Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), also known as Rijndael, is a block cipher adopted as an encryption standard by the U.S. government. It has been analyzed extensively and is now used worldwide, as was the case with its predecessor, the Data Encryption Standard (DES). AES was announced by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as U.S. FIPS PUB 197 (FIPS 197) on November 26, 2001 after a 5-year standardization process in which fifteen competing designs were presented and evaluated before Rijndael was selected as the most suitable
It became effective as a standard May 26, 2002. As of 2006, AES is one of the most popular algorithms used in symmetric key cryptography. It is available by choice in many different encryption packages. This marks the first time that the public has had access to a cipher approved by NSA for top secret information
The cipher was developed by two Belgian cryptographers, Joan Daemen and Vincent Rijmen, and submitted to the AES selection process under the name "Rijndael", a portmanteau of the names of the inventors. (Rijndael is pronounced)
Unlike DES (the predecessor of AES), AES is a substitution-permutation network, not a Feistel network. AES is fast in both software and hardware, is relatively easy to implement, and requires little memory. As a new encryption standard, it is currently being deployed on a large scale.
Excerpt from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Encryption_Standard