuration
  • Dynamic network topology visualization
  • Data source, graph, and template framework for flexibility
  • Role-based access control for security

16. Zenmap

Zenmap simplifies network discovery and mapping through an intuitive graphical user interface for the powerful Nmap security scanner. It provides versatile options for host discovery, port scanning, service detection, and detailed network mapping.

For host discovery, Zenmap offers extensive customization of ICMP, TCP, UDP, and SCTP ping probes to locate live hosts. It can automatically detect ARP-enabled hosts on local networks. Discovery scans can even bypass firewalls using varied protocols and probe types. Custom host lists and exclusion lists focus scans on specific subnets or hosts.

Discovered devices are subjected to detailed, fast port scanning to identify open ports and determine running services. Scans can use stealth options and customize probe types for accuracy. The software interrogates open ports to enumerate service details, configurations, and versions.

Network topology mapping visualizes relationships between scanned hosts. Communication paths are traced between endpoints to diagram routing. Filters highlight critical assets or vulnerabilities. Scan data exports to XML for further analysis.


  • Intuitive graphical interface simplifies usage
  • Extensive host discovery and port scanning options
  • Supports scripting for automated workflows
  • Network topology mapping and communication path tracing
  • Open source tool with an active development community


  • Steep learning curve for advanced features
  • Results can be noisy and confusing for novice users
  • Limited reporting compared to commercial tools

Top Features

  • Save scan profiles for repeatable scans
  • Compare scan results to identify changes
  • Searchable database of past scan results
  • Customizable topology mapping filters
  • Detailed device inventory data collection

17. Lansweeper

Lansweeper is a robust network asset management and discovery solution that provides comprehensive visibility into IT infrastructure. It leverages various protocols and methods to automatically identify devices on local networks, remote networks, cloud environments, and across hybrid IT infrastructure.

For network discovery, Lansweeper utilizes IP range scanning, SNMP polling, WMI scanning, SSH connectivity to Linux/Unix systems, Active Directory integration, and public cloud APIs. It can discover servers, PCs, Macs, laptops, printers, routers, switches, firewalls, phones, tablets, IoT devices and more.

Once devices are discovered, Lansweeper interrogates them to collect over 100 detailed hardware and software data points, including specs, configurations, processes, services, patches, users, security posture, and relationships. This centralized inventory provides complete, up-to-date visibility, enabling better IT management.

Discovery data also allows Lansweeper to auto-apply monitoring profiles to assets based on their manufacturer, model, OS, installed applications, and function. This enables intelligent, customized tracking of critical metrics across diverse infrastructures. Monitoring profiles can also be tailored to unique systems.

As organizations scale, Lansweeper runs continuous automated scans to detect new devices, changes, and activity across distributed networks. Dashboards, custom views, and reports help IT teams gain control of their expanding hybrid environment.


  • Automates discovery and centralized inventory of all network-connected devices
  • Intelligent grouping and monitoring based on device profiles
  • Scalable solution built for large, complex environments
  • Detailed hardware and software asset tracking
  • Software license optimization and compliance


  • Requires some infrastructure like Windows servers
  • Advanced custom reports require SQL knowledge
  • Uninstall monitoring requires deployment of agent

Top Features

  • Multi-protocol automated asset discovery
  • Centralized searchable inventory database
  • Detailed hardware and software scanning
  • Intelligent asset monitoring profiles
  • Life cycle management for planning

18. Open-AudIT

Open-AudIT performs automated discovery of devices on the network through several methods. It can be configured to scan designated IP address ranges, utilizing ping sweeps, SNMP queries, and other techniques to identify online hosts.

Detailed SNMP information is retrieved from network devices like routers, switches, printers, and servers. Open-AudIT also leverages DNS lookups to match IP addresses to hostnames. Integrations with directory services like AD can additionally provide metadata on managed devices.

Once hosts are discovered, Open-AudIT fingerprints operating systems and probes open ports to infer the type of device and function. It queries services and registries to collect granular details on hardware specifications like CPUs, storage, and memory, as well as installed software versions, patch levels, and configurations.

The frequency of network scans can be customized based on the environment. As changes occur, Open-AudIT continually rediscovers devices and updates its centralized asset inventory. Detailed historical data is retained, allowing admins to audit changes over time.

The comprehensive device details Open-AudIT gathers facilitate rich reporting and dashboards. It can visualize dependencies between infrastructure and provide alerts when unauthorized systems appear on the network. Overall this automates the asset management process even as the environment scales and evolves.


  • Automated network mapping and asset inventory
  • Continuous scanning identifies changes in real-time
  • In-depth device profiling across hardware and software
  • Full audit trail shows historical configurations
  • Visualize dependencies and relationships


  • Substantial data storage needs
  • Password security management overhead
  • Lacks cloud infrastructure discovery features

Top Features

  • Hardware and software inventory tracking
  • Configuration change monitoring
  • Customizable reporting and visualization
  • Relationship mapping across infrastructure
  • Risk analysis for end-of-life systems

The best network discovery tools deliver actionable insights

As environments continue to scale in complexity across on-prem, hybrid, and cloud infrastructure, having comprehensive visibility and understanding of networks is more critical than ever. The best network discovery tools empower administrators to maintain this complete, up-to-date view even as constant change occurs.

Automated discovery platforms that provide detailed dependency mapping, customizable topology visualizations, hardware and software inventories, configuration auditing, and more differentiate themselves by enabling proactive, efficient management. They deliver actionable insights and replace reactive firefighting.

Ultimately, the right network discovery software comes down to the visibility needed to drive security, compliance, and performance initiatives. Prioritizing must-have features and determining environment scope will guide teams to pick the ideal choice. Ongoing innovation will continue making solutions easier to navigate and more accessible.

Auvik logo

See Auvik in Action on Your Network

Deploy Auvik and monitor as many sites and devices as you like in this 14-day free trial.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *