Cisco muscles in on apps delivery services

The company's latest products target improved application delivery on enterprise networks, an area it hopes to dominate, too.
Written by Jeanne Lim, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Networking giant Cisco Systems has moved its focus to technology that improves application performance on enterprise networks.

Last week, the networking giant announced Application Networking Services (ANS), a suite of products that help improve the delivery of application content between application servers and Web browsers. The technology can be deployed at various points across the network, such as the data center, the edge of the wide area network, and branch offices.

Cisco's competitors such as Juniper Networks and F5 Networks also tout similar technology to improve service delivery across enterprise networks.

Cisco aims to dominate this space by either commanding the number one or two market positions, or by generating US$1 billion in revenue over the next three to five years, said Sharat Sinha, director of technology at Cisco Systems Asia Pacific, in an interview with ZDNet Asia.

Other technologies under the purview of Cisco's Advanced Technology group include wireless networking, IP communications, security, storage networking, optical networking, and home networking.

Cisco sees opportunity in this area of networking, said Sinha. "As enterprises increase their usage of applications, it leads to complexity [in the network]. If you integrate application intelligence into the network, it optimizes the network and allows customers to scale [their applications]," he said.

For example, if the network understands that an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system is running in the enterprise, it can assign policies to the network according to the application that is running, whether it's a purchase order or inventory management software, Sinha explained. "The network makes use of collective intelligence. When you apply the appropriate policy, that's when the network becomes more relevant to the business," he said.

With ANS, enterprises can set policy controls in the network, such as SSL- (Secure Socket Layer) related decisions, load balancing, and quality of service, he added.

The ANS form a core part of Cisco's Service-oriented Network Architecture (SONA) vision, which Cisco is using to help customers evolve to an "Intelligent Information Network". Such a network, according to Sinha, accelerates applications, business processes and resources, and ties IT closer to the business.

Customers that are in various stages of implementing Cisco SONA include Lifespan Healthcare and the National University of Singapore.

On the difference between Cisco's vision of an intelligent network and that of its competitors, Sinha said: "If you look at the network, there's the data center, the WAN, as well as the branch office. Our competitors' solutions are limited only on the WAN link interface. We're talking about end-to-end solutions."

In an e-mail response to Cisco's comments, Andrew Coward, vice president of engineering at Juniper Asia Pacific, said: "There are four cornerstones to Juniper's network strategy: secure the network, assure the performance of applications, simplify network topology, and reduce the cost of network operations and bandwidth.

"It is an open secret that with many router vendors, turning on additional features and services completely compromises the performance of the device, which in turn compromises the performance of applications, completely defeating the purpose of implementing the new functionality in the first place," Coward added.

Juniper, Coward claimed, takes a different approach that does not impact network or application performance.

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