CISCO Systems has launched a new set of Windows-based network management tools as part of the company's drive into the lower end of the networking market. Part of its latest suite of tools is a new version of the CiscoWorks network management software which allows administrators to send diagnostic information about their network automatically to Cisco customer support staff via the Internet. This new feature, called CiscoConnect, provides a direct link to the newly created Cisco Information On-line (CIO), a Mosaic-based help-site that resides on the global Internet. 'If there is a problem with your network, (the new software) will tell you where that problem exists,' said Cisco's managing director of Asian operations, William Messer. 'In the past that has been a product requiring a UNIX station, but now we have moved down to the lower end of the market, to Windows-based PCs,' he said. Mr Messer said the new products were recognition that in Cisco's key growth markets of remote access and IBM inter-networking, users in the region have traditionally preferred the PC platform and operating system. The CiscoWorks for Windows products are a subset of the company's original UNIX-based CiscoWorks, and runs on the HP OpenView for Windows network management platform. Both the UNIX and Windows versions of the product are based on the SNMP protocol (simple network management protocol), which means they can both be used together on the same network. Initially the new Windows-based version of the product includes four applications: CiscoView - which lets users manage a device from a physical configuration on the console screen, Configuration Builder - which allows users to quickly and easily create configuration files for multiple routers or switches, Health Monitor - providing information about the overall state of devices on a network, and Show Commands - which greatly simplifies the retrieval of critical information. The most interesting part of the new product is probably its access to the CIO service, which gives users access to Cisco's technical assistance centres, which maintain technical support databases, including problem reports, software updates and configuration examples, among other services. Mr Messer said CiscoConnect and the CIO service were the first steps in what the company calls its network aware programme, which is designed to automate network management by, 'tightly linking up-to-date knowledge of the customers network with Cisco's technical support staff.' Incorporated into CiscoWorks 3.0, which will be available from the second quarter of this year, CiscoConnect automates what is usually a lengthy and often error-prone process of gathering diagnostic information. The application compiles a customer profile, including the user's protocols, firmware levels and system software versions, which is then registered with the CIO service, giving Cisco's support staff a quick reference point for their technical staff to engage in problem solving. Mr Messer said Cisco's growth in the Asia region continued to break its own previous records, particularly in the China market, where the company has recently won a series of high-profile networking contracts, including a deal with Xinhua (the New China News Agency). 'Our business in China is ten times what it was last year. We just keep clicking away at these major deals,' he said. Growth in revenue in Asia has increased about 250 per cent year-on-year, Mr Messer said.