Cisco gives new life to enterprise content delivery networks



Cisco Systems recently announced that it has begun shipping a caching module that integrates with its 2600, 2600XM, 3600 and 3700 families of remote office routers. Priced starting at US$3,900, Content Engine – Network Module (CE-NM) comes in three models: one with a 20GB hard drive, one with a 40GB drive and one with an SCSI interface for connecting to an external storage array.

First Take

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 BlueCoat Systems (formerly Cacheflow) refocused as a security vendor. Gartner believes that other small ECDN vendors have also entered periods of transition and uncertainty. However, with more than 80 per cent of the router market and strong account control, Cisco is uniquely positioned to capitalize on its installed base and drive ECDN technology into the mainstream.

Cisco priced its CE-NM modules up to 29 per cent lower than its stand-alone Content Engine 507, with a slight performance improvement. Separate processors and a separate Ethernet port on the CE-NM ensures minimal router degradation when the cache serves streaming media and static content over the LAN (licenses for supporting Windows Media and RealNetworks streaming media sell for US$1,750 each). Adding a CE-NM does not increase SmartNet maintenance charges for the router – a further incentive for considering the integrated approach in large deployments since SmartNet maintenance for a stand-alone Content Engine 507 ranges from US$605 to US$852 per year.

For this stage of its Content Engine development, Cisco focused only on the integration aspect and did not announce new features or capabilities. In the future, Cisco will have to refine its solution for configuring and managing distributed caches – feedback from Gartner clients indicates that Cisco’s management application is not as user-friendly and intuitive as offerings from Network Appliance, Volera and some others. Overall, ECDNs remain in the early stages of adoption, and products differ greatly in features and capabilities. Enterprises should evaluate complete ECDN solutions – not just the caching products – as much of the differentiation lies in the content management applications and redirection technology.

Analytical Source: Lawrence Orans, Gartner Research

Recommended Reading and Related Research

“Network Upgrade Options for Streaming Media” – Before committing to supporting any type of streaming media application, network managers must set expectations among their user base regarding the availability of the content. By Lawrence Orans

“An ECDN Enables an E-Learning Application” – The first generation of ECDN technology has proven that it can enable a new breed of rich media applications, namely e-learning and corporate communications. By Lawrence Orans

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