Cisco promises advanced next-generation networks

Cisco says its Services -Oriented Network Architecture (SONA) plans could help network executives tackle advanced IP services while cutting costs and reducing management complexity on their networks.

Cisco introduced its Services Oriented Network Architecture less than two years ago, and now the company says the SONA concept in action will reduce corporate costs and move customers toward virtualized services, including security, voice, mobility, applications, management, processing and storage -- with the network as the common facet. Bill Ruh, vice president of Advanced Services at Cisco, recently discussed with Network World Senior Editor Denise Dubie about why network engineers should be already be incorporating the principles of SONA into their network design and how Cisco's services-oriented architecture (SOA) would help them better architect and navigate tomorrow's next-generation networks.

Can you give me a bit of background on SONA?

Cisco has had a number of architectures over the years that have evolved. We came out with SONA about 18 months ago. It was in response to the changes in the network that we see and trying to make sense of the broad Cisco product line and figuring out how all the pieces fit together because it's no longer just routing and switching. SONA is partly about voice technology, collaborative technology, security technology and data center networking technology and how all these things come together and fit together into a single integrated whole. Secondly, SONA is aligned with the movement toward service-oriented architecture.

Where is Cisco in terms of its internal development of SONA?

We are not 100% there, and there is an evolution going on in terms of people looking across all the product lines to determine what it means to be a service. Not all services need to have a programmable interface but some do. It is impacting our products in the sense that some services are black-box services and some services will be more programmable. This evolution is going on today in our product lines. Certainly there is more to be done going forward in making sure we can support a strong SOA environments. As other vendors build out the software capabilities that really allow an SOA to build we have to be paralleling that in the network that allow for highly scalable, highly reliable distributed SOA services. There is obviously a lot of work to be done by both the software vendors and ourselves as this market matures. We know what the next few steps are for the next year or so. But it's going to take several years before the software market works out all the architectural components it needs in terms of what is going to be the most successful capabilities for an SOA environment. We have to continue to stay tuned into that to make sure we parallel that with the right networking services.

Considering the company's equipment focus, how has a movement toward SOA, which involves re-usable software components, impact Cisco?

It has impacted Cisco in that people are looking to us as to what are the services that the products or components provide. It is becoming more and more a key aspect of the role of the network so the real questions are becoming what services belong in the network, how do we expose those services, what do those services do and how do they fit into a broader SOA environment. SONA is really how the network plays and what services are offered and how all these capabilities are brought together. It also helps SOA development teams to start thinking about opening up the products themselves by providing programmable interfaces above and beyond what we traditionally have done in command line. All of that is what SONA is all about.

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Denise Dubie

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