Healthy VoIP Nets�Part XL�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 Our next tutorial will continue our examination of vendors’ network management architectures.

Copyright Acknowledgement: © 2008 DigiNet Corporation ®, All Rights Reserved

Author’s Biography
Mark A. Miller, P.E., is President of DigiNet Corporation®, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.

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