Cisco Aims for Multivendor Network Management

The company's new Network Application Performance Analysis suite seeks to help network operators optimize network performance to meet the requirements of both planned and existing applications.

Cisco Systems Inc. on Tuesday will launch a new suite of network management tools that marks Ciscos first attempt at providing multivendor network management.

The new Network Application Performance Analysis suite, composed of tools and services, is aimed at helping network operators optimize the performance of the network to meet the requirements of both planned and existing applications.

The suite, code-named Apex, includes four new tools and four services designed to help customers with planning, deployment and optimization.

The new tools include Cisco Application Analysis, Cisco Network Planning, Cisco Bandwidth Quality Analysis, and Cisco Performance Visualization Manager, a portal that provides a view across the portfolio, according to sources familiar with the offerings.

The services include Cisco Application Performance Tools Deployment, Cisco Application Performance Optimization, Cisco Application Performance Troubleshooting and Cisco Application Performance Benchmarking, sources said.

The application analysis and network planning tools draw on multivendor technology from Opnet Technologies Inc. that uses a unique model and configuration analysis capability to perform advanced troubleshooting with applications and network configurations, sources said.

The Cisco Bandwidth Quality Manager gathers data on how links are being used so that they can be optimized for applications. It is integrated with Ciscos existing CiscoWorks Resource Manager Essentials, one source said.

The NAPA suite also draws on agent technology from Corvil that provides millisecond measurement and quantification of bandwidth quality.

The Dublin, Ireland, companys agent, which runs in Cisco IOS software on Ciscos Integrated Services Routers, is a Quality of Service technology aimed at insuring predictable performance for data, voice and video traffic.

The NAPA suite reflects a trend in the industry to raise the level of network management beyond fault management of network elements and help IT prove its value to the business, said Jim Metzler, vice president at Ashton, Metzler and Associates in Sanibel, Fla.

"What business managers care about is not MPLS [Multiprotocol Label Switching], SSL [Secure Socket Layer] or whatever, but they care about the applications they use on a regular basis. For IT to show its relevance, it better make sure the four or five key systems that the company uses to run its business are doing well, and if theyre not doing well, they need to be fixed quickly," he said.

It also marks a sea change in Ciscos commitment to helping customers manage applications across enterprise networks, said Dennis Drogseth, vice president at Enterprise Management Associates in Portsmouth, N.H.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about Ciscos efforts to compete in the network optimization arena.

"This is the first step toward really delivering on the network management requirements of their customers and becoming more of a system vendor," said Drogseth, who declined to elaborate on the details.

The suite could also indicate that Cisco is working to turn around its reputation for providing customers with sub-par network management tools.

"If you graded them they rank between poor and fair," said Zeus Kerravala, analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston.

"CiscoWorks was historically thrown into a lot of deals. I dont think youll see as much of that anymore. They understand the difference between management and manageability. They want the network to be more manageable. With the proper tools in place, you can cut the diagnosis time," he said.

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