CiscoWorks LAN Management Solution (LMS) version 4.0, a new major version in the CiscoWorks family, introduces a huge, yet simple, paradigm shift in how customers manage their current Cisco networks. Along with the new look and feel, there are many other changes that make LMS 4.0 far better and easier to use than any other previous versions of CiscoWorks LMS.
New Look and Feel
CiscoWorks LMS is among the first applications to take advantage of the latest standardized user interface. The new UI theme incorporates a lot of good UI best practices. All of these directly go toward making LMS 4.0 a very pleasant experience for the end user, whether it's used by the network operations center operator or the network engineer or even the system administrator trying to set up the server.
Megamenu is one of the components that go a long way into making the overall navigation much simpler than ever before. Cisco.com has also been updated to use the same widget to access most of the links with a single hover instead of a click. With LMS 4.0, the behavior is exactly the same. Figure 1 clearly depicts this fact. When a mouse is hovered over My Menu, the entire dashboard menu immediately pops open. This makes it very easy to switch dashboards and have access to the summary information in seconds.
Figure 1. Using the Megamenu
One of the challenges in the previous versions of CiscoWorks LMS has been the various menus based on the module that is currently being accessed. The complexity of such navigation can be seen in the legacy menu shown in Figure 3. With CiscoWorks LMS 4.0, the individual module barrier has now been dissolved, facilitating the comprehensive use of customer known functional boundaries (see the menu in Figure 2).
Figure 2. LMS 4.0's Consistent Menu
When the new navigation menu was designed (as seen in Figure 2), we wanted to make sure that we don't confuse our existing 3.x customers by swapping the menu on them. There is a separate Legacy menu, which has been replicated in Figure 3 as it is seen in LMS 3.x to make sure existing customers can quickly learn the new menu and make the transition to it without any big efforts. The main spirit behind the consistent megamenu and the legacy navigation was to make sure that more time is spent in dealing with the issues that need more attention, that is, networking issues, and not on CiscoWorks navigation issues.
Figure 3. The Legacy Menu
The install script of CiscoWorks LMS has been dramatically improved to complete most of the standard installation in under 40 minutes. This means that users can now test drive this product without spending much time in supervising the install. Front-loading all the questions should definitely free the user to multitask the install with any other task during LMS 4.0 installation.
Figure 4. The Getting Started Wizard
Get Started in a Matter of Minutes
The new and improved Getting Started wizard alleviates the problem of quickly realizing the return on investment (ROI) on CiscoWorks LMS (Figure 4). With the new LMS 4.0, ROI can be seen right from day-zero during the deployment itself. Getting Started is the first page that is seen when the user logs in to LMS for the very first time. The neatly organized wizard slowly guides the user on all the essential elements that need to be configured in LMS 4.0 in order to reap the benefits immediately. Users now no longer need to worry about what step should be configured or where it should be configured. The wizard takes care of all the basic configuration. with an option to go back after day-N to perform more of the advanced configuration if needed. Users can quickly hover over the Admin megamenu to select the Getting Started option shown in Figure 5. In short, this brand new Getting Started wizard enhances the user experience when users are getting started using CiscoWorks LMS 4.0 to manage their Cisco networks.
Figure 5. Getting Started from the Admin Menu
Figure 6. Zoom to a Device, Job End Host, Help, or a Task
Integrated Global Search
LMS 4.0 now has global search that can be accessed from anywhere within the product. This makes it very handy to zoom down to a device, a job, an end host, Help, or a management task in a matter of no time (Figure 6). If we search on a device IP address for example, we get some hits. Hovering over those search results yields more information about them without going anywhere at all. Now not only can we can see the device information about a given device (Figure 7), but we can also have handy access to all the tools that can operate on these device. Some of the tools include Device Center, a one-stop shop for device information; CiscoView, Cisco's classic element manager; end host connection to the switch in question; and other standard industry tools such as ping, traceroute, and so on. The new search is not only global but also deeply integrated within the product to quickly access information that others would need running the reports.
Figure 7. Device Details
The Work Center is a new concept that has been introduced in LMS 4.0 (Figure 8). The idea here is to alleviate the pain that customers go through to deploy a brand new Cisco technology. With the new technology come new buzzwords, new methods, new images, new configuration, and so on. How can LMS customers deploy these new technologies and features as easily as possible? The Work Center addresses this very question within CiscoWorks LMS 4.0. This powerful feature can be accessed right from the main megamenu.
Figure 8. Work Centers Make Deployment Easier
Technology Work Centers
There are two new technologies that are introduced within LMS 4.0: EnergyWise and Identity. More will be introduced in latter releases. Similarly, there are two new features that are introduced in LMS 4.0: Smart Install (SI) and Auto Smart Ports (ASP). The beauty of the Work Center is that once you know how to work with one Work Center, other ones follow the same UI behavior. This makes it even more appealing to use the Work Center for the unknown technology that it supports.
EnergyWise was supported in LMS 3.2, but with advent of LMS 4.0, it has been promoted to the next level (Figure 9). Customers who are not familiar with it, but would like to reap the cost saving benefits of EnergyWise, will find this module very useful. LMS 4.0 takes customers on a wizard type journey that guides the user at each step. How many devices in the network are really ready for EnergyWise? How can we address each different EnergyWise readiness bucket? Each of these buckets demands a different workflow and that is where the EnergyWise Work Center can help alleviate the amount of effort needed.
Figure 9. The EnergyWise Work Center
The Identity Work Center focuses on Identity-based Networking Services (IBNS), an integrated solution that comprises several Cisco products and offers authentication, access control, and user policies to secure network resources and connectivity. Seemingly complicated, the Identity Work Center really takes the pain out, making deployment easier through its intuitive UI. Figure 10, which shows the security mode, is an example; the slider bar can quickly change the security mode, which in turn automatically changes all the relevant information.
Figure 10. You Can Set the Security Mode Through the Identify Work Center
Feature Work Centers
Just as you can deploy some new Cisco led technologies, you can also quickly deploy new features within Cisco IOS Software or another OS using Work Centers. The two that come preconfigured with LMS 4.0 are Smart Install (SI) and Auto Smart Port (ASP).
Smart Install and Auto Smart Ports
Smart Install is a plug-and-play configuration and image management feature that provides zero-touch deployment for new switches. LMS 4.0 quickly accesses the network based on the inventory information and can show the preconfigured readiness assessment report. Figure 11 shows one such pie chart.
Figure 11. SmartInstall Readiness Assessment Pie Chart
Auto Smart Ports macros on the other hand dynamically configure ports based on the device type detected on the port. When the switch detects a new device on a port it applies the appropriate Auto Smart Ports macro on the port. When a link-down event is detected on the port, the switch removes the macro.
Until LMS 4.0, there wasn't really a good way to introduce parameters into the configuration templates and deploy the final merged configuration to multiple devices. LMS 4.0 introduces the Template Center (Figure 12), which address just this gap in the product. With the configuration Template Center, there are many benefits to the operation as well as to the network engineer. Some of the benefits include:
• Ease of operation
• Error-free deployment
• Cisco Verified Design Certified
• Turnkey solution
• Expedites new device deployment
LMS 4.0 carries over all the existing functionality of NetConfig thus maintaining feature parity with the older product. As the configuration solutions are now embedded into a template, end users can quickly deploy a solution at a location without much error. There are a few common templates that come with the product, and new ones can be downloaded from the Cisco.com pages when they are uploaded. The new Template Manager consists of importing, managing, and deploying the templates.
Figure 12. The Configuration Template
Figure 13. Templates Can Be Imported from Three Different Locations
The templates can be imported from three different locations (Figure 13), thus making is easy toconvert a running configuration or a Cisco Configuration Professional generated configuration (CCP Config) into an LMS 4.0-compatible template. At a future date there will be a tool that can readily do the conversion for customers.
Once the template(s) are imported into LMS 4.0, users can edit the default values or export the template to edit it (Figure 14). The default values stay persistent across the web sessions. Defining the default values is what makes it easier to deploy. Customers can easily customize the template to their requirements by exporting the template, editing it, and then importing it back into LMS 4.0. Once the template is successfully imported, users can define new default values and push out the configuration to multiple devices. Templates can also be assigned to various users for security purposes, allowing customers to be compliant with their existing role-based access control (RBAC) policies.
Figure 14. Templates Can Be Imported and Exported
After the template has been prepped, it is now ready to be deployed. Once the deployment workflow is enabled on a template, the Configuration Template wizard walks the user through filling out the values for the variable fields. If more values are defined in the template, users can easily export the comma-separated value (CSV) file, which can be filled out externally using Excel or other means and imported right back. LMS 4.0 can then parse the information from the CSV file and generate the deployable configuration. Users can view the final configuration for all the devices before they are pushed out (Figure 15). The Configuration Template Manager really adds great value to the existing feature-rich CiscoWorks LMS product.
Figure 15. Template Details
Network Analysis Module (NAM) is typically inserted in the Catalyst® 6000 Series Switches and ISR routers. It collects all the performance information and displays it as a webpage that resides on the module itself. LMS 4.0 now deeply integrates into NAM and brings all the performance information right into the LMS dashboard. NAM devices can be manually added or can be discovered during the scheduled or initial discovery. There are two preconfigured portlets that can be used to display different performance metrics (Figure 16) in the network. Figure 17 shows how information can be shown as a table as well as in graphical format.
Figure 16. NAM Portlet with different metric selection
Figure 17. NAM Information Can Be Shown in Both Tabular and Graphical Formats
Improved Fault Monitoring
Figure 18. AutoMonitoring Polling Interval in one place
In LMS 4.0, automonitoring of basic device health is preconfigured. Basic device metrics are automatically polled with the predefined polling interval as shown in Figure 18. All of the pollers can be changed in one place, which makes it very easy to manage automonitoring. Fault management has been greatly improved as well. Event Monitor (Figure 19) is separate from Fault Monitor, and each has a slightly different focus. LMS Fault Monitor is a centralized browser, where you can view the information on faults and events of devices in a single place (Figure 20).
Figure 19. Fault Widget always on top
Figure 20. Fault Monitor Shows Information about Faults and Events in a Single Place
From the Fault Monitor window shown in Figure 21, troubleshooting becomes very easy for some frequent events such as an operationally down interface or high CPU on a device, where time-critical information is the key in getting to the root of the problem.
Figure 21. Fault Monitor Makes Troubleshooting for Some Frequent Events Easier
Forensic data provides such rich and timely information right from the Fault Monitor. All this is preconfigured, without the user having to add any scripts or tools.
When it comes to troubleshooting, it is crucial to have all the information at your fingertips. That is exactly what LMS 4.0 does for you. When troubleshooting a device using LMS 4.0's troubleshooting tool, which can be launched from any of the modal popups, all the information that LMS 4.0 knows about, from inventory to discrepancy, is neatly populated and organized in one place. The troubleshooting page is an active page where users can also take appropriate actions to fetch more data that might help in further troubleshooting. Figure 22 shows only one section, but there are many other sections that show various other device-related information like configuration, performance, and monitoring.section, but there are many other sections that show various other device-related information like configuration, performance, and monitoring.
Figure 22. A Section of the Troubleshooting Page
Users will see a great improvement in this area for sure. The navigation for reporting has been completely revamped and streamlined to enable users to quickly run reports without having to hunt for them through the navigation menu (Figure 23). This results in a dramatic decrease in the number of clicks from the previous version. All the various reports that LMS 4.0 provides can now be reached in less than couple of clicks. Navigation between the reports is also now easier than was the case before. This area of the product definitely has seen a huge improvement in usability, which allows users to quickly tap into the right network report in a matter of seconds.
Figure 23. LMS 4.0 Has Improved Navigation for Reporting
Support for non-Cisco devices is an anxiously awaited new feature in this release. We can now classify non-Cisco devices into their own vendor-specific category. LMS 4.0 can do some basic monitoring and poll some very basic information on them, which helps users to get a complete picture of the overall network inventory (Figure 24).
Figure 24. Non-Cisco Devices Can Be Classified into Their Own Category
Local Role-Based Access Control
Until LMS 4.0, there was no way of customizing roles within LMS except by integrating with Cisco Secure Access Control Server (ACS), which by the way exists in LMS 4.0. With local RBAC, not only can you define new roles but you can also associate users to those roles. All the authentication modules are still available for use in LMS 4.0 as well. Roles can be imported and exported for speedier deployment of new instances of CiscoWorks LMS 4.0 servers.
As you can tell, a lot has gone into the making of LMS 4.0. Version 4.0, from installation to day-to-day operational use, has been carefully optimized to make it easy to install, deploy, get started, and operate. The new enhancements in the user interface and the core features will definitely please anyone trying to successfully manage Cisco gears.