Cisco and SAP redefine the future of the enterprise


8 Jul 2005

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Cisco has told siliconrepublic.com that it is working with enterprise resource planning (ERP) giant SAP to create self-thinking enterprise platforms and networks that work seamlessly with platforms from other vendors like Oracle to process the large volumes of data predicted with the advent of radio frequency ID (RFID).

James Wooster, director of application oriented networks (AON) at Cisco EMEA told siliconrepublic.com that the company is at phase three of developing the first network-embedded intelligent message routing system for applications.

AON, Wooster explained, is a network-embedded device in the form of a blade server that natively understands the context and content of application messages. It provides message-level services for communication, integration, transformation, visibility and security through the use of distributed configurable policies.

Unlike traditional software-based approaches that lead to escalating complexity and cost as more applications are added, AON exploits the traditional strengths of network to provide a more pervasive, scalable and manageable solution. Businesses, Wooster predicts, would see immediate benefit from lower cost, higher performance and more importantly a whole new and simpler way for implementing network-aware application intelligence.

“Take a typical purchase order in a business. When it is sent over a network it is atomised into thousands of little packets. All AON does is reconstitute these packets into something that is meaningful. What we are proposing to do is get to the stage where the network can make business decisions about where data goes on the network.

“On a system like SAP, the end user bangs in details for a purchase order. But that vital information sits beside loads of ordinary information on the network. What AON does is reconstitute the purchase order to ensure it gets the right priority on the network and ensure that vital actions are taken in the business.”

Wooster says that one of the first applications that Cisco is looking at is the multiple retailer space – firms with a central data centre but multiple warehouses and outlets around the world. “Management typically would have a sort of dashboard alerting them to key business events, such as when a truck leaves a warehouse. With the advent of RFID, the readers for RFID could possibly flood the network with unnecessary data. Because AON is on the network, it looks at various bits of information and decides whether or not it is meaningful. However, it is clever enough to escalate the kind of information that management needs and creates business reports.”

In this way, Wooster explains, a manager in the city of London, for example, would know when a shipment is leaving a warehouse in Singapore to correspond with a particular purchase order he has prioritised by instantaneously sifting through generated RFID data as a pallet passes through the doors of the warehouse.

“Because more and more vendors are adopting XML it is less necessary to build an application proprietary knowledge. That’s an ongoing trend in the integration space. XML is natively understood by AON. In essence, XML is the lingua franca of how applications today talk to each other. AON has the ability to talk to SAP and transform it in such as way that it is understood by a PeopleSoft system,” Wooster concluded.

By John Kennedy