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Cisco Has Announced the Winners of a Year Long Contest

by Abel Avram on Oct 09, 2009 |

Cisco has announced the winners of the “Think Inside the Box” Developer Contest. The challenge was to create an AXP application for Cisco’s ISR.

Cisco “Think Inside the Box” Developer Contest, which started a year ago, invited the participants to create applications for Cisco Application Extension Platform (AXP) which can be included into a Cisco Integrated Services Router (ISR). In phase one of the contest, over 100 teams totaling over 900 developers from 75 countries have submitted a proposal, 8 of them being selected as finalists. Each of these finalists worked on an implementation and submitted it to a jury of 8 specialists from Cisco, Forrester Research, Linux Foundation, Yankee Group and MWD Advisors. The jury selected 3 winners:

First Place: Team MADnetwork, led by David Perez in Spain, won US$50,000 for the Building Automation Service application (BAS). Created with branch offices and multitenant units in mind, BAS helps businesses remotely monitor and manage building operations.

Second Place: Team Enhancers, led by Rajesh Kotagiri in India, won US$30,000 for the Local Advertising Mesh Network Platform (LAMP) application. LAMP creates a distributed ad-serving platform hosted on the AXP. This platform will reside on ISRs targeted initially toward retail deployments: For instance, retail stores can display ads on LCD units in various locations. With this solution, businesses can tap potential new revenue streams by shifting some of their advertising efforts to their existing networking infrastructures.

Third Place: Team BugsBernie, led by Bernhard Beckmann in Germany, won US$20,000 for the Integrated Surveillance System application. With this application, Internet Protocol phones can be turned on during nonworking hours to monitor any audio signals in the offices. When abnormal audio signal patterns are detected (crossing a configurable threshold), the application notifies external security services or devices such as mobile phones, computers and video monitoring systems. Sabotage of telephony equipment is also detected.

The teams had access to a simulation lab offering one ISR and one AXP module per team. They could also use an AXP Virtual Blade, a VM which basically emulates AXP hardware. The AXP module is a hardware module that is connected to an ISR router taking power from it and is accessing its network interface. The module has a Celeron or Pentium processor and it runs a flavor of Linux built by Cisco from kernel 2.6.x with some security and manageability enhancements. The hardware specifications for the 3 existent types of AXP modules are:

Service Module CPU RAM Storage
AIM-102 300-Mhz Intel Celeron 256 MB 1-GB Flash
NME-302 1.0-GHz Intel Pentium 512 MB 80-GB hard drive
NME-522 1.4-GHz Intel Pentium 2 GB 160-GB hard drive

Anurag Gurtu [AG], Technical Marketing Engineer at Cisco, and Shashi Kiran [SK], Senior Manager for the Network Systems and Solutions Marketing Team at Cisco, describe AXP:

AG: Developers can write applications which can collect data from Cisco ISR (including an interface) and come-up with interesting applications. AXP provides a vast set of API(s) which integrate within the ISR, e.g. IOS API, Event Trigger API, Serial API, etc. Applications running on AXP can do all sorts of things, e.g. can configure an ISR, retrieve data and event notifications from an ISR, manage serial devices connected to an ISR, etc.  It has both read and write capabilities, in a nutshell the possibilities are endless. AXP provides a compute platform which converges application and networking domains.

SK: Think of AXP as a server integrated into the router. The key pain points branch offices face is the lack of IT resources locally. Bringing the server based applications onto the router helps them consolidate the branch IT footprint, bring better network awareness for their applications as it gets tied to the communication infrastructure and more important, ensures remote manageability without consuming additional power, or requiring additional maintenance contracts.

The application on the module can be designed to communicate with a central application, or failover to a local instance in a survivable mode in case the central application is not available. Being hosted on the router, gives it better leverage as part of the network infrastructure – the applications can now avail of WAN optimization capabilities, better security integration or a tighter network integration. The Integrated Services Router brings different services onto the same router form factor.

Practically, AXP allows third party providers and even customers to write applications for their ISR enhancing it in various ways. We asked why would customers be interested in that?

AG: Customers are buying routers since they do everything including routing, switching, call management, video surveillance, etc, however one thing that was missing within this “One Box Branch Solution” was applications. That has been addressed with AXP. Now it can address new market opportunities where customers not only get a router but also a network aware application hosting environment within this router thereby increasing the true potential of the application.

SK: Customer requirements vary. The ISR solves a true branch pain point – it optimizes the network and IT infrastructure, while increasing manageability and reducing cost of ownership. With AXP they get the additional flexibility to bring in software, services or applications more relevant to their business needs, and customize it.  These can be server based applications or standalone applications. Of course, they do get all the other services when they buy the router including routing, integrated switching, Unified communications, mobility, WAN optimization etc., as relevant to their business needs among the suite of services the ISR offers. With over 7 million routers sold, the ISR has the richest set of services in the industry today.

We also interviewed one of the 8 finalist teams, Jin Jin from Brasil made up by Leonardo Gonçalves, Rogério Augusto, and Alexandre Rodrigues who created a Management Platform for IP Based Media Service.

What is "Management Platform for IP Based Media Service (IMS) Applications"?

This is a software infrastructure built to support and manage IMS large-scale based applications in high performance environments. In few words, anyone that implements an IMS based application could take advantage of this platform and the idea is create this support inside the AXP.

What did you want to achieve with this application?

We want to transform the AXP into a runtime environment for high performance IMS-based applications. We're using well-known technologies like Java and Osgi to create a framework to bring simplicity for both telecom operators and partners. Telecom operators could use this infrastructure to manage, update and create new business over AXP while partners could deploy / undeploy applications on demand, creating more revenue. We create the concept of RaaS (Router as a Service) that is, the Telco operators and their partners expose and consume their also available legacy services and AXP is the mediator that maintains conversational state (thru IMS architecture components).

Have you succeeded in your plans? Is the implementation working and doing what you intended it to do?

Indeed. We implemented the SIP protocol that is a component of IMS architecture. We also packaged Jini and Javaspaces with Osgi inside AXP (that was an amazing challenge) and also create an demo application (Chat service and Amazon.com integration) to prove the idea of keeping track of user actions (consume of AXP exposed services in this case, chat interaction or browsing amazon.com website ) in a distributed session. All of this is working inside ISR. The demo was built using RIA interface and consumes services deployed inside AXP.

What has been your experience with Cisco in this contest? What are the lessons learned? What have you liked/disliked the most?

We've learned so much. Work with interesting technologies like AXP are a delightful challenge. We liked so much the lab offered by Cisco but we had some problems with frequent connection interruptions. We had no previous experience with Cisco products and we've spent a time learning about how to configure and deploy our project. Our proposal uses many open source projects and encountered some bugs on them and we had to think and configure this projects to work inside ISR so thinks that work fine running on PC suddenly don't work in ISR and so on.

Our time usage was ever a problem. The teammates live in different parts of Brazil and have their own jobs and manage their schedules was not an easy task. We had to learn how to work together and keep up with the planning.

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