Strong opinions on Cisco's AON launch

Cisco's new AON business unit has tech companies of all stripes on alert. That's not surprising given that Cisco is proposing that tasks usually handled by middleware or XML acceleration appliances be done in Cisco's own routers.

As Loosely Coupled blogger Phil Wainewright points out, the full significance of Cisco's AON launch is still being digested.

"Despite the lack of buzz and advance fanfare surrounding AON's debut, a swathe of vendors and their customers in the SOA (service-oriented architecture) market will be watching very, very closely," Wainewright writes.

On Tuesday at its Networkers customer conference, Cisco will officially launch the AON business unit. With AON, which stands for application-oriented networking, the networking giant has built a system for inspecting the contents of messages, notably XML messages.

That network-centric approach to sharing data between applications creates potential product overlap with many companies, including XML acceleration specialists, middleware companies, and Cisco's networking rivals.

"If AON takes off, it augurs far-reaching changes in the enterprise application market," Wainewright.

Meanwhile, competitors and some analysts are pointing out some challenges that Cisco faces.

Frank Dzubeck, an analyst with Communication Network Architects, said that Cisco will need to focus on what he called the "least common denominator" in message routing: XML.

He said the large degree of customization done in business applications makes the Cisco router approach problematic. As a result, Cisco will ultimately focus on XML acceleration, which is widely used and fully standardized.

But Cisco is late to the game XML networking game, Dzubeck said.

"Ultimately the economics are going to come into question. If I got blade servers, why don't I put a (XML processing) card in my blade server? It's cheaper than the card that's going into the (Cisco) Catalyst router," he said.

Dzubeck predicted that XML message routing will be used more in servers and storage devices than in networking gear.

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