Cisco offerings promise stability for CDN market

Cisco Systems looks poised to assume control of the content delivery network (CDN) and caching market following a host of product enhancements and rollouts.

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By  Zoe Moleshead Published  January 26, 2003

Caching in|~||~||~|The caching and content delivery network (CDN) market has endured difficult times recently. While some vendors specialising solely in this technology have diversified into different markets, others have withdrawn completely. As a result, Cisco looks poised to assume control of the market following a host of product enhancements and rollouts.

In recent weeks, the networking heavyweight has introduced a caching module in the shape of its Content Engine —Network Module (CE-NM), the GSS 4480 Global Site Selector targeted at data centres, and the entry level CSS 11501 Content Service Switch. Furthermore, Cisco has agreed certified reference architectures with BEA Systems and Siebel Systems that are designed to optimise application performance and delivery.

“We have got a range of content switches and we have introduced a low end one [the CSS 11501], which is designed for small and medium sized enterprises. The CSS ll501 extends load balancing and content switching down to smaller sites, those companies that have a small number of sites or that need to have a lot of web access — either internally or by their customers,” says Phil Dean, marketing manager, content networking & security, Cisco Systems, Europe, Middle East & Africa.

“We’ve also introduced a Global Site Selector and this provides load balancing and disaster recovery between geographically separate data sites,” he continues.

According to Dean, the networking giant is attempting to offer users a simplified and unified IP network solution that encompasses everything from switching and routing to caching and content delivery. And, with Cisco playing in every one of these markets, it is obviously keen to push home to enterprises the benefits of a single vendor solution.

“Customers are increasingly saying ‘we have got our IP network, how can we add value to it?’” comments Dean.

“Rather than adding on different systems that are separate and managed separately, what they want is to be able to take the basic network infrastructure and then just add any functionality on to it. A lot of customers have Cisco IP networks already, so it becomes very easy for them to put these cache/content engines into the routers and upgrade their existing network to support content switching and delivery,” he claims.

With Cisco moving more heavily into the content and caching markets and touting easier management, cost savings and continued Quality of Service (QoS) as just a few of the benefits users can reap by opting for its solutions, analysts also believe the vendor could give the market a much needed shot in the arm.

“With more than 80% of the router market and strong account control, Cisco is uniquely positioned to capitalise on its installed base and drive enterprise content delivery network (ECDN) technology into the mainstream,” comments Lawrence Orans, senior analyst, enterprise networking, Gartner Group.

Analysts also believe Cisco will bring some stability to the content/caching market. While the ECDN market is gaining new life, with organisations such as banks and retailers investigating the benefits of streaming video to remote branches or stores, the caching market has seen a number of high profile players refocusing their initiatives or exiting the market completely.

“Cisco’s commitment to its caching/ ECDN product family gives the troubled ECDN market some much needed credibility. Since mid-2002, Inktomi and F5 shut down their caching solutions, and Blue Coat Systems refocused as a security vendor,” comments Orans.

Dean again attributes this situation to customers’ desire to extend their IP networks in the easiest and most effective manner, with the end result providing a unified network infrastructure.

“If vendors specialise in one area then what they can’t do is integrate products into the overall networking infrastructure very effectively and what you end up with is multiple systems that have to be managed separately rather than a single system that knits together,” he explains.

Gartner Group also advises enterprises to look at the end-to-end solution. The analyst house cites the relatively immature state of the content delivery network market and the wide ranging difference in product features and capabilities as key reasons for caution.

“Enterprises should evaluate complete ECDN solutions — not just the caching product — as much of the differentiation lies in the content management applications and redirection technology,” says Orans.||**||

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