Cisco Combats Juniper With Plans to Open IOS

network operating system

"We are in the process of opening IOS and allowing APIs to be created," said Alan Baratz, senior vice president of the network software and systems technology group at Cisco during a panel discussion Tuesday at the vendor's C-Scape Global Forum 2007 analyst conference in its home town of San Jose, Calif. "We'll allow developers to access those APIs."

Baratz also said Cisco is working to address fragmentation in its IOS platform that stems from having developed so many "dialects" of the operating software. The company plans to build a "componentized" IOS platform and is moving the entire IOS code base onto an open Unix-based operating environment, he said.

"We're focusing now on a componentized IOS. For any given functionality within IOS, there will be only one implementation," he said. "Different products may have different subsets of functionality, but if you pick that functionality, it will be implemented in the same way. We're driving toward dynamic linking."

Word of Cisco's plans to open IOS came one day after rival Juniper Networks unveiled plans to open its JUNOS operating system to third-party developers.

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Juniper is offering a software development kit with intelligent and secure interfaces to JUNOS routing and service functions in a Unix development environment. Such tools give partners and customers greater choice and control in designing, developing and deploying specialized applications like event-optimized routing, customized bandwidth management, advanced security services and extended operations toolsets.

Cisco last week created a new software group under the leadership of Senior Vice President Don Proctor, combining its network software, management, unified communications and collaboration businesses, as well as Cisco's software-as-a-service strategy.

"We're in the midst of some of the most significant changes to software that the industry has seen," Proctor said, referencing emerging technologies such as Web 2.0 and software-as-a-service. "We're positioning ourselves to take maximum advantage."

Andrew R. Hickey contributed to this story.