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The network is back. For the network administrators in the room, that statement may not be much of a shocker.

But for other casual observers—including me—the networking industry hasn’t been terribly exciting ever since Cisco Systems was briefly the most valuable company in the world during the dot-com boom.

Since then, networking overall has been, well, a yawner. However, meaningful changes are afoot.

Cisco CEO John Chambers alluded to the newfound network enthusiasm at the company’s recent analyst meeting in New York, but I took his comments with a grain of salt. After all, Chambers is always “cautiously optimistic” and has “healthy paranoia.”

Now I’m starting to believe the industry is getting its mojo back (except for companies burdened by their own issues—good luck integrating the merger of Lucent Technologies and Alcatel, for instance).

As Senior Editor Paula Musich reports here, application acceleration controllers and gear that optimizes WANs are becoming critical.

Why? Information workers simply aren’t hanging out on the corporate LANs anymore, and technology managers want to consolidate offices.

The rub: WANs have this latency issue that makes it really tough to shuttle applications around over a network.

Fix that issue by using WAN optimization to shuttle applications, and a miniboom may be on the horizon as this equipment goes mainstream.

Juniper Networks, which on Oct. 16 expects to roll out equipment to deliver applications faster, is one company hoping to bank on widespread usage.

“Now we are seeing deployments in the hundreds of sites,” said Mike Banic, senior director of product marketing at Juniper.

With any luck, the network may actually become the computer—albeit a decade after networking execs started preaching about it.

Meanwhile, the evolution of networks has enabled SAAS (software as a service). No news there, but what is up to may get your attention.

Senior Writer Renee Boucher Ferguson reports here that the company is nearing an inflection point that could get it the critical mass needed to go toe-to-toe with the big application vendors.

The secret weapon: A new development language and platform that would bring enterprise-scale custom software development capabilities as a service.

Of course, the next iteration of’s plan—not to mention the application ecosystem it is building—wouldn’t be possible without (you guessed it) the network.

Contact eWEEK Executive Editor/News Larry Dignan at

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