Cisco Systems, the world's leading internet equipment maker, on Tuesday unveiled new technology designed to make networks more “intelligent” in order to help corporate customers manage diverse business programmes.

The new technology, dubbed application-oriented networking, would make networks faster and more secure by enabling them to read and prioritise data from application-to-application messages flowing within a network such as purchase orders, investment transactions or shipment approvals.

Analysts said the technology, which would be embedded into Cisco's routing and switching equipment, represented an important shift from traditional networking gear, which moves data across networks by reading the internet address attached to the outside of each packet of information.

Roy Schulte, a research fellow at Gartner, said that by making networks as intelligent as the infrastructure software the companies depend on to manage their data, Cisco's AON technology could change software design and information technology management practices in fundamental ways.

Over a shorter term, AON technology blurs the line between infrastructure software and networking technology, said Sandra Rogers, a research director atIDC.

Charles Giancarlo, chief technology officer, said Cisco started developing AON technology because most of the software used by corporations consisted of “stovepiped applications” designed to manage customer information, financial records and purchasing data which often did not speak the same language and thus had trouble communicating. Mr Giancarlo said by being able to read entire messages as they passed across a network, AON technology would enable corporations to respond to changing business conditions more quickly. John Chambers, chief executive, said it was “one of the most fundamental changes in my lifetime”.

By delivering a product that can handle traditional middleware tasks, Cisco hopes it can garner a share of corporate IT budgets usually earmarked for infrastructure software.

Cisco said International Business Machines, the world's largest computer group, and SAP, the world's biggest enterprise resource planning software maker, would develop products compatible with AON.

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