Cisco is preparing its bold entry into the application management space this week. The company, considering its sheer size and presence in the networking market, should get a lot of attention as it officially launches itself into the management software sector.Cisco could be considered the best source of expert analysis on the expected performance of its own gear. But less in the company's favor is its strength in application intelligence and monitoring. While Cisco does play now in the application acceleration market with WAN products, application performance on the LAN is typically more closely tied to systems, which traditional management software vendors such as CA, HP and IBM better address.The networking equipment giant has its eyes set on the performance management market, and it's not limiting itself to networks. Last summer Cisco detailed to Network World its plan to use technologies OEMed from Opnet and Corvil - as well as technology it acquired through its purchase of Sheer Networks - to develop products that could evolve the network gear maker into a software provider.This week the promise becomes a reality - at least in theory - with the announcement of four new products, three of which are set to be available this month. Among the performance monitoring tools Cisco is announcing is Bandwidth Quality Appliance (BQA), which for the moment is a product coupled with Cisco Advanced Services. Cisco says it will make the appliance available without requiring services in future releases. The appliance installs near WAN links to provide granular data regarding bandwidth use and application traffic over the wide area.According to Clive Foreman, a vice president in Cisco's Network Management Technology Group, BQA can provide an aggregated view of WAN performance as well as collect WAN traffic data at the frequency of 5 milliseconds. Foreman says the frequency can help network managers get more granular data regarding WAN links. The product requires that customers install the appliance relative to their WAN links, and the service involves Cisco staff coming on site to collect the raw data from the device.Foreman says at this point the services are required to make intelligent use and generate reports based on the raw WAN link data. In the future, Cisco says it will upgrade the product to not require services.The WAN products are a nice addition to Cisco's other wide-area tools in that the company claims it provides an aggregate view of performance across the WAN without requiring deep-dive analysis into each link. But with multiple competitors such as F5 Networks and Packeteer already playing in the market, it's unclear if Cisco will win new customers or simply sell more products into their installed base.