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Cisco opens up routers for customization

Posted: 15 Apr 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Cisco routers? customization? software development?

Cisco Systems Inc. announced at its April 10 Partner Summit that it would open up both Linux-based integrated services routers (ISR) and Windows-based wide area application services (WAAS) systems to third-party software applications. This allows customized routers in realms such as healthcare and finance.

The open application programming interfaces still require dedicated hardware modules to accelerate higher-layer services beyond core routing, said David Frampton, VP of marketing for Cisco's access routing products.

Because of the tight link between application development and the application extension platform (AXP) modules, third-party software development requires more assistance from Cisco than a mere software interface to the OS.

Frampton said that Cisco has worked on a custom basis with larger independent software vendors in the past, particularly with its core router IOS environment. But the new software interfaces tied to Cisco's ''Empowered Branch'' program ''really takes us further into the small vertical ISVs, those working on special network management and monitoring solutions, for example,'' he said.

The hardware modules for ISR routers differ in their memories and coprocessors, with AXPs tied to specific vertical applications. The general-purpose advanced integration module AIM-102, for example, is priced at $1,795, while two different versions of EtherSwitch Network Modules are priced at $3,500 and $5,000.

WAAS platforms are opened through a different methodology than routers with dedicated modules. Cisco is introducing a new appliance, dubbed the WAE-674, which implements a ''virtual blade'' technology for Windows Server 2008. This lets off-the-shelf and custom applications be defined as soft blades in the same way that DNS servers, print servers and other vertical functions are defined within a WAAS system. The WAE-674 system is priced at $16,000.

Cisco is also taking its small-office/home-office (SOHO) routers to a new small form-factor. The new 86x/88x series of ISR routers are priced between $449 and $1,295. They feature fixed-function, three-antenna 802.11n support. The 861 is a standard serial-interface router; the 888 offers G.SHDSL support, and the 881 offers Fast Ethernet support.

Frampton said the low price of the routers led to some internal consideration as to whether these ISRs should be sold through Linksys-style consumer channels, but ultimately the support required in SOHO channels warranted using Cisco's traditional sales channels.

- Loring Wirbel
EE Times

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