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7/31/2006
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New Cisco Suite Takes On Complicated Regulatory Issues

One product in the Cisco PACE suite, Network Compliance Manager, provides reports on compliance and changes and allows administrators to make bulk configuration and password changes.

Cisco introduced today a configuration-management suite designed to help companies understand the state of each device on their networks and map them to regulatory requirements.

The suite, called Proactive Automation of Change Execution, or PACE, includes two new products, two existing products and three consulting services. It's designed to enable detailed compliance reporting for all network changes, and monitors and analyzes the network configuration for things like security vulnerabilities and network resiliency, while also providing control over logins and passwords.

One new product, Network Compliance Manager, provides reports on compliance and changes and allows administrators to make bulk configuration and password changes. The other new offering, Configuration Assurance, crunches the numbers even further by doing compliance analysis at a network level.

Cisco says the suite can make complicated compliance issues simple and allow companies to focus on more pertinent business issues. "By addressing regulatory compliance issues, we're making the network more available and responsive and allowing the network to be focused on and adapt to the business needs," says Karen Sage, marketing director for Cisco's network management division.

Any move toward easier management of the network is a plus for Cisco. Many companies run several different versions of Cisco's IOS operating system, so even simple changes to large-scale deployments can take a long time. Research firm Yankee Group estimates a third of network downtime is related to configuration problems. Cisco, meanwhile, continues to transition into a systems vendor, preaching architecture and the power of software. "If your stuff is hard to manage it's no better than a bunch of point products," says Yankee analyst Zeus Kerravala.

The network configuration-management space is dominated by small vendors like Voyence, Alterpoint and Opsware, while traditional management vendors like Hewlett-Packard and CA have shied away. The gap left an opening for Cisco, whose push into the network management market started with the Network Application Performance Analysis family in December.

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