RealTime IT News

Cisco Moves Into Messaging Middleware

Cisco Systems delivered on its promise to deliver computer networking via software with new blade servers and applications that ensure messages flow unfettered across a network.

The move officially enters the networking giant in the application-oriented networking (AON) sector, an emerging field designed to make it easier for computing gear to process chunky application messages or files.

Networks typically get bogged down trying to pass too much data through too little bandwidth. Application messages can be several megabytes, causing the data to get backed up as it traverses the network.

AON is a response to an era in which 50 applications have morphed into 500 applications and five application services have turned into 2,500 application services, said Stephen Cho, senior director for product management in Cisco's AON business unit.

Cisco software can now examine the whole payload of the digital packet and assemble a series of packet payloads as a purchase order or stock trade. These payloads can regulate themselves with autonomic responses, or trigger action with voluntary responses.

In a "voluntary" scenario, Cho said a computer system might notify the end application system, or "brain." For example, a computer using AON might recognize unusual patterns, such as three different people from suspect locations purchasing one-way tickets from Newark Airport for the same arrival day within a 60-minute period.

The computer would forward that data to an application system or person being for action.

"We now have embedded a native understanding of individual application messages within the network," Cho said. "The overall objective is to reduce cost and make it easier to deploy applications, effectively taking out custom IT expenses in the enterprise for gluing these systems together."

The software has a home, sitting in a blade in the 2600 and 2700 series access router or the 2800 and 3800 series integrated services router. A blade could also sit in the Catalyst 6500 high-end LAN switch. Cho said Cisco will unveil a network appliance form factor for AON.

Cho said the blades are available today under controlled availability for early customers. General availability will occur this fall, with pricing revealed at that time.

AON is expected to ensure that XML-based Web services messages, which could include purchase orders and other transactions, get to where they are supposed to go with speed and security.

But Cisco isn't focusing on XML-base messaging as the main culprit. Cho said XML and Web services messages currently only suck up about 5 percent of all Web traffic.

That is bound to change in the future, as businesses increasingly turn to Web services and services-oriented architectures to anchor their computing protocols and business process strategies.

Cho said Cisco will be ready. In fact, Actional is already using Cisco's new product to capture Web services messages and feed them to its Looking Glass management console.

IBM and SAP are also partnering with Cisco to integrate their software portfolios with AON. Cisco has embedded the client library for IBM's WebSphere MQ middleware.

In the meantime, the San Jose, Calif., company is now in a territory it recently saw in its leap into the wide area file services market: Entering a space populated by aggressive startups that have a couple years' head-start.

DataPower, Reactivity, Forum Systems, Layer 7 Technologies and Tarari Networks make up a small core of vendors offering products that secure networks, accelerate and/or integrate content. While none of the would seem to go quietly, it is quite possible Cisco could poach a couple the way it did in the WAFS market with Actona Technologies and FineGround Networks.