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Summer's Over, Cisco's Back To Business

It's a couple weeks late for the back-to-school sale, but that doesn't mean Cisco Systems is shy about breaking out the ol' acquisition checkbook when a need or opportunity surfaces. After dropping almost $130 million for network-management provider NetSolve last week, Cisco on Monday announced it would acquire SIP software vendor Dynamicsoft for $55 million in cash, adding its session-initiation protocol smarts to Cisco's Voice over IP arsenal.

All the acquisition flurries come in the face of Tuesday's "official" announcement of an entire refresh of Cisco's lower-end router line, which of course was reported everywhere today, since Cisco briefed all the trade publications last week.

The highlight of the new router line -- a pretty significant refresh, with new models all the way from the very low-end through the the mid-range and larger-enterprise versions -- was the chip-level integration of virtual private network (VPN) technology, a move that shows Cisco understands customers' desire for better-integrated security and networking.

Given competitor Juniper's purchase of security leader NetScreen Technologies earlier this year, it was important that Cisco answer quickly, and the rollout of VPN-enabled routers shows Cisco didn't just do something to respond to Juniper -- since routers take just a bit more than several months to design and ship. With the new product intros and the renewed acquisition pace, it looks like Cisco is making good on CEO John Chambers' promise to be a busy newsmaker in 2004.

After a bit of a sleepy summer from the industry at large, it seems like innovation is once again making its way to the sales table, from all fronts. Now let's see if enterprises and service providers respond with another economy-lifting round of purchases.