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Buying into network-based business computing

by Mike Carter
November 21st, 2005

IBM's acquisition of DataPower last month is a clear signal that the battle for the network has begun. Coming just a few months after Cisco's launch of its AON (Application-Oriented Networking) business unit, it shows that IBM shares Cisco's vision of a smarter network comprised of advanced, XML-aware message routing.

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New 'network-aware' software companies will arise that leverage SOA and lightweight application layers to deliver new functionality for user consumption.

Mike Carter is co-founder and EVP at CXO Systems, a pioneer of web services-based business intelligence infrastructure and dashboard applications. The company collaborates with Cisco to provide real-time business visibility using the AON system.

Glossary terms: AON, BI, BAM, composite application, SOA, lookup tool

So what does this mean for the enterprise and for purveyors of software in the market? With the dawn of open-source computing, and the rise of "gorilla" software providers such as Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft, it is clear the enterprise software market is getting tougher and tougher to crack. Given these market dynamics, the only way for new software companies to grow in the enterprise space will be through innovation once again. Software suppliers and enterprises alike need fertile new ground to develop innovative solutions — exactly what Cisco and IBM intend as part of this next computing land grab.

Cisco's AON announcement in June and IBM's acquisition of Data Power in October will foster a new wave of innovation for software companies and enterprises looking to reap efficiency and effectiveness from technology. What makes the announcement of the AON intelligent message-routing system so powerful is that finally there is a new computing philosophy that will drive innovation back into the enterprise and help create an entire new ecosystem of software providers. The ability to make the network smarter by enabling message-based routing and consumption of XML has three main effects:

  1. Enterprises will finally be able to realize the long-anticipated promise of Real-Time Computing, bringing to life the notion of Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) in the sense of monitoring real-time business events via an instant message.

  2. There will be a rise of new "network-aware" composite application providers. New software companies will emerge that leverage service-oriented architecture (SOA) and lightweight application layers to deliver new functionality for user consumption. Just as client-server technology ushered in new application providers like Siebel, Clarify, and SAP, the network will usher in another generation of new software providers. As a result, the software industry will see its first true innovation, breaking free from the barren consolidation of the past five years.

  3. The killer application of this new network-aware and network-centric computing will be a new generation of business intelligence (BI) software. Cisco has an advantage over IBM here due to its market dominance in network connectivity, its partner ecosystem and an organizational structure that is fully equipped to address this need. Historically, making business intelligence available to business users has required a central repository to store information. Often this solution provided complete results for users, yet the information was highly passive, non-timely and supplied through complex reporting. By putting the network at the center of mission-critical business intelligence and business eventing, a new breed of reporting will occur that is active rather than passive, real-time rather than historic, and delivered in a user-friendly, highly configurable visual dashboard application.

This is a killer application because it answers a pressing business need in a way that overturns previous technology approaches. Putting the desktop directly in touch with real-time business activity will demonstrate the superiority of network-based business computing and could easily lead to a Microsoft-like dominance of the desktop for a leader such as Cisco.

Think about it this way, every desktop connected to the internet by a Cisco router could have the Cisco AON icon on it. This AON icon when clicked will bring business event visibility to all knowledge workers subscribed to its business information network. That could put Cisco at the center of the desktop and in a position to challenge Microsoft on its home turf. As IBM has acknowledged by buying its own stake in the message-aware routing market, the dawn of Cisco AON is bringing innovation to the IT market once again.

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