Cisco ThousandEyes: Technical Part 1

Cisco ThousandEyes: Technical Part 1


This time it is going to be bit technical. Before you start please take a quick view on earlier relevant writeups – Introduction to Thousand Eyes; Cisco ThousandEyes: Modern Network and their Challenges

Today we are going to open the hood and see what is under that. Cisco ThousandEyes capabilities depends on the two components agents and tests. This article is around the Agents & the Vantage Points. Once you understand these rest is simple. Agents are doer and what they do/perform is called the test; Vantage point means where Agents is hosted – cloud, enterprise infra, or end-user system.

There are three types of Agents and their vantage points :

  • Cloud Agents – External Vantage Points
  • Enterprise Agents – Internal Vantage Points
  • Endpoint Agents – end-user Experience Vantage Point

Cisco ThousandEyes Cloud Agents
Cloud Agents are external vantage points that are managed and monitored by ThousandEyes. These cloud agents are deployed worldwide (more than 200 cites & 60 countries). 

These cloud agents are deployed across all types of cloud providers and ISPs (Tier 1, 2, and 3). These agents cover both IPv4 and IPv6 support. Worldwide map for cloud agent is available on ThousandEyes site.

Figure 1: ThousandEyes Global Cloud Agent Map

Cloud Agents are the starting points with Cisco ThousandEyes since they require no investment & management. As the name implies, they provide visibility to the public network hence has no visibility to the private network of an enterprise. They are for monitoring the cloud solutions.

Cisco ThousandEyes Enterprise Agents
Enterprise agents are internal vantage points that are deployed by network administrator across the network. They do everything that a cloud agent does, with additional functionality to provide visibility across the internal network.

Enterprise agent are a piece of software in multiple form-factors deployed on various hardware within the enterprise network. Some the widely used places are remote offices, underlying network devices (Switches, routers), and on-prem Data Centers. The deployment of the agents are strategy that network administrator design based on the functionality they want to achieve.

Enterprise Agent form factor are – physical appliance, virtual appliance, Linux Package, Docker Container, Cisco Application Hosting, and IaaS Cloud Deployment. More information

Enterprise Agents are very valuable as they can monitor both internal and external cloud services. There is wide variety of the deployment types available for a network administrator to achieve various goals.

Figure 2: ThousandEyes ENT Agent & Vantage Points

Cisco ThousandEyes Endpoint Agents
Endpoint agents are end-user experience vantage points that give a network administrator a real insight into the digital experience that an end-user is having. When we talk about endpoint agents these are two types of Endpoint Agents and Endpoint Pulse. 

Endpoint pulse are deployed at 3rd party or customer environment where limited visibility is allowed to capture due to privacy policy of the client environment.

Endpoint agents come as native programs and install on an end-user device such as desktop computer, laptop or workstation. Mobile devices not supported today (at the time of writing). The supported OS include – Windows 7 or higher; Windows Server 2012 or higher, and MAC OS 10.9 or higher.

These endpoint agents also can be enabled with an extension in Web Browser to gather performance data from the actual browsing experience of the user. Supported web browser supported – Chrome, Edge.

Endpoint agents collect data using the scheduled test – a kind of L3 to L7 synthetic test that are performed on the predefined time interval by administrator during test setup. Another way of collecting data is known as browser sessions (not supported by Endpoint Pulse) – to monitor the real web browsing experience of a client. A good use case could be to measure how long the user had to wait for a corporate website to load. 

Apart from the web performance data some more information can be captured such as computer information (hardware model, OS, browser, CPU and memory utilization); Network Information (Wi-Fi or Ethernet information -IP Address, DNS, Gateway etc.)

Figure 3: ThousandEyes Endpoint Agent Visibility

Endpoint agents are easy to install and maintenance free. They provide end user digital experience valuable insight. Hope you find this informative and next we’ll be next talking about the various tests that are performed by Agents.