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6/21/2005
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Chambers Sketches A Grander Role For The Network

Cisco's application-oriented networking product line will add intelligence to the network, giving it a greater integration and security role.

Cisco Systems CEO and president John Chambers has been talking up intelligent networks for some time, and Tuesday he put some more meat on the bones with the announcement that Cisco is entering the market for application-oriented networking. Cisco says its AON products will allow networks to better understand what kind of data they're transmitting and apply rules such as visibility and security levels based on that.

Cisco said its AON products, the first of which it will roll out over the coming months, will let the network better understand application-to-application messages, such as those coming from business applications such as enterprise-resource-planning, supply-chain, and customer-data systems. It's Cisco's efforts to expand the role in business computing for networks, which Chambers called the enabler of IT. "Today it's all about network intelligence--and in the next three years people will be talking about the network as a platform," Chambers said at the Cisco Networkers user conference Tuesday.

The first AON products--a combination of hardware and software--will be a module for data-center switches and branch office routers.

One touted benefit of the AON tools is to give managers better visibility, such as being able to see events like a purchase order request or a payment as they happen in real time on the network. A beta customer--the financial networking provider BT Radianz--says integrating its applications with AON lets it provide clients with a view of transactions at each point they move along the network, since the network can track messages in the industry's Financial Information Exchange protocol.

Security is another key reason for adding intelligence to networks, being able to embed security features such as firewalls and intrusion detection, identity-based networking, and network admission control into the network so it can defend itself from attacks, Chambers said. He reiterated Cisco's goal of creating a self-defending network that would be able to adapt and react to new security attacks. "We view it as a human body being able to defend itself" from illnesses," Chambers said.

AON needs to work with the key software businesses use, so Cisco has recruited partners to help launch AON. IBM plans to integrate its WebSphere software into AON, and over the next year, SAP will integrate Business One into AON to better serve its small and midsize customers with branch offices. Tibco Software Inc. is integrating its messaging software.

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