Cisco gears up to accelerate applications

Network appliances are designed to accelerate applications over WANs

Two families of network appliances announced Thursday and now shipping from Cisco Systems Inc. may help enterprises reach out to customers and branch workers more quickly and efficiently.

The appliances, based on technology Cisco got through its acquisitions of Actona Technologies Inc. and FineGround Networks Inc., are designed to accelerate applications over wide-area networks and make it easier to consolidate IT infrastructure, according to the San Jose, California, company. They come from Cisco's Application Delivery Business Unit, a new division formed this week, said John Henze, director of marketing for the new group.

The Cisco AVS (Application Velocity System) is a pair of appliances for accelerating applications served from an enterprise data center and delivered via the Web. It can accelerate any application based on HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) or XML (Extensible Markup Language), providing a LAN-like experience over a wide area network, according to a Cisco press release. In addition to reducing response times for end users, it can both cut the bandwidth required to deliver an application and reduce server processing cycles by as much as 80 percent, the company said. The AVS technology came from FineGround, which Cisco acquired earlier this year.

Within the AVS family, the AVS 3120 handles performance improvements by offloading server processes and minimizing communication overhead -- the "chattiness" that comes from managing data exchanges. It can also identify and prevent application-layer threats and data theft, according to Cisco. The AVS 3180 is a management station that monitors and reports on application response time throughout the network, Cisco said. The Cisco AVS 3120 is priced at US$35,995 and the AVS 3180 costs $14,995.

Also Thursday, Cisco introduced the WAE (Wide-Area Application Engine), which combines two Cisco technologies for application acceleration at branch offices. Cisco ACNS (Application and Content Networking System) accelerates Internet protocols such as HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) and FTP (File Transfer Protocol), as well as video protocols, Cisco's Henze said. For example, it can speed up access to ERP (enterprise resource planning) or CRM (customer relationship management) through Web portals, Henze said.

WAFS (Wide Area File Services), technology that Cisco acquired through its acquisition of Actona last year, works with file-based protocols such as CIFS (Common Internet File System) and NFS (Network File System), Henze said. It can accelerate Microsoft Corp. Office applications and databases, among other things, he said.

Both technologies are integrated as software in WAE. The system lets enterprises eliminate servers from their branch offices, instead running applications and storing data in a central data center. It works by storing a cached copy of the latest data being used, as well as minimizing overhead chatter on the wide-area network connection and reducing bandwidth demands through techniques such as compression, Henze said.

WAE is available now on three appliances, the WAE-511, WAE-611 and WAE-7326, priced starting at $5,500 and distinguished by levels of processing power, memory and storage space, Henze said. It is also available as a module for Cisco's Integrated Services Routers, a line of multipurpose routers for branches and small offices. The module has a list price of $4,500.

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