Cisco Picks Up Reactivity for XML Acceleration

Cisco will pay $135 million for the privately held Reactivity and will bring it under its Application Networking Services unit as an extension to Cisco's existing Application Control Engine offerings.

Cisco Systems Inc. on Feb. 21 signaled its plans to add acceleration for Web 2.0 applications when it announced its intent to acquire high performance XML gateway provider Reactivity Inc.

Cisco, which will pay $135 million for the privately held company, will bring Reactivity under its Application Networking Services unit as an extension to Ciscos existing Application Control Engine offerings.

Reactivity brings to the table XML-specific and Web services-specific functions, availability and offload functions, as well as protocol conversion and identity management functions for XML and Simple Object Access Protocol applications.

"The core of the Reactivity technology is a very high-speed, very capable XML parsing engine that can be applied in three ways: for XML security, XML message translation/message mediation to bridge all the different XML and Web services dialects on a network and for XML offload/acceleration from servers to speed up the processing of XML documents and messages," explained George Kurian, vice president and general manage of Ciscos ANS business unit in San Jose, Calif.

Ciscos acquisition marks the latest acquisition in the consolidation of the XML gateway market. IBM acquired Reactivity rival Data Power late in 2005 and Intel acquired Sarvega in mid-2005.

/zimages/5/28571.gifTo read more about consolidation in the Web services market, click here.

All three of the acquired companies marketed technology aimed at helping enterprises "transfer information in an XML format across and between different organizations and different applications," said Abner Germanow, industry analyst with International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass.

"When you are talking about transaction data and information flows, there is a security aspect to that and a translation aspect on how to translate slightly different formats so two different applications can (share data or pass messages) without having to rewrite the applications. The final piece is that when the number of these transactions you are doing is very large, all that takes up a fairly good amount of processing on the server, so you want to do server offload similar to offloading an SSL session," he explained.

Those functions can be implemented in a variety of different form factors, including on blades, in appliances and as software running on Intel-based hardware. Reactivity markets its technology as a purpose-built appliance, which Cisco intends to continue to offer to customers after the acquisition is complete, according to Kurian.

Ciscos intent to continue to market the appliance form factor is significant, said Rob Whiteley, senior analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass.

"The way this gets deployed (with Cisco) is as an extension of the network. Ciscos (Service Oriented Network Architecture strategy) didnt have a lot of wood behind that arrow for application-oriented things. Now they have an XML story," he said. "It lends a lot of credibility to Ciscos strategy to put service and application intelligence in the network," he added.

Cisco has committed to existing Reactivity customers, which now number about 50, that it will support Reactivitys existing product roadmap and enhance the appliance, Kurian said. But Cisco also intends to integrate Reactivity technology with its ACE products, he added. He would not provide a timetable for that integration.

Once the acquisition is complete, which is expected to be done by the end of April, Reactivity will become a part of Ciscos Datacenter Switching and Security Technology Group under Jayshree Ullal, senior vice president of that group.

Cisco does not intend to lay off any of the 56 Reactivity employees. "Were keeping the organization intact as part of ANS," said Kurian, who would not say what Reactivity CEO John Laing will do once that happens.

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