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The Making of an Open Source Developer Hero

The Making of an Open Source Developer Hero

Cisco is holding a contest for Linux developers as a way to familiarize them with its Network as a Platform concept. The goal is to generate applications to run on Cisco's Application Extension Platform and to create a Linux developer network.

By Jack M. Germain
01/07/09 4:00 AM PT

Every industry has a hero who paves the way with innovation. Cisco is looking for developer heroes for the open source software industry and hopes to find three as winners of its Think Inside the Box Developer Contest.

The contest, which started in October, encourages developers to produce applications that run on Cisco's new Linux Application Extension Platform (AXP). Cisco wants to encourage programmers to conceive apps that will enhance the usefulness of its routers that tie corporate networks together.

"Our goal is to promote innovation. There is a need to open up for ideas we couldn't think of on our own. We are now concentrating on an approach to open router space over the next year," Sashi Kiran, senior manager of Network Systems for Cisco Systems, told LinuxInsider.

Channeling Business

For the last 12 months, much of the focus at Cisco has been on the branch operations within companies. Customers were focusing on two things, database efficiency and how to grow their businesses in a Web 2.0 world, said Kiran.

"We saw double digit growth from the branches -- but IT staff growth is not keeping pace with the branch growth," he explained.

Rather than taking on all business communications challenges as it did for the last four years, Cisco is focusing on branch optimization and on lowering the cost of operations, he said.

Contest Goals

To that end, Cisco established a set of goals for its AXP platform introduced last April, but it needs an infusion of platform apps to make that happen.

The contest objectives are threefold. One is to create applications that foster the Network as a Platform. The second goal is to reach new constituents. The third aim is to promote innovation.

These new Cisco AXP innovations focus on overcoming IT complexity, collaborating with Web 2.0 programs and growing a green business. The plans also call for leveraging the evolving relationship between the CEO and CIO, as well as monetizing IT and realizing it as a strategic asset.

"We want to bridge the gap between the network space and open source," Kiran said.

Defining AXP

The Cisco AXP is an open, Linux-based hardware module for its ISR and Cisco Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) platforms for customers and third-party application developers. The platform comes with a downloadable software development kit (SDK). The AXP hardware is a Linux server blade that plugs into the Cisco routers.

The Cisco platform offers tighter integration between the network and business applications. It is delivered via network modules and Advanced Integration Modules (AIMs) on the Cisco ISR. Multiple applications can be supported on a single AXP module concurrently, optimizing the footprint in branch offices.

This approach enables Cisco to open its Integrated Services Router and enhances the capabilities of the Cisco ISR by enabling a tighter integration between the branch network, IT and application infrastructure.

The Cisco AXP further lowers TCO by providing an open Linux-based platform to develop and host custom and third-party applications directly on the Cisco ISR. The use of ISR, WAAS and Cisco's AXP forms the basis of Cisco's concept of Network as a Platform.

Contest Particulars

Participants in the contest had 90 days to complete Phase I. This involved preparing and submitting an application proposal on Cisco's template. Phase II provided finalists with another 90 days to develop their applications via remote access to Cisco labs on Cisco ISR with AXP.

The contest is open to all participants from age 18 and older. Cisco hopes to attract researchers and university students as well, according to Kiran. The contest is aimed at application developers.

"Many developers are not familiar with the Network as a Platform. We hope to interest Linux programmers and network engineers," said Kiran.

Another byproduct of the contest is for Cisco to engage the Linux community in a learning process about the company, he added.

Prize Money

Although the official deadline for submitting completed applications is Jan. 12, Cisco has extended that deadline to allow foreign language applicants time to translate their coding, etc. The new deadline is Feb. 27.

Cisco will announce the winners in May. The company will apply weighted judging criteria for the proposal phase and the development phase.

Three winners will share a US$100,000 prize pool. The first place winner will receive $50,000. The second place winner will get $30,000, and the third place winner will win $20,000. Winners may be either individual contestants or teams.

Getting Social

Initially, Cisco received considerable input from its business partners. The company decided to scale the information to a wider audience, Kiran explained.

Cisco used various social media to spread the word about the contest. The company is learning the process as it goes forward, he said.

"This is a paradigm shift for us in some ways," said Kiran. "We are reaching out to our customers in some ways to ease their pain points. This is our first such outreach."


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