Cisco To Tie Network Infrastructure To Applications

Cisco's new technology, dubbed Application-Oriented Networking (AON), can read the messages that flow between applications and bases networking decisions on their contents. For example, the network could identify a message as a purchase order or investment transaction, understand its level of importance to the customer and usher it through the appropriate back-end systems.

This creates an "intelligent message routing system" that enables disparate applications to communicate and collaborate with each other, said Charles Giancarlo, senior vice president and CTO of Cisco, during a press conference at the vendor's Networkers 2005 user conference in Las Vegas.

"The network is what allows all of the information to pass between these applications, and if the network can be made to actually speak the language of the various applications and in fact be able to translate between the languages of these different applications, much the way a multi-protocol router did at Layer 3, then we can have better collaboration between the applications," Giancarlo said.

Cisco within the next few months plans to roll out AON blades for its Catalyst 6500 data center switch and branch office Integrated Services Routers, to be followed later in the year by an AON appliance. Customers are currently beta testing the products.

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"It's an architecture that provides customers with visibility into what systems are interacting with what," said Steve Rizzi, vice president of operations at Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), a systems integrator based in San Diego, Calif., on a video played during the press conference. SAIC plans to integrate AON with its own TeraText database system, Rizzi said.

Cisco is also working with vendors including IBM, SAP and Tibco to create closer ties between AON and their applications.

In a keynote address ahead of the press conference, Cisco President and CEO John Chambers called the architectural shift "probably one of the most fundamental changes in IT that has occurred during my lifetime."

"Instead of speaking about packets it speaks about messages. The ability to think of a message as an order being placed or a stock trade being placed, and the ability to identify the application in the network has huge implications," he said.

However Chambers stopped short of naming AON as Cisco's next "advanced technology," a designation the San Jose, Calif.-based company uses for technologies it expects to grow into billion-dollar businesses.

Cisco is now working to select systems integrators to work with AON technology through its Advanced Technology Provider program, an invitation-only program it typically uses to introduce new products to channel partners.

The company intends eventually to build a specialization around AON and push the technology out to its broader partner base, a company spokesman said.

Cisco is also building up professional services offerings which will be available through its services organization and its channel partners.