Ready for VoIP: Network Management Architectures: Cisco Systems

Cisco Systems, Inc., headquartered in San Jose, Calif., was founded in 1984 by a small
group of computer scientists from Stanford University. It is now one of the giants in the
networking industry, amassing $34.9 billion in revenue in fiscal 2007, a 23 percent gain
over the company’s 2006 results.

Of perhaps greater interest, the firm claims to have added 11,600 employees during the
course of the year, in a period of time when many firms in the industry have been
struggling to keep afloat.

Some of Cisco’s recent growth has been fueled by acquisitions, notably WebEx
Communications, Inc. (on-demand collaborative applications), SpansLogic, Inc. (high speed
packet processors), BroadWare Technologies, Inc. (IP-based video surveillance software),
Navini Networks, Inc. (broadband wireless networks), and Securent, Inc. (policy
management software). From the above list, we could surmise that Cisco’s plans for next
generation and converged networks are moving ahead quite rapidly.

Cisco’s Unified Communications is a comprehensive IP communications system
supporting voice, video, data, and mobility applications. Supporting this architecture is
the Cisco Unified Communications Management Suite, which is a portfolio of
communications applications integrated with a secure network infrastructure.

The Suite is targeted for enterprises supporting from 1,000 to 30,000 end users, and
is designed to address the needs of every phase of the communications life cycle,
including needs assessment, provisioning, and ongoing network monitoring.

This solution is has four key objectives:

  • providing a unified view of the entire Cisco Unified Communications
    architecture
  • lowering management costs through products that do not require extensive setup or
    training
  • productivity increases from contextual diagnostic tools that can speed problem
    isolation and troubleshooting processes
  • maximizing overall reliability with network-wide operational tests and voice
    quality monitoring

The Suite consists of four elements.

The first is the Cisco Unified Provisioning Manager, a highly automated
solution for deploying and provisioning devices within an integrated IP telephony,
voicemail, and messaging environment. In addition, the Provisioning Manager can manage
moves and additions, and provide rapid installation and maintenance. This system
introduces the concepts of IP telephony domains and service areas, where
the domains are groupings of subscribers, and the service areas are groupings within the
domain that structure and manage the services. Rules and policies can be set for the
subscribers within a domain, and common policies can be applied to operations within that
domain.

The second element is the Cisco Unified Operations Manager, which monitors the
network with built-in rules and diagnostics, and provides testing and the tracking of
changes and inventory. The Operations Manager monitors the operational status of key
components within the communication system through service-level views of the network. It
also can perform a number of diagnostic tests that replicate end-user activity and verify
gateway availability. These tests can be run on both Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)
and Skinny Client Control Protocol (SCCP)-based phones located within the network.

The third element is the Cisco Unified Service Monitor which tracks, evaluates,
and reports on user experience metrics associated with active calls on the system. It
provides a comprehensive list of voice impairment metrics that are useful in
troubleshooting voice quality issues-as well as a listing of, and details about, the
endpoints (gateways and phones) that are most frequently affected by voice quality
issues. It also has the capability to set threshold alerts based on device and codec
types.

The fourth element, the Cisco Unified Service Statistics Manager, is a
web-based software product that provides executive, operational, and capacity planning
reports. This element includes customizable report templates and automatic report
scheduling, including key metrics regarding call volume, service availability, call
quality, resource utilization, and capacity across the Unified Communications system.

Medium-size enterprises may utilize the Cisco netManager-Unified
Communications,
which is designed to support 250 to 1,000 end users. This solution
can monitor a number of Cisco devices, including routers, switches, PIX firewalls, the
Unified Communications Manager, and IP phones. It features an extensible monitoring
framework that provides coverage for supported protocols such as HTTP, FTP, DNS, Ping,
SNMP, and Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), and also enables custom monitoring
for Cisco and third-party devices.

The system is provided with two configurations: IP Infrastructure, for
monitoring and troubleshooting problems related to the IP network; and Unified
Communications,
which handles the unified communications subsystems, and also
includes the IP Infrastructure component. These systems include voice and data network
discovery and topology mapping, network-wide inventory collection and reporting, support
for Cisco elements and applications as well as multi-vendor devices using SNMP, plus
interface status and traffic monitoring, real-time alerts and notifications, plus
troubleshooting and diagnostic tools.

Smaller businesses with up to 250 phones or end users can deploy the Cisco Monitor
Director,
which is offered through Cisco partners as a managed service solution. This
solution offers an economical and scalable way for Cisco partners to begin providing
managed services for their small and medium-size business customers’ active voice and
data networks.

Further details on the Cisco Systems architecture and products can be found at
www.cisco.com. Our next
tutorial will continue our examination of vendors’ network management architectures.

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