Cisco Opens the ISR
Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is widening the scope of its Integrated Services Routers (ISRs) by opening the software to developers, creating the possibility of new branch-office applications that tap the network.
The Application Extension Platform (AXP), announced today, delivers on Cisco's previous hints about opening up its software. More important, it continues Cisco's push to make routers the origination point for services, increasing the importance of networking to an enterprise's business. (See Cisco Pumps Branch Offices.)
"It gets us closer to the network being -- and I hate to say it because Cisco talks a lot about this -- the next business platform," says analyst Nick Lippis of Lippis Enterprises .
It's a bit of a bounceback from the lean edge model, where applications have been moving out of branch offices and into the data center. AXP is meant to create a new set of applications residing at the branch, applications infused with knowledge about the network itself.
"For example, the applications can understand what the utilization on the network is. They can see packet loss or tell if a link is down," says Joel Conover, a marketing manager in Cisco's network systems group.
These applications run on their own cards (more on that later). This keeps them from affecting the ISRs' routing performance, according to Cisco.
Possibly the most significant aspect of AXP, though, is the freedom for software companies to tap into IOS themselves.
Cisco and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) are starting to open their software after years of keeping everything locked up tight. They're not exactly rushing towards openness -- Juniper, for example, is carefully parceling out its software access. But both companies are eager to talk about the possibilities of software vendors, or even customers, building their own applications to run on Cisco or Juniper cards. (See Juniper Opens Up to Apps Developers.)
Juniper announced its Partner Solution Development Platform (PSDP) in December. That happened to be the week of Cisco's analyst conference, and executives there noted that Cisco would be doing something similar, giving developers access to its software's application programming interfaces (APIs).
As with Juniper's PSDP, Cisco's AXP won't be a free-for-all. Cisco will certify ISV applications. But it appears Cisco won't control the program as tightly as Juniper does.
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