Cisco and Response Networks Partner for SLA Management

A service level agreement (SLA) can be a double-edged sword: IT organizations can set reasonable standards of service for an enterprise, but the agreement can force them to struggle to maintain the SLA. A new product from Cisco Systems Inc., as well as a new partnership, could aid administrators trying to live up to an SLA.

Cisco ( recently unveiled its CiscoWorks2000 suite of network management hardware and software, designed to monitor the health of Cisco routers in the enterprise. New in the suite are XML plug-ins, which allow integration with third-party monitoring tools. Response Networks Inc. ( was one of the first monitoring tool providers to sign on to offer Cisco functionality in their product.

Cisco hopes the partnership will bring administrators Cisco products for maintaining their SLAs. Response Networks’ ResponseCenter analyzes and presents data based on application performance for the end user. "We’re focused on the end-to-end experience," says Amrit Patel, product manager at Cisco.

CiscoWorks2000 relies on three components: a set of software for analyzing data, a hardware probe that sits in the cloud, and a set of APIs for third-party vendors to integrate CiscoWorks into their products.

The hardware probe collects signals sent out by routers, indicating the performance of the router. If a router begins to fail, it will put out a distress signal, letting the probe know of its status. The hardware probe is simply a data collector, containing little intelligence. It collects data and sends it to the central software.

The software converts the raw data into meaningful information for users. The information is meaningful to users interested in the performance of specific routers, but offers little in the way of detecting latency issues. Another level of intelligence is required for that.

The centralized software can publish its data in XML format, allowing users to access it from a browser, and to perform diagnostic procedures from anywhere on the site. In addition, Cisco provides APIs that allow third parties to use this data for holistic network management.

Response Networks is one of the first vendors to sign on to use Cisco’s APIs in a network monitoring and management solution. Its ResponseCenter takes a holistic, end-to-end view of the network, giving administrators a picture of end user experience. "What we’re trying to do from the client is take metric information from the router and get metric information from the framework," Patel says, alluding to Cisco and Response Networks’ strategy for determining latency and performance issues.

ResponseCenter also monitors servers and other devices to add to the total information analyzed and assessed for the end-to-end view. This information is analyzed and presented with regard to application performance and end user experience, rather than point performance.

End users have little or no interest in the performance of a router or a database server when they don't need specific information, but an application-centric view is essential to administrators interested in maintaining SLAs. Administrators can configure ResponseCenter with event thresholds alerting them when an SLA is about to be violated.

Rich Ptak, an analyst at Hurwitz Group Inc. (, says the integration of CiscoWorks data into ResponseCenter will make administrators lives easier. "It speeds response time," he says, "When CiscoWorks says this router is failing, ResponseCenter will tell you how it will affect the application." Administrators can then determine which network issues are most important when maintaining an SLA.

Conversely, ResponseCenter can determine the root causes of latency issues. If users are complaining that they cannot access data fast enough, administrators can drill down through ResponseCenter and determine if a router or other network infrastructure is the cause of the issue.

Ptak feels that this is a wise move for both Response Networks and Cisco. "It allows them to position themselves as solution to a significant business problem," he says. Administrators who exploit the synergies in technology can now benefit by the synergy found between these two companies.