Cisco Systems' recently announced CiscoWorks 2000, showcased at Atlanta's NetWorld+Interop and shipping now, is the company's attempt to give administrators using Cisco networks a clear view of the horizon - at least as far as the year 2000. During my tests, I found this Web-based suite provided a strong interface and solid set of tools for Cisco-based enterprises.
CiscoWorks 2000's primary component, Resource Manager Essentials (RME), replaces Cisco Resource Manager. It does an excellent job of keeping administrators up to date. RME runs on Microsoft's Internet Information Server as a Web-based tool for managing and administering extensive networks. Another module, CiscoWorks for Switched Internetworks (CWSI) Campus, provides tactical network details.
But CiscoWorks' strong management console can only manage Cisco products. If you have a heterogeneous network with 3Com or Bay Networks devices, you would have to use 3Com's Transcend or Bay's recently announced Optivity 2.0 as well. Device-independent tools such as Hewlett-Packard's OpenView and Intel's LANDesk Manager are great for mixed networks, but if you have mostly Cisco devices, you should add CiscoWorks for the additional data views.
One snag in this enhanced system is that it needs a hefty server to run - Cisco recommends 256MB of RAM for the Java-intensive application. I also found that during the installation, CiscoWorks 2000 wouldn't work on the Primary Domain Controller or Backup Domain Controllers.
RME is outstanding at managing documentation on Cisco switches and routers. It filters information from many sources and puts it in your browser. Year 2000 information, up-to-date bug and security reports, and the Cisco Connection Online subscription service are tintegrated into RME.
Down and dirty
RME is also great at getting down and dirty when it comes to managing devices directly from the browser interface. Four primary areas in RME's Explorer-style interface - Tasks, Tools, Admin, and a ticker - provided many search and reporting functions.
The non-Web-based CWSI Campus hasn't changed much from its previous form. It still displays a topology map that gives you an overview of network devices. But I think it should have been integrated with the RME console. However, it now provides simplified virtual LAN Token Ring management and awareness of Gigabit Ethernet and Fast EtherChannel. Overall, I was impressed with CiscoWorks 2000's enhanced functionality. It's powerful and easily automates Cisco device management. But it's not a complete management solution.
The Bottom Line
With seamless hooks to Cisco's online subscription database and year 2000 data, and the capability to gather up-to-date security and bug information, CiscoWorks 2000 eases management and maintenance for Cisco network administrators.
Pros: Integrated, well-organised Web-based console; continuous data updates; eases updating, configuring, and performance gathering for Cisco devices.
Cons: Can't manage other vendors' equipment; campus component not Web-based; requires hefty dedicated server.
Platforms: Windows NT, Sun Solaris, AIX.
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