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Application-aware networking to be Cisco's next big play

Sluggish response times spur Cisco to tackle application-aware networking. The company is seeking the No. 1 market position with its new Application Networking Services.

Cisco demonstrated a willingness to eat its own cooking when it served up its corporate Web site as a model for its new application-aware networking solution.

The networking giant chose its annual analyst conference as a platform to announce Application Networking Services, a set of technologies designed to improve interaction between applications and enterprise networks. Santa Clara, Calif.-based Cisco's solution includes Application Delivery technology and Application-Oriented Networking (AON), a combo that users would deploy with a mind toward optimizing and monitoring mission-critical applications.

Latency, response time and protocol overhead are currently what make applications run slowly, according to Jayshree Ullal, Cisco's senior vice president, data center, switching and security technology group.

Ullal downplayed three existing workaround solutions to this problem in light of Cisco's application-aware networking announcement. "One way to solve the problem today, which falls short, is throwing more servers at the problem," Ullal said. Another approach, she explained, is for applications vendors to rewrite applications, do more testing and tweak applications to achieve a particular response time. Users can also "throw network bandwidth at the problem ... but that's not practical," she said.

In contrast, she said, Cisco's Application Networking Services would make networks, which operate on packets and protocols, intelligent enough -- or application aware enough -- to understand messages, applications and Layer 4 through 7 capabilities. "Users could establish a policy on how they prioritize and secure these applications across the network," Ullal said.

Cisco's Application Delivery products improve application-to-user communication, which is achieved by managing and securing the movement of content between application servers and Web browsers. The technology is deployed across the network in areas such as data centers, the WAN edge and branch offices. On the other hand, AON products, which operate at the messaging level, address communication between applications and can be used to apply policies to business messages.

An Application Networking Services product has already been deployed by, which is the conduit for 96% of Cisco's revenue. "[Our corporate Web site] is as mission critical an application as you can possibly get," said George Kurian, vice president and general manager of Cisco's application delivery business unit.

By implementing application velocity appliance technology in its corporate Web site, Cisco said it was able to cut down the response time of applications by more than 50%. Furthermore, deployment of file service and cache engine technology allowed Cisco to cut response time by an additional 90%.

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Cisco is big on its push into application-aware networking and has boldly dubbed the software its next "Advanced Technology." The company now has nine Advanced Technologies, defined as product categories with the potential to become $1 billion revenue generators for Cisco over the next five to seven years. Also included in the definition is the stipulation that Cisco has the potential to be the market leader or, at worst, in the No. 2 position. Other Advanced Technology areas include digital video, enterprise IP communications, home networking, hosted small-business solutions, optical networking, security, storage area networking and wireless technologies.

However, other networking players are more impressed with their own technology than they are with Cisco's foray into the application-aware networking arena. "It's no secret that today's forward-thinking enterprise is seeking to easily link their communications infrastructure with business applications and processes to improve workflow and collaboration -- a message at the cornerstone of BlueNote's announcement several months ago," said Sally Bament, vice president of marketing, BlueNote Networks.

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