Through an open standards-based XML interface, Cisco Systems Inc.’s CiscoWorks2000 Service Level Management Solution will allow customers to monitor and validate business critical network service levels. It will also enable third-party service management application integration — a component for end-to-end service level management to measure and validate network services, according to the company.

“Open systems is part of the key,” said Norbert Lee, system engineer, Cisco Systems Canada. “When you look at some of the other solutions, from our competitor perspective, they tend to be a closed system. Being closed may not be a good thing in the network management space because no one company can answer all the questions” to all the problems.

Enterprise expectations are high when demanding network service availability, such as that service levels are sustained and that customers have the ability to monitor and validate their network service levels end-to-end. The CiscoWorks2000 Service Management Solution offers just that — a set of integrated tools for network service-level monitoring and management, providing a set of open standards-based management API’s, scalable service-level management applications and third-party product integration, Lee said.

He added: “Response time and jitter, at the moment, are the most important [tools]. Typically, a customer wants to know what is the response time, not so much at the network layer but more like what’s my DNS doing, how’s my Web traffic doing?”

Via a Web browser, users define their Service Level Contracts and associated Service Level Agreements (SLA) through the CiscoWorks2000 Service Level Manager. The use of XML to define these agreements enables them to be shared between the service provider and the consumer using a common language, Lee said. Users can monitor multiple SLAs simultaneously through the collection of metric data related to network latency, network services and voice over IP, he added.

The Service Level Manager interacts with embedded Cisco IOS technologies via the Cisco Management Engine 1110 to obtain Layer 3 and Layer 4 service metric data. This information is sent back and stored in the Service Level Manager where the network administrator can generate customizable high-level and detailed reports.

One of the keys for Lee is the SA Agent, which is an application-aware synthetic operation agent that monitors network performance by measuring key metrics. These metrics can be used for troubleshooting, for analysis before problems occur, and for designing future network topologies, according to Cisco.

Lee said the solution offers “total visibility into the Cisco network — 80 per cent of the routers out there are Cisco. By turning on this SA (Service Assurance) Agent, at no cost because it’s part of the IOS, they’re (customers) able to deliver and get response times that they were looking for but were not able to get elsewhere, at a much more intelligent level.”

Brett Bock, systems engineer with Omaha, Neb.-based MSI Systems Integrators said he was very happy with the solution.

“As far as ease of use, it was very nice,” said Bock. “The GUI front end, which would allow you to set up all your different service agents or probes, was really easy to do — I didn’t have to go out and touch a bunch of routers or anything like that. It’s much more granular data on response time…it’s not just a simple round trip. Segment by segment I can get down to where my bottleneck is or where my performance issues lie. It really promotes an end-to-end Cisco environment, for sure.”

Other components to the Service Management Solution include CiscoWorks2000 Server and Third Party Development Kit. CiscoWorks2000 Service Management Solution is available for $17,244.25 and it is designed to complement other products in the CiscoWorks2000 family. For more information, visit