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Over the years, we're been very strong advocates of using intelligent DSU/CSUs to monitor your frame relay service. Time and again, we've shown that there's a tremendous business case for using these devices to monitor network utilization and to enforce your service-level agreements.

The recent announcement by Visual Networks Inc. of Version 7.1 of its Visual UpTime network monitoring software upped the ante for the types of monitoring capabilities that one should expect from these devices. In particular, as IP becomes more and more the de facto Layer 3 protocol, monitoring various functions at the IP layer and above becomes even more important.

For instance, the new software release enables the monitoring of a range of IP applications, including:

-- Voice over IP (VoIP).

-- Database applications such as Microsoft SQL and Oracle.

-- Streaming protocols, including RealAudio, Real Time Streaming Protocol and Windows Media Player.

-- Messaging applications such as AOL Instant Messenger and MSN Messenger.

Additionally, if you're implementing VoIP and diagnosing problems, the software allows monitoring call setup procedures for both Session Initiation Protocol and H.323. If you don't find your application in the list of predefined applications, you can also custom-define monitoring to span contiguous IP port ranges.

The software also has a cool new feature that will likely be appreciated: The new software allows the central site to initiate a remote-to-remote connectivity test. Traditionally, you had to assume that if the central site could communicate to site A and to site B, site A could also communicate to site B. Otherwise, it took manual intervention of some sort from site A (or B) to initiate the test. The new software allows the central site to initiate a remote-to-remote test for verifying connectivity without manual intervention at either site.

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