Cisco boosts application acceleration

Cisco Systems on Monday announced Application Control Engine (ACE), a module to boost application throughput, security and management for its widely used Catalyst 6500 Series switch.

The market for application acceleration products has been heating up in the past year, and another vendor, Juniper Networks Inc., is promising an announcement of its own in early May.

ACE is available now in three configurations, including a top-end version that offers 16Gbit/sec. throughput, for US$99,995. The other two offer 8Gbit/sec. throughput for US$59,995 and 4Gbit/sec. throughput for US$39,995, said George Kurian, vice president and general manager of Cisco's application delivery business. The separate Application Velocity System (AVS), which works with ACE, will ship next month for US$10,000.

Kurian said ACE combines a number of functions now seen on several devices in data centers, including load balancing, security, and application switching and acceleration.

Despite such integration, Joel Conover, an analyst at Current Analysis, said "ACE is not a completed integrated system" and builds on functions in two other modules Cisco makes, including AVS. "An ideal product would have all these functions layered into one superpowerful platform," Conover said.

ACE is improving delivery performance of Oracle Fusion Middleware 10g software internally at Cisco and will be certified for other Oracle customers to use, said Vijay Tella, vice president and chief strategy officer for Oracle Fusion Middleware.

ACE is Cisco's first attempt at updating its Content Switching Module in several years, Conover said, noting that F5 Networks has "had a train of innovation in the last three years while Cisco is jumping after a relatively long gap in innovation." But with Catalyst 6500s in about half of all data centers, Cisco "knows how to play in this market," he said.

In addition to Juniper, Cisco competes with F5, Citrix Systems, Foundry Networks and Radware. The market for application acceleration products was about US$1.2 billion in 2005, Conover said.

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