Monday, June 20, 2005

Cisco Unveils Application Aware Networking

Cisco Systems unveiled its vision for Application-Oriented Networking (AON) -- a new initiative and set of technologies designed to move beyond the packet level to read application-to-application messages flowing within the network.

"Intelligence throughout the network changes IT forever," said John Chambers, speaking in a keynote address at Cisco's "Networkers 2005" conference in Las Vegas, likening such service to "application-dial tone."

"Layers 1 to 7 of the network are completely blurring together," said Chambers. "You are not going to be able to tell the difference between transport, switching, routing, content and applications. There will be intelligence throughout the network down from the device level to the datacenter, across your network, across service provider networks, across wired and wireless networks, in ways we are just beginning to imagine."

Cisco is advocating that its customer take an architectural approach to designing their entire IT infrastructure. Functions that do not add value to a corporate application would be relegated to an application-aware network.

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

An AON-enabled router would not only examine the data packets that flow through it but would also look inside some of those packets to see what the messages say. For example, a company might write a business rule that tells the router to send an email to a customer service representative every time an order over $1,000 goes to the warehouse.

Cisco AON is currently available in two products that integrate into Cisco switches and routers:

  • Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series AON module, which is primarily deployed in enterprise core or data centers

  • Cisco 2600/2800/3700/3800 series AON module, which is primarily deployed at branch offices.

The AON technology works as follows. The supervisor or route processor in a Cisco switch or router would transparently redirect application traffic to the Cisco AON module without requiring any changes to the applications themselves. Cisco AON policies would then be applied to these messages, and they could be forwarded to a destination application. Additionally, Cisco AON could also be explicitly addressed if required.

Cisco AON understands commonly used protocols, including HTTP, HTTPS, TIBCO EMS, Websphere MQ, and Websphere JMS. The Cisco AON node could also act as protocol gateway between multiple applications, such as between HTTP(S) and a TIBCO message queue.

Cisco AON supports both XML and non-XML transformation. Cisco AON achieves Extensible Style Language Transformation (XSLT) with the built-in XSLT-based transformation engine using XSLT style sheets written or procured by the customer, allowing any combination of transformations from XML to other XML or non-XML formats, and vice versa.

Cisco AON can also be integrated with security frameworks authenticate the identity of the sender of an inbound message based on username and password, WS-Security profile, digital certificate, etc.

Cisco and its technology partners aim to provide 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." Partners include:

  • Cisco is working with IBM to help customers to support WebSphere with AON.

  • Cisco is working with SAP to integrate ESA with Application-Oriented Networking to deliver end-to-end solutions for enterprise data centers, branch offices, and small and midsize businesses.

  • In addition, Cisco is collaborating with EDS, SAIC, TIBCO Software, and Verisign, as well as other services and software firms, including: Actional, ConnecTerra, Contivo, CXO Systems, Infogain, ManTech, Trace Financial, and TransAct Tools to provide a broad range of Cisco AON solutions.