I admit it: I've got a lot of geek DNA. So I get genuinely excited by real technological breakthroughs and disappointed when promising innovations fail. The hard part for most of us is determining what really constitutes "promising." This morning's news from Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) arguably qualifies.

The oft-troubled networking giant announced what it's calling application-oriented networking, or AON. AON's breakthrough comes in the form of supplying normally simpleton networking devices with a big IQ boost. Using smarter routers -- devices that transport and "route" data to the proper digital locale -- will give Cisco customers a real-time look at the data being transported across their networks.

To my mind, there are two big benefits to this approach. First, there's visibility. Knowing what's in the network allows managers to closely monitor every critical business process. And second, there's security. Forcing network data to identify their content as well as their source ought to help cut down on viruses, spyware, and other malicious attacks.

In sum, AON is one heck of a cool idea. Too bad it isn't new.

Indeed, I've heard this pitch since the late '90s from many different start-ups and established firms, none of whom have come through. Has Cisco finally got it right? Probably. But I doubt seriously that it will offer the company the kind of competitive advantage investors crave -- there's just too much history.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers actually owns two wireless routers, but neither is made by Cisco. What's your take on application networking? Share your thoughts with other Fools at the Cisco discussion board. Tim doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. You can find out just what's in his portfolio by viewing Tim's Fool profile here. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.