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.

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