the Pipeline

But can it tap-dance?

Cisco Systems' plan to take over the world one network at a time enters its third phase with the release of Application-Oriented Networking (AON), technology that allows existing networks to understand the data that passes through them and apply business rules to documents.

"You define it as an application message, and it looks within the underlying network to find those packets and bring them together," said Bill Ruh, senior director of worldwide AON services. "It understands what a business document is, and [that it's] not just a series of packets. The more interesting level is we can allow you to make decisions about how to handle that information in the network."

For example, AON could order the network to check documents for digital signatures and reject those that lacked them, he said.

The technology works at the application level, which is above those parts of the network where Cisco has made its reputation.

The first phase of Cisco's Intelligent Information Network vision, first articulated in 2003, involved the integration of video, voice and data — the transport layer, Ruh said. In Phase 2, new technologies added the virtualization of networking, storage, server and security services. Now, Phase 3 addresses the application layer of an information technology infrastructure.

"Where we see ourselves going in the future is greater integration at the policy level," he said. "These policies at each level can interact with each other."

The system does not use artificial intelligence technologies that can learn and improve over time, but it can work with such tools, Ruh said. "You could embed that technology in the network and add it to our policy tool," he added.

Workhorse workstation

Sun Microsystems' super-sneaky strategizers have cracked the code to what developers want in a workstation, and the answer is the highest possible performance at the lowest possible price, said Rajesh Shakkarwar, the company's senior director of marketing.

Sun might have a firm grasp on what seems obvious, but it also has a new workstation designed for developers. It is the Ultra 20, which Sun delivers in three standard configurations with high-powered processors and graphics cards that can support visual simulations of developers' work. The least expensive configuration costs $895, and the high end is priced at $2,695.

Customers can also order custom configurations, Shakkarwar said.

"We think this is a pretty compelling workstation for developers," he said. "We have been doing workstations for 22 years. We have absolute leadership in this market. Our customers are not mom-and-pop shops. They are big enterprises, the government, the defense industry."

All the workstations are equipped with 64-bit Advanced Micro Devices Opteron processors and include Sun's Solaris 10 operating system and about $4,000 worth of Sun developer tools, he said.

The company has released Ultra 3, its first self-branded laptop computer. Targeted at enterprise customers, not the consumer market, the computers have Sun's Solaris operating system and with Sun's OpenOffice productivity suite, among other software.

Sun decided to develop the laptop computer in response to customer feedback, Shakkarwar said.

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