Last week I gave several presentations at Cisco Live (Networkers) in Las Vegas. As usual, I preferred to discuss rather than present, and so I ended up in lots of discussions with folks from the IT infrastructure teams of organizations from around the world about the challenges that they face. No matter whether they were network engineers, systems administrators, or storage admins; one thing that really stuck out to me after all of these conversations is that technology is evolving much, much faster than most of us can learn and/or adopt it. Some of the technologies that seem like old news to part of the crowed was brand new to others and the reverse was true as well.

In an effort to help with this, I'm going to dedicate 10 blog posts to highlighting and explaining technologies that everyone should be aware of and consider implmenting within their organizations. By no means are these the top 10 technologies overall as I'm going to skip over all of the fundamentals and things that I think that just about everyone already knows about or has in place. Instead, I'm going to focus on technologies that are commonly overlooked or unknown even though they can be tremendous assets.

The first technology that we're going to cover is Cisco IP SLA. For a technical definition I'd recommend visiting Cisco or Wikipedia but here's a simple explanation of what it does and how to use it.

When you think about enterprise networks today, one theme is common - our users and our resources are more distributed than ever before. Sure, we may be consolidating our datacenters but chances are that we're also moving things out of our datacenters and leveraging SaaS providers, colocation facilities, public cloud providers, and public internet resources. Most of our networks have several different sites - all with multiple connections back to the corporate network and a direct internet connection. Our users are spread all over the place - main office, remote offices, home offices (telecommuters), shared office (like Next Space). Even in the datacenter, with virtualization technologies, we're commonly distributing components of what used to be a "server" across several virtual servers which may be distributed across several physical server clusters.

These facts force us to think about monitoring a little differently. It's easy to see that tracking application and resource availability and performance from the users' perspectives can be quite challenging. Cisco IP SLA helps conquer this challenge.

Efffectively, Cisco IP SLA or Cisco IP Service Level Agreements lets you have the routers distributed across your network runs tests and compute metrics from their location (their perspective) out on the network. Some of the most common measurements that people measure from remote locations using Cisco IP SLA are VoIP performance (jitter, packet loss, latency), ping (for general latency and reachability), HTTP availability and performance (to key web apps like your SaaS providers), DNS (hey, if DNS is slow from a remote site then everything's pretty much gonna seem slow), and so on.

Best in class network monitoring applications, like the Orion IP SLA Manager, make using Cisco IP SLA easy by configuring and managing the IP SLA operations and pulling the results into a central console for easy analysis, alerting, reporting, and trending. This technology is quite mature, both Cisco IP SLA and the Orion IP SLA Manager, and can be trusted to be deployed on today's mission critical networks.

If you'd like to learn more about this technology visit our Geek's Guide on Cisco IP SLA.  There you'll find recorded webcasts, videos, white papers, and free tools that can teach you all you need to know about this cool and often overlooked technology...

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