Cisco last week announced a significant extension of its policy-based network initiative, one that gives users greater control in allocating network services to business applications.
Called Cisco Content Networking, the extension includes enhancements to the company's CiscoAssure policy network hardware and software for IP telephony, as well as for e-business applications such as electronic commerce, customer care, and supply chain management. The release will go beyond the Layer 4 packet classification capabilities already offered by Cisco for quality of service (QoS) and allow devices to look deeper into application packets and dynamically assign or reassign network services and resources.
In addition to enabling QoS, sources say Content Networking will let Cisco routers and switches automatically `self-configure' a network based on traffic type, and assign security, caching and server load-balancing policies to applications.
Currently, TCP/IP applications are classified and assigned particular network services based on their static Layer 4 TCP and User Datagram Protocol (UDP) port numbers. But some applications, such as SAP R/3 enterprise resource planning packages, do not have a standard IP port number designation, making it difficult to classify and assign network service levels to that traffic.
Key to enabling Content Networking is what Cisco reportedly calls Network-Based Application Recognition (NBAR). NBAR is software that brings deep packet inspection, dynamic port number assignment and other `intelligent' services to Cisco network devices.
For instance, NBAR switches and routers will not only be able to recognise Citrix WinFrame applications, but also the individual Microsoft PowerPoint, Excel or Word applications running within WinFrame, sources say.
NBAR devices will then be able to configure and assign the appropriate network resources to the individual applications within WinFrame.
NBAR currently only runs on Cisco's 7100 and 7200 routers, but eventually all IOS-based routers and switches will support the software, sources say.
Cisco declined to comment on Content Networking and NBAR. Pricing and availability of NBAR components were not available at press time.