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Computer networks need to be managed using network management platforms to minimize failure effects. The network management systems can automatically create maps of a network to help administrators to monitor this network. However, such maps represent only a logical layer of the network (e.g. IP-layer). There is no functionality in the management platforms to automatically create maps of a physical topology of a network. Such physical maps are very important and helpful in network management, especially in the asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) technology. There are some applications available, which try to recognize the physical topology of the ATM network, but they can work only with devices made by one vendor and they are not sufficient for the proper management of the physical configuration of a heterogeneous net. This paper gives a basic idea and solutions to this problem. Authors describe how the automatic recognition of the physical network topology algorithm works and how it was implemented and tested in various heterogeneous ATM networks (MAN and WAN). The presented algorithm is a general solution and it can be adapted to other technologies than ATM (e.g. multicast, multi protocol label switching (MPLS)).