Cisco Woos Developers, Shifts Toward Software With New DevNet Program

Cisco Monday launched DevNet, an online community and resource center for software developers, in hopes of spurring creation of new applications around its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and the Internet of Things.

DevNet will serve as a one-stop shop for developer tools and resources, including Cisco APIs, software development kits (SDKs) and ready-to-use code samples, according to Cisco VP and CTO of Networked Experiences Susie Wee. DevNet is part of a bigger push by Cisco to foster a new generation of applications that can run on Cisco-powered networks, Wee said.

"Obviously we are making a big push in software and cloud," Wee told CRN. "But what good is a software platform if you don’t have a developer strategy and a developer ecosystem to build upon that platform?"

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Out of the gate, the DevNet portal features more than 100 fully documented Cisco APIs, with more being added each week, Wee said. The idea is to steadily open up APIs not only for Cisco infrastructure platforms like ACI, but also for the Cisco Intercloud platform and Cisco end-user platforms, such as collaboration, the Internet of Things and Cisco's Connected Mobile Experience (CMX) solutions.

Some of the end-user applications, Wee said, will eventually be hosted in a Cisco App Store.

In addition to the APIs, DevNet will include Cisco SDKs, API tutorials and a DevNet sandbox that developers can use to ensure integration between their apps and Cisco technologies like ACI.

Wee said the launch of DevNet comes as Cisco looks to reinvent itself as more of a software and services company, given the industry's shift toward software-defined networking (SDN).

"The network itself, I would say, is making its biggest shift in the last couple of decades, architecturally, and that shift is SDN," Wee said. "So we are jumping on it with NFV [network functions virtualization] and SDN and we have actually broadened that story a bit because it's not just about networking. It's about how business applications, in light of virtualization and everything else, work on that network infrastructure."

SDN is technology that turns the high-end functions of switches, routers and other networking gear into software that can run on commodity hardware. The rise of SDN, along with SDN-focused startups like Big Switch Networks, is thought by analysts to be both a major disruptor and opportunity, for network hardware incumbents like Cisco. IDC, for its part, expects the SDN market to reach $3.7 billion by 2016.

Cisco revealed in November its own, long-awaited answer to the SDN craze with the launch of ACI. ACI consists of a new line of Cisco switches, the Nexus 9000, along with Cisco's Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC), which allows for the automation and unified management of the underlying ACI data center fabric.

Wee said DevNet is being targeted not only at ISVs and app developers, but also at Cisco channel partners and Cisco Certified Internetwork Experts (CCIEs), that also need to evolve in the face of SDN.

"The CCIEs, the guys who know how to run mission-critical infrastructure, [we] need to give them the tools so they understand how their world works in software," Wee said.

Shannon Champion, business development manager at Matrix Integration, a Jasper, Ind.-based Cisco partner, applauded Cisco's decision to open up more APIs and invest more in software through the DevNet community.

"In the past, Cisco had been sort of opposed to opening up a lot of APIs and things to develop with, and [DevNet] now goes kind of hand-in-hand with their investment in [the open-source SDN project] OpenDaylight," Champion said. "They are giving ways for people who see a problem in the field to respond faster and actually fix problems and add value to the network. It's really great that they are giving this capability to the field."

Champion also said DevNet is a sign of Cisco's commitment to being a leader in SDN.

"It shows they are embracing the changes that are happening, and those changes were going to happen whether they embraced them or not," he said.

In addition to Wee, Cisco's new DevNet community is being headed up by Rick Tywoniak, who previously led Cisco's collaboration developer program. Wee said the DevNet project was initially approved by Cisco CEO John Chambers seven months ago.