Cisco adds Intelligence to network gear

IBM, SAP, Tibco join partnership in AON messaging vision

Embarking on a new path, Cisco Systems unveiled details of its first move into the messaging middleware business last week, with its AON (Application-Oriented Network) business unit.

Armed with development agreements with several vendors, including IBM, SAP and Tibco Software, the new AON business will deliver products intended to add more intelligence to the network. The initiative will allow the network to better understand business application communications in order to more effectively support business decisions, Cisco officials said.

“AON is a new technology direction for Cisco as well as a new product offering,” said Stephen Cho, senior director for product management in AON.

AON supports Cisco’s vision for its so-called Intelligent Information Network, Cho said, a network-embedded intelligent message routing system, which integrates application message-level communication, visibility, and security into the network fabric.

The AON group will roll out its first products later this year. Among the initial offerings, a branch office router and a blade will work with Cisco switches. Eventually, the company will add a standalone AON device and a branch office router, which will connect to SAP applications. The AON products will be about the size of a hardback book, Cho said. Product prices will be announced later this summer, he added.

The agreement appears to address a number of networking problems facing corporate users, some industry observers said.

“Companies have a difficult time getting application developers to understand the network better and vice versa. With this [agreement], that doesn’t have to happen,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at the Yankee Group.

“They are putting some intelligence into the network, so it can understand what it is doing. This, I think, is a real step forward,” Kerravala said.

Cisco is bringing aboard third-party providers that can build add-ons to Cisco’s products. IBM and Tibco Software will participate in the middleware space, building products that will enable AON to interpret messages sent by those middleware systems.

The collaboration between Cisco and IBM will create stronger integration between a number of network infrastructure layers and Websphere by simplifying IT infrastructure, IBM officials said.

Tighter integration between the companies’ technologies will serve as a building block for SOAs, which can help corporate users create on-demand businesses, which better integrate data across the enterprise and externally with business partners.

“Traditionally, Cisco calls on networking guys and we call on software guys,” said Jeff Henry, IBM’s Director of Websphere Product Management. “And so now the two are able to play off one another’s infrastructure much better, especially as our customers start to roll out SOAs.”