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Cisco Systems on Thursday continued with its strategy to empower the branch office by opening up the Integrated Services Router (ISR) and the Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) platforms to third-party applications developers and introducing two new routers designed specifically for branch deployments.
The move gives Cisco channel partners new opportunities to offer differentiated and customized solutions that will better align with customer's business needs. Customers too will be able to optimize the branch office infrastructure using the ISR, which just reached 4 million deployed.
At the Cisco Partner Summit 2008 in Honolulu, the San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant unveiled the Cisco Application eXtension Platform (AXP). The AXP consists of open, Linux-based Cisco ISR hardware modules for application development and hosting to support a tighter integration of the network and applications. According to Inbar Lasser-Raab, Cisco's senior director of access routing and switching, several off-the-shelf and custom applications are already available for the ISR, along with a development and support ecosystem that includes a downloadable software development kit (SDK) and application programming interface (API) for application developers.
The AXP offers an open interface to Cisco IOS software and is delivered through network modules and Advanced Integration Modules (AIMs) on the ISR. Lasser-Raab said several applications can be supported concurrently on one AXP module.
Lasser-Raab said opening the ISR to third-party applications, on top of the more than 30 services already available for the platform, creates a link between the network and applications and imbeds those applications directly onto the platform, instead of having them just hosted on the router. Services available for the ISR include VoIP, wireless, WAN access, unified communications and a host of security tools like NAC, IPS, content filtering and VPN.
"It links applications tightly to the network," she said. "It's not just hosting applications, its tying them into the network."
Cisco also released a new AXP category in its Technology Developer Program (TDP) to give customers, independent software vendors, systems integrators and service providers technical and marketing support to create, develop and distribute AXP-based solutions. The SDK gives developers the ability to create vertical-specific solutions, unified communications-based applications and network and management utilities. Applications can integrate tightly with the underlying security, mobility, WAN optimization and unified communications capabilities offered in the ISR.
The ability to integrate applications directly onto the ISR platform gives Cisco resellers new opportunities and routes to market. VARs can differentiate their service offering sand target a broader customer base, while also reaching specific verticals.
According to Lasser-Raab, several applications are already available from Cisco TDP AXP partners such as branch infrastructure management from Avocent, healthcare solutions from InterComponentWare, branch VoIP recording from NICE, utilities infrastructure monitoring from OSISoft, IP payment processing from Precidia Technologies, management from ProSyst, IP fax from Sagem-Interstar, branch VoIP recording from Verint and workforce management from Workbrain.
Third-party development will come on three tiers, Lasser-Raab said. The first tier is customers, who can create their own applications, the second is ISVs and partners who can develop applications and sell them along with the ISR, and the third tier allows Cisco to identify certain applications and OEM and sell them as an option on the branch routers, opening up a single line of support.
"This is pretty transformative," said Dave Frampton, vice president of marketing for Cisco's access technology group. "It turns the router market into something different."