UPDATE: Kicking Up Performance

SAN MATEO (06/26/2000) - Stepping up its efforts to smooth out network performance, Cisco Systems Inc. on Monday added support for a standard QoS (quality of service) protocol in its QoS Policy Manager (QPM) and released software to spice up its line of content switches.

By adding support for the COPS (Common Open Policy Service) protocol, Cisco's QPM-COPS module can enforce QoS across the network for data, voice, and video traffic, according to Cisco. QPM-COPS arms enterprise IT managers with the capability to control the deployment of voice and video apps by policing the demand for network resources, Cisco said.

"Users wan to feel comfortable that the network will continue to run smoothly and scale as they add new users, applications, and more sites," said Steve Woo, director of marketing at Cisco, in San Jose, California.

Implementing the RSVP flavor of the COPS standard, voice, or video apps can signal the network to request a specific level of bandwidth. To make sure the bandwidth goes in the right place, QPM-COPS performs a policing function to limit how much bandwidth individual applications or specific types of traffic can request, Cisco said.

"For example [a user] can assign ERP or SAP applications in the mission-critical [level], and put voice and video in real-time buckets, and provision these policies end-to-end," Woo said.

Instead of configuring policy on individual router and switches via a CLI (command line interface), QPM-COPS features predefined templates for setting general service levels from a central location for thousands of devices across the network, Cisco officials said.

"Before we didn't have the dynamic capability to set policy -- we used to set the network up in a static way for class of service using CLI," said Sam Alunni, president of Sterling Research Inc., in Sterling, Massachusetts. "COPS is a very important, incremental step in implementing policy-based networking -- a great step above command line interface."

Through its directory interface, QPM-COPS can share policy information with other directory-enabled applications, which gives users the capability to tap in to user and app information stored in the directory, officials said. In addition, QPM-COPS can publish information to enterprise directories according to the DEN (Directory-Enabled Network) policy schema, which is currently in development with the DMTF (Distributed Management Task Force) and the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force). The directory tie-in also enables user-based policies, which helps optimize QPM-COPS for use in mobile environments, officials said.

According to Alunni, an important benefit of COPS is the potential for policy enforcement across multivendor networks.

"COPS begins to open the door to multivendor implementations of policy, which has been the number one issue that people have had over policy," said Alunni.

"A customer may have 50 percent [of equipment] from one vendor, 40 from one, and 10 from another. Presumably when everyone runs COPS, you can use policy management over that entire network regardless of where that equipment came from."

Separately, Cisco on Monday also rolled out Web NS 4.0, designed to give ASPs and Web hosting companies added control over network response time and performance. Based on technology from its recent ArrowPoint Communications Inc. acquisition, Web NS 4.0 software is supported on the Cisco 11000 Content Service Switches line.

Web NS 4.0 features proximity services, which process server selection based on a user's location, automatically routing requests to the closest server available, according to Cisco.

The software also includes user-tailored Web personalization services that let businesses transparently direct users to server optimized for a preferred type of device, browser, or language, Cisco said.

Another performance-enhancing tactic, the content-request remapping feature in Web NS 4.0 forms back-end connections to the best server for each embedded content request and delivers all subsequent content over a single TCP connection, according to Cisco.

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