Cisco beefs up VoIP management

Cisco Systems Inc.’s new and enhanced management packages should help users more effectively monitor the status of key voice-over-IP (VoIP) gear and run Web hosting servers.

Announced last week, CiscoWorks VoIP Health Monitor software product brings status monitoring and alerts of IP voice gear – Cisco CallManager servers, voice-over-IP gateways and Catalyst switch port modules – in addition to other Cisco products into a single management interface.

Previous Cisco voice-over-IP management software was limited to a Web interface used to access individual CallManager servers to check status or view system alerts and statistics.

The software can also monitor and provide reports on 175 other Cisco router and switch products, giving users a total view of voice and data in an IP network, the company says. The software runs on the Windows 2000 server platform.

Cisco also rolled out the 1105 Hosting Solution Engine, a management appliance aimed at networks with Web servers attached to server load balancers and firewalls. The device allows for better management of Web gear and monitoring of Web traffic, Cisco officials say.

Also announced were two voice-related additions to the CiscoWorks QoS Policy Manager and Service Management Solution software products. For the Policy Manager, a voice over IP-based “template” – a bundle of preconfigured quality-of-service settings – is now available to let customers add the correct QoS settings for voice on an IP network.

Voice features, added to the Service Management product, which tests and measures data network performance, will let customers set thresholds and alerts based on the bandwidth requirements for voice.

Users say the QoS templates for the QoS Policy Manager should help new customers of Cisco’s Architecture for Voice Video and Integrated Data IP voice equipment, says Patrick Olson, chief information officer (CIO) of Menlo College in Atherton, California. Olson has been running Cisco CallManager servers and 600 IP phones for the past year. Olson also uses CiscoWorks QoS Policy Manager and has beta-tested voice QoS templates.

“For some installs, it will be a useful product for helping people set up QoS properly, which can be difficult,” Olson says, adding that he’s figured out the right QoS settings for voice on his network.

Cisco’s 1105 Hosting Solution Engine is an IOS-based, one rack-unit-high (1.75 inches) appliance that can sit between a network of Web servers and load-balancing devices and let customers bring servers up and take them offline without having to manually reconfigure load-balancing equipment. According to Cisco, the idea for the product came partly from its own IT department, where the team that managed Web server farms needed a way to easily take load-balanced servers offline and online.

The product can also be used to gather statistics on Layer 4 through 7 traffic in a network, giving users information on the kind of traffic flows hitting their Web servers and the performance of load-balancing switches. The appliance can be accessed through a PC where a graphical interface is used to make system changes.

By putting this management function in a rack-unit appliance, Cisco is targeting the device at Web hosting service providers.

The CiscoWorks VoIP Health Monitor software is available now and costs US$20,000. The hardware-based Cisco 1105 Hosting Solutions Engine will be available in mid-September for $20,000.