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Issue of July 2006 
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Awareness means better performance

Application Oriented Networking (AON) promises to make the network smarter. Sanjay Kharade, Principal Consultant, Cisco Systems shares his views on this technology with Toms Mathew.


Sanjay Kharade

How will AON help achieve better outputs?

With AON, an organisation’s business policies can be directly mapped onto the network. This is because the network will be aware of the applications.

The one benefit that an organisation will reap after implementing AON is that the network will no longer be kept separate from the business policies, it will be a part and parcel of the business.

What is the technology behind AON?

There are basically two aspects. First one concerns how application delivery and performance can be improved.

Take the case of a bank which has already deployed a core banking solution. In a network, usually 28 percent of the users are local while the rest are remote users. This means that the number of remote users are usually higher than local users.

So organisations are looking at improving performance for those remote users. This is where application acceleration comes in. Organisations would love to have LAN-like access speeds over the WAN. This is where AON comes into picture.

Moreover, in a traditional network when the contents are moving over the network, the contents are not known to the network. If a network is intelligent enough to understand the contents of the messages, then that network will be able to understand the applications.

How can application awareness improve network operation?

If the network is aware of the applications, then a message travelling through the network can take a priority or select a different route, depending on the policy of the organisation. For example, a message which needs a high priority, will be designated thus and depending on that the message will be assigned a route which is fastest or shortest.

That’s the reason why we say that an AON implemented network is more flexible. The person who controls the network would be able to have a close grip on the policies of the company and business needs.

The network is the road and the cars are data packets moving through the network. If the road can understand the passenger of a particular car, and if he happens to be a VIP then that car will be given high priority and routed through the best suited path

The network is a common place where if you do some modifications, it can penetrate inside the system. It is a common place for connecting all the users, servers and connected infrastructure. We can compare it with a road, which can not only understand the cars passing through it, but also the passengers, then the road is said to be a lot more intelligent. The same analogy can be applied to a network where the network is the road and the cars are data packets moving through the network. If the road can understand the passenger of a particular car, and if he happens to be a VIP then that car will be given high priority and routed through the best suited path.

What are the other advantages that AON can provide?

Once AON is deployed, the policy setting will be more realistic and business oriented. The policies could be prioritised according to the requirements of the organisation.

How feasible is implementation of AON for existing networks?

The main advantage of AON is that since it can be implemented on the existing network, there is no need to reinstall the entire infrastructure. The existing network can be easily upgraded to the AON platform just by adding some extra modules

Today most organisations have already built the network and set up the connected infrastructure. Though the networks are already in place, when the AON wave comes by, people would like to upgrade their network to AON. At that time, new networks as well as the already established networks, will take AON as their basic feature.

The main advantage of AON is that since it can be implemented on the existing network, there is no need to reinstall the entire infrastructure. The existing network can be easily upgraded to the AON platform just by adding some extra modules.

How is the installation done?

AON basically consists of two parts. The first part is the hardware, which can understand AON and the second part is software, which has to be put into that device.

For those networks which already run on Cisco’s infrastructure, all they need to do is install some additional modules (network modules). These modules could easily be plugged in to the router.

How does AON fit into the overall picture in terms of application, management and security?

If you look at applications, then the network has to be aware of applications. Once you have made the network application aware, then you have to secure the messages.

In AON, you will get features like application control security. This feature is different from encryption. It will allow a network device or infrastructure to read the messages passing through the network according to the credentials of the message. In other words, application handling will be part and parcel of AON.

In terms of management, we are including management tools with AON to give a view about the policies, the number of messages that have or have not undergone the criteria and so on. All these things will be embedded within AON, as part and parcel of the technology.

So how is this feature different from traditional traffic encryption?

Today what happens is that when packets are flowing from one device to another they are encrypted. Security in AON is different from encryption. But the application aware devices in AON will understand the messages and take the necessary steps.

But only those devices which have the credentials will be able to read the message. The messages are attached to a key. Only if the device has the key, then it will be able to read it.

Since Cisco’s networks are said to be a bit expensive than others, do you think that will be a hindrance when you target SMBs with AON?

At the initial level, when you use Cisco’s networks it may be a bit more expensive. But in the long run, considering the investment, all Cisco products are downward compatible and can be upgraded. For SMBs, since they do not change their network infrastructure too often, Cisco’s products will be ideal.

 
     
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