Cisco Picking Partners To Sell AON Technology

Cisco's forthcoming 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 last week.

"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 multiprotocol router did at Layer 3, then we can have better collaboration between the applications," he said.

Cisco in 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 currently are beta testing the products.

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With AON, solution providers can move more quickly into strategic business discussions with customers, helping them align IT with business objectives, said John Freres, president of Meridian IT Solutions, a Cisco partner in Schaumburg, Ill. "If I'm out there just talking about routers or switches or IP telephony, then I've put myself in a specific silo. It puts me in the commodity zone and doesn't paint the big picture," he said. "We need to sell strategies as solution providers."

Cisco now is working to select a group of 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 partners.

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

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

In a keynote address, 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." He 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.