Cisco today offered the first major proof point for its nearly one-year-old SONA reference architecture when it announced a joint marketing relationship with enterprise application vendor SAP.
The marketing agreement encompasses collaboration in sales and marketing activities as well as advanced service offerings. The announcement is one of the first times that a major application vendor endorsed a networking company. The collaboration also provides a forum for Cisco to argue its point to enterprises that the network is more than a static infrastructure; it's a services platform.
"The network is a single entity and sees many events and sees them uniquely. So rather than look at the network as a transport mechanism, look at it as a service," said William Ruh, Cisco's vice president, advanced services, SPM, AON and SONA. "This allows SAP's GRC application to control the infrastructure for compliance."
SAP and Cisco are collaborating by providing complementary solutions that offer new levels of IT management and controls between Cisco Service Oriented Network Architecture (SONA) and the three new applications in the portfolio of SAP solutions for governance, risk and compliance (GRC): SAP GRC Repository, SAP GRC Process Control, and SAP GRC Risk Management.
SAP's GRC application typically takes in data from different servers and applications and creates a risk value associated with a service. So it would measure email, for example, and have a risk value assigned to it relative to the value of the application.
Under the relationship with Cisco, SAP's GRC will be taking in information and data not only from traditional data sources but also from network equipment. This will enable enterprises to come up with a risk value for the network infrastructure, an effort that breaks new ground because risk management platforms have never really included the values of a network before.
The announcement is also expected to be the first of many major application-vendor relationships to be unveiled by Cisco over the next year.
The SONA services embedded in Cisco's networking solutions include: Application Oriented Networking (AON), Unified Communications, security, mobility and identity services. To support SONA-based GRC software platforms, Cisco is offering network architecture design, implementation and operation services.
Cisco contends that the application business processes space has been kept separate from the networking space. In future IT architectures, network professionals will need to get more productivity out of the environment.
"This is a very strong proof point that SONA is providing a service that is not traditionally found in the network marketplace," Ruh said. "If you don't automate business processes, the [number] of people that have to be involved, the amount of things they don't catch … the only way to be proactive is for the application to work as a real partner and participant with the infrastructure." According to Josh Greenbaum, principal with Enterprise Applications Consulting, the relationship with SAP should provide some strong endorsement for Cisco among GRC-hungry Cisco users.
"The GRC stuff is enormously interesting to customers. Everybody has GRC issues and they are very poorly managed today," Greenbaum said. "For example, the compliance regulatory conditions could get your CEO in jail. Every time I talk to customers, they acknowledge they don't manage these issues very well. GRC is going to be a really big initiative, and Cisco and SONA could thereby ride this wave very successfully."