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Cisco pays $97m to pump networks full of its DNA

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Hoping to turn data centers from smart to super-smart, Cisco has bought flashy start-up Sheer Networks for up to $122m.

The deal will see Cisco acquire some of the most bizarre marketing speak around along with complex networking software for shuffling data in an "intelligent" fashion. Sheer's entire pitch revolves around the metaphorical links between its networking products and tools used to unfurl the human genome. Sheer is so committed to this premise that its flagship product sells under the DNA (Dynamic Network Abstraction) brand.

We're not making this up.

"Just as leading scientists worldwide have succeeded in cracking the human genome, so Sheer Networks has decoded the network genome to identify and abstract the four basic elements of the network - forwarding tables, protocol stacks, interoperable interfaces and links - using these elements Sheer has constructed a library of three 'network genes' that can abstract any type of: Network element, Network technology, and Network service," the company tells us on its web site.

"Using these three fundamental gene types, Sheer has created the Dynamic Network Abstraction (DNA) layer, a software-based virtual network where Virtual Network Elements connected by Virtual Links simulate the flow of virtual packets.

"Sheer DNA hides the complexity of large, multi-vendor, multi-technology networks in a way that makes them transparent and accessible to a variety of OSS applications."

Hopefully, some boffins at Cisco deciphered that product description oddity and figured out what Sheer actually does before buying the firm.

Cisco will shell out $97m in cash and assumed options for Sheer; however, another $25m could be added to that price if Sheer meets "product milestones." Pending standard approvals, Cisco expects the acquisition to close during its first fiscal quarter of 2006.

"Our blueprint for Cisco network management includes a common services platform on which applications are delivered and the ability to support management applications from Cisco and other vendors," said Cliff Meltzer, a senior vice president at Cisco. "Sheer has a similar philosophy and parallel architecture which will accelerate our delivery of Cisco's next generation management platform and advanced applications to our Service Provider customers."

Cisco has been on quite the buying spree of late. Last week, it nabbed Danish networking entertainment devices firm Kiss Technology for $61m and last month it grabbed VPN start-up M. I. Secure for $13m cash.

Many will also remember Cisco's infamous merger talks with Nabisco. ®

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