Cisco knowledge base to be in user hands

Cisco Systems this week will begin putting its huge product knowledge base in the hands of end users and channel partners.

The company will introduce the first of a series of CD-ROMs that will guide IT staff through training on a set of products, removing the need for trips to Cisco training classes or in-house hardware labs, according to Cisco officials.

The first Cisco Interactive Mentor CD-ROM will focus on dial-up access solutions, company officials said. It will simulate the Cisco command-line interface for device configuration and other tasks, with hot links to Web-based online support. Cisco will charge customers for the CD-ROMs, Cisco officials said.

One network administrator said other vendors have proposed training via CD-ROMs and he welcomes the trend as an alternative to classroom courses.

"If we have to come up with $US3500 to send someone to a training course, we're only going to do that with a few staff members," said Guy Paterson, a network administrator at Saskatoon District Health. "We'll train someone on a particular product, and in a busy work day they have very little opportunity to transfer that knowledge."

Later this month, as part of a broad push to build its reseller channels, Cisco will begin leveraging its Cisco Framework knowledge base to enlist network integrators in implementing new technologies, Cisco officials said.

The Cisco-Enabled Network Solutions program is expected to equip the sales channel to set up technologies such as multiservice networks and IP quality of service.

Cisco's initiatives follow moves across the industry to ease network training and support in an era of staff shortages and tightening budgets.

"IS staffs are very small, and usually not growing in proportion to how the network is growing," said Rich Brewer, an analyst at International Data Corp. "They need to leverage these manufacturers' knowledge bases."

Advances in Web technology and knowledge-base software, as well as increasing support costs for both vendors and enterprises, have led to the recent initiatives, Brewer said.

Meanwhile, Ascend this week will announce immediate availability of its Ascend On-Line Services, a live interactive support offering in which users can chat online with support staff and receive relevant documents via a browser in real time. The new program is free with support contracts.

3Com in October made available an online interactive tool containing product solutions. The 3Com Knowledgebase will be available around the clock to all customers and partners.

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