Cisco’s AON Seeks to Add Intelligence to Middleware

Cisco Systems entered the middleware market when it launched its Application-Oriented Networking (AON) in late June. The technology is designed to add intelligence to the network so it can better understand business-application communications to support more effective and efficient business decisions.

Cisco’s approach to AON is based on technology that moves beyond the packet level to read application-to-application messages flowing within the network, such as purchase orders, investment transactions, or shipment approvals. With AON, the network now speaks the language of applications.

The technology supports Cisco’s vision for the Intelligent Information Network and is the first network-embedded intelligent message routing system that integrates application message-level communication, visibility, and security into the fabric of the network.

The Evolving Enterprise

Gartner Vice President and Research Fellow Roy Schulte said the nature of the enterprise network is evolving from a low-function communication service to a high-function Enterprise Nervous System (ENS). This, he noted, is changing application design and IT management practices in fundamental ways.

“In a conventional architecture, intelligent application systems interact through a low-function, fairly ‘dumb’ network,” Schulte said. “In an ENS-based architecture, by contrast, the network is as intelligent as the applications. The ENS offloads logic from the application systems by transforming and redirecting messages and providing other services as appropriate.”

The Trend Toward Intelligence

Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff told TechNewsWorld the industry trend toward more intelligent switches is the logical next step in light of XML’s growing prevalence. In other words, AON is made possible by XML’s ability to provide high level structure to messaging data.

“It’s difficult to accomplish massive routing of application messages that are either unstructured or structured in proprietary ways,” Haff said. “The problem with that scenario is you end up with a router that only works with a few applications. But a switch architecture can deal with structured XML message formats.”

Welcome to the Family

The Cisco AON family is designed to complement current Cisco packet and content-aware products by providing true application message-level awareness of business applications.

Cisco and its technology partners, including IBM and SAP, are providing a lifecycle portfolio of professional services that align customers’ business and technical requirements through all six phases of the deployment lifecycle: prepare, plan, design, implement, operate and optimize, specifically designed for this new solution.

In 2003, Cisco began articulating a three- to five-year vision for developing an Intelligent Information Network by increasing network intelligence to create a more resilient, adaptive, and integrated framework for communications.

Phase I is comprised of the integration of video, voice, and data across a system of networks, while Phase II adds the virtualization of networking, storage, server, and security services. Now, with AON, Cisco has introduced the third phase with intelligent network-based systems that enhance the communication, visibility, and security of business applications.

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