This month's most momentous announcement in the SOA market will come next week when Cisco takes the wraps off its AON project. eWeek jumped the gun with an early story last Friday revealing new details (as yet unconfirmed by Cisco) of the AON products. But apart from this glitch, Cisco has done a good job of keeping the wraps on AON coverage has been sparse, and close to non-existent. The only significant exception was a sneak preview by Taf Anthias, VP and general manager of the AON business unit, at SAP's user conference in Boston last month, as reported by CNET News.com's Martin LaMonica.
The same writer penned two articles on AON earlier this year, one in January, the other in March. And Internetnews.com's Clint Boulton ran a piece on the story in February. Loosely Coupled has of course highlighted these as they've appeared, but it's not added up to much substantive detail.
All that will change next week, when Cisco is set to unveil AON at its Cisco Networkers conference in Las Vegas. And despite the lack of buzz and advance fanfare surrounding AON's debut, a swathe of vendors and their customers in the SOA market will be watching very, very closely. It's no accident that XML appliance vendors such as DataPower and Sarvega have been scrambling to associate themselves with the AON moniker. Cisco's entry into the market threatens to hollow out and capture a significant layer of XML networking, security and management capabilities previously provided by independent specialist vendors.
No wonder, too, that the likes of Actional and Infravio have been pulling back from pure web services broker devices and software to focus instead on higher-level functionality such as policy management, registry and governance.
Perhaps the best way to convey the full significance of AON is to say that it's difficult to really assess the value of SOA vendor offerings until we definitively know what AON has to offer. Next week's announcement will fundamentally change the landscape of the SOA market and provide a new context in which to evaluate offerings from large and small vendors alike, whether it's BEA's grand AquaLogic vision or more proven offerings from leading specialists such as AmberPoint and SOA Software.
Just as significantly, it will add Cisco's endorsement to the SOA market and provide a trusted new platform that many enterprises will be happy perhaps even eager to adopt to accelerate their SOA and web services plans.
So what is AON, or, to spell out the acronym, application-oriented networking? Well, I don't want to steal Cisco's thunder, but here's a clue: we're not talking about any old application. AON is only relevant to applications that revolve around XML messaging. If it doesn't do web services, forget it. If AON takes off, it augurs far-reaching changes in the enterprise application market.
Look out for much more detailed analysis of AON and what it means for SOA, web services and the enterprise application market from Loosely Coupled in the coming weeks, including an in-depth lead feature in the July 2005 Loosely Coupled monthly digest. For now, I'll leave the last word to Cisco, and quote the synopsis of APP-1101 - Introduction to Application Oriented Networking, a 2-hour session from the program for next week's Cisco conference:
Enterprises have leveraged IT to realize significant productivity increases by investing in applications and technologies that streamline business processes. As applications have been acquired, a growing requirment to enable inter-application communications has arisen to enable efficient processing of information as it flows through the business. However, enabling inter-application information exhange is a complex and expensive process that often uses intermediary services, or middleware. Cisco Systems Application Oriented Networking extends Cisco intelligent network services by enabling the network to understand the contents and context of inter-application messages, and apply services such as security, QOS and content based routing, to these messages as they cross the network. AON is a natural evolution of the intelligent information network that embeds inter-application message oriented services within the network to extend and compliment packet oriented features such as security, quality of service and management capabilities. The target audience for this session are network managers wanting to provide application message services that secure, optimize and provide visibility into transactions being enacted across the network, or application developers looking to understand how AON services can be used to enforce business policies within the network.