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Cisco Romancing Linux Developers

Networking giant Cisco is gearing up to expand its Linux platform with a bunch of new hardware. But it won't be a success without developers to build more applications for the platform, so a little romancing is in order.

Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) is asking developers to instead think "inside the box" to create applications that will run on the Linux based Cisco AXP module. It's tossing in $100,000 in prize money just to keep it interesting.

Linux Application availability alone isn't the only thing Cisco is after. It's making sure the developer ecosystem has a revenue model that will keep Cisco and developers in the black.

"The model that we're looking for is something that results in a win-win situation for Cisco, partners and customers as well," Shashi Kiran, senior manager of network systems told InternetNews.com. "As a product we've been handholding applications that come on the AXP purely because there are support issues involved. It's very easy to get applications on the AXP," he said. But the hardening aspects of the platform, as well as making it deployable in customer networks are two key areas where Cisco wants more accountability, he added.

The Linux based AXP (Cisco Application eXtension Platform) is a module that can plug into a Cisco ISR router and, in effect, turn the router into a Linux application server. Since Cisco unveiled the AXP in April, it's built up an SDK (software development kit) to aid in the development of AXP-ready Linux applications.

Now, Cisco is adding some more sugar with a "virtual emulated blade" for AXP application testing. The virtual emulated blade is a VMware Player that emulates the Linux operating system environment that runs on the AXP. The virtual blade will let people that want to develop for the AXP do so without the need to access to a physical module for testing, Kiran said.

Then there is the "Think Inside the Box" developer contest and how it fits into the plan to build application development on the AXP.

"We're targeting the Linux community in particular and others in the open source community in general," Kiran said. Anyone over the age of 18 is welcome.

Though open source applications are welcomed by the Cisco contest, Kiran noted that it doesn't matter for the contest. "Cisco doesn't want to own the IP (intellectual property). As long as people can come up with an original idea, open source or otherwise we're OK with that."

Though Cisco expects that developers will contribute their own ideas, those ideas could well come from projects that already exists.

"All we're saying is that the application needs to be owned by whoever is submitting it," Kiran said. "As long as you don't infringe on the ideas or applications of others, then I think we're ok with that."

While the "Think Inside the Box" contest is intended to spur developer interest, Cisco still will keep a tight lid on the overall commercial availability of AXP applications.

"We just expect the AXP to grow," Kiran commented. "We will still be with fewer partners but we will make them commercially successful. The intent is not to go all out and solicit as many applications as possible. It's a question of how successful we can make everybody."