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Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Cisco Unveils Dial Tone for Applications

Cisco has unveiled a technology that enables organisations to exchange messages between applications through the network.

Chief executive John Chambers unveiled the Application Oriented Network (AON) at the company's Networkers 2005 user conference in Las Vegas.

The technology adds intelligence to the network. It currently only deals with data packets.

"Instead of speaking about packets it speaks about messages," Chambers told delegates.

The network will be able to receive a customer order and convert it into several messages for the credit, sales and shipping departments. Such applications are possible today through software, but Cisco claims that its solution is easier to configure and cheaper to set up.

Looking at the actual data also allows AON to give priority to the data from one customer over another to guarantee certain service levels.

The Cisco network uses existing standards that are used by various application integration technologies including XML, Tibco's Java Messaging Service (JMS) and IBM Websphere MQ. Users and third parties are able to add additional standards.

Because an AON is able to distinguish different types of network traffic, it promises to increase the security of connected applications.

"[AON] has huge implicatoins on what it means in terms of security," Chambers said.

The difference is similar to air travel, the company said. Previously airlines only checked passports and tickets, now they also make an x-ray of the passengers' luggage to check what they are carrying onto the plane.

The technology requires a special blade that organisations add to their switches or routers. The blades are available today for a limited number of beta customers and are slated for general availability in a few months, Cisco said. At that time the company will also reveal pricing information.

The hardware comes bundled with two software management tools. The AON Development Studio lets application integrators set up rules for messages and route them over the network. The AON Management Console allows network managers to control the actual device.

Later this year Cisco plans to introduce a stand alone AON appliance that organisations can add to their networks. It brings AON capabilities to any network, including those that use routers and switches from Cisco competitors. The appliance can also give them access to the AON technology without requiring any involvement from the networking department, preventing any political battles between the networking and application integration groups.

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