Cisco reshuffles content networking business

Cisco Systems has disbanded its Content Networking Business Unit and is moving people and technology from that group into its...

Cisco Systems has disbanded its Content Networking Business Unit and is moving people and technology from that group into its Multiservice Customer Edge Business Unit (MCEBU).

The move may eventually bring more advanced features, such as content caching and load balancing, to the company's switches and routers and underscores lagging fortunes for a long list of technologies Cisco purchased during the internet boom, according to industry experts. 

Employees in the Content Networking Business Unit were told that content networking products, including the company's line of Content Services Switches and Content Engines, will now be managed by the MCEBU, which develops so-called "converged networking" products.

These products include voice and data applications that can be deployed on standard Cisco hardware platforms such as the Cisco 2600 and 3600 Series multiservice routers.

Employees were told that there will not be any immediate change to product roadmaps or customer commitments, nor will there be any lay-offs in the group, though a number of CNBU managers will leave because of "overlap" between the two groups.

Although detailed plans for merging the two groups were not provided, CNBU employees were told that there was a need for development expertise in areas such as Linux programming and content management in the MCEBU, which is looking to build more sophisticated features for handling Layer 5 and Layer 6 level transactions into its core routing hardware.

Among other things, MCEBU executives mentioned offering high-level features, such web content acceleration and filtering, using plug-in "blades", as opposed to custom hardware platforms.

"As part of normal operations, Cisco evaluates its business on an ongoing basis to focus resources on growth opportunities, customer satisfaction and productivity gains," the statement said.

"Cisco continues to promote integration of key services such as security, content networking and voice for small/medium business and branch offices routers.

We believe that by merging the Content Networking Business Unit team with the access routing group, we will achieve greater development synergy, while remaining focused on service and application integration into our routing platforms," it said. 

An industry analyst said he was not surprised by Cisco's decision to reshuffle its content networking business.

"It's been clear that Cisco's direction is to integrate into the platform instead of building custom boxes. It still says that it will build whatever the customer wants, but its corporate strategy is very clearly to put services like security, application acceleration, content networking on a common platform," said Mark Fabbi, vice-president of enterprise communications at Gartner.

The company has been sharpening its focus on the edge of service provider networks and on integrating more intelligence into switches and routers through hardware modules, analysts said.

Functions that once were carried out by standalone appliances, such as caching, are being consolidated into Cisco's mainstay products, said Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects.

"The trend here is to take functions that were standalone at one time... and integrate those into the existing architecture," Dzubeck said.

That makes it simpler and more cost-effective for carriers to deliver added services, while helping Cisco play to its strength in routers and switches, he added.

Paul Roberts and Stephen Lawson writes for IDG News Service

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