Cisco enters the battle for a 'new architecture'

* What is Cisco SONA?

As we mentioned last time, Cisco announced at the Cisco analyst conference in San Jose, that it believes a new enterprise architecture is needed. Cisco refers to this new architecture as the Service-Oriented Network Architecture (SONA).

Cisco's discussion of SONA at the conference was far more conceptual than detailed. Cisco CTO Charlie Giancarlo referred to SONA as an "architecture of architectures." Cisco's last major architecture was Architecture for Voice, Video and Integrated Data (AVVID). Given that AVVID was more than 300 pages in length, the concept of an architecture-of-architectures is daunting.

Cisco's slides indicated that SONA is comprised of three distinct layers. The bottom layer is the networked infrastructure layer where all IT resources are interconnected across a converged network foundation. The middle layer is the interactive services layer that will enable efficient allocation of resources to applications and business processes. The top layer is the applications layer, and contains both business applications and collaborative applications.

We are enthusiastic supporters of the need for a new architecture. In particular, we find the idea of introducing functionality that enables the efficient allocation of resources to applications and business processes to be very compelling.

One of the reasons that we are such strong supporters of the need for a new architecture is the ongoing convergence of what had been disparate functionality. For example, in the past couple of months we have talked to numerous vendors that are actively linking security with application and WAN optimization. Part of the motivation for doing this is the desire to do deep packet inspection just once and then efficiently apply the information gathered to support numerous security and optimization functions. One of the goals of a new architecture is to identify the best way to link disparate functionality, such as security and optimization.

Given that Cisco has not yet described SONA in detail, it is not possible for us to comment on whether we like it. We do know that given Cisco's position as the dominant provider of enterprise networking gear, SONA will be highly discussed over the next year or two. However, as mentioned, numerous other vendors also have good ideas as to what a new architecture needs to look like. As part of our New Year's resolutions, we promise that throughout 2006 we will write more about what is needed in a new architecture.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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