Cisco Systems is launching the next set of deliverables in its Data Center 3.0 strategy, this time focusing on application acceleration and delivery.
Cisco on Jan. 22 turned up the heat in the competitive application acceleration and delivery networking market with its first application acceleration client, a new application delivery controller, new application profiling services and a program to test and validate major enterprise applications on Cisco’s growing application delivery portfolio.
The company’s new offerings bring new breadth to its Application Networking Services portfolio, giving customers a more comprehensive approach to insuring the performance of applications traversing WANs.
“We believe this is the right time to talk to customers about an application delivery network,” said George Kurian, vice president and general manager for Cisco’s Application Delivery Business Unit. “Not only are there new application challenges and usage models that render previous attempts invalid, but also as we talk to customers we see the application delivery aspect of the network is moving from a tactical point products approach to using a strategic approach for the right capabilities at the right place in customer environments.”
Forrester Research analyst Rob Whiteley gave a nod of approval to Cisco’s more comprehensive approach. “Customers realize that there’s a network middleware layer, and that infrastructure is really where most of the investment and most of the confusion is. To date, Cisco has had point products here and there. Now they have a good breadth and depth story along those lines.”
The new Cisco Application Control Engine 4710 complements Cisco’s ACE module for the Catalyst 6500, delivering a form factor and performance improvements aimed at smaller and midsize deployments. It supports up to 2G bps of applications traffic.
It provides the same virtual partition technology used in the Catalyst module, which helps to streamline the workflow involved in setting up security policies, ensuring server and network capacity, and providing the application with appropriate routing information. It supports 50 virtual partitions within the appliance form factor, compared to the module’s 250 partitions.
“Virtualization lets the organization speed up application deployments and improve time-to-service for new applications in the data center. Instead of having to buy new load balancers and new servers as you scale your server farm, you can turn on a software license, configure a new virtual load balancer in the ACE family and link that with the server farm, reducing the typical application service time from several weeks to now a few hours,” Kurian said.
Early users at Golden Gate University in San Francisco were happy to see Cisco renew its commitment to offering competitive load balancing and the opportunity to solve performance problems while continuing to consolidate the number of vendors the university works with, according to Karl Ehr, IT operations manager at the university.
Reducing Power Consumption
“Cisco in the past was not considered a top-tier performer. It has improved our Web site responsiveness. It’s hard to measure, but we see a positive gain in raw speed and performance. From a management standpoint, I am happy to intro another product that doesn’t require a new learning curve,” Ehr said.
The ACE 4710 also helps with green IT initiatives, because it can reduce the footprint and power consumption by cutting the number of devices required. It can “rack up dozens of server farms behind a single load balancing switch, instead of one device per server farm,” Kurian said.
With its new Cisco WAAS Mobile client, the company joins a growing number of vendors offering WAN optimization and application acceleration software for individual PCs and laptops. Rivals Riverbed and Blue Coat already offer a so-called softWOC, and Packeteer plans to release its implementation by mid-year.
WAAS Mobile, which consists of client software and server software, can accelerate any TCP application across the WAN. It can be installed without reconfiguring existing clients, file or application servers, or switches and routers, and it preserves existing network security policies.
For road warriors who move in and out of branch offices, WAAS Mobile can sense when existing WAN optimization is already in use in the branch and defer to the most appropriate method of optimization.
WAAS Mobile fills in a gap in application acceleration, said Tom Gibson, strategic business unit executive at outsourcer ACS. “The WAAS technology was really for remote sites to connect to the data center. The ACE 4710 is for the connectivity inside the data center, but what about remote users? With more people working from home and road warriors, there is a real requirement to enable these mobile users to have a more efficient solution,” Gibson said.
With the growing range of acceleration methods and different types of applications responding differently to each technique, Cisco also seeks to add professional services and a testing program aimed at helping customers choose the most appropriate technology. The new Data Center Assurance Program for Applications provides testing and validation of major enterprise applications across a range of infrastructure elements and server topologies over Cisco’s application delivery products.
The new Application Profiling Service helps customers to profile their applications’ performance, security and availability and provides recommendations on which technologies are most appropriate.
The Cisco ACE 4710 Appliance and WAAS Mobile software are available now. The 4710 starts at $15,995 and the WAAS Mobile Server is $5,000 and starts at $8,750 for 25 concurrent clients.