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Cisco Developer Network woos third parties

Formalized Cisco Developer Network aims to give developers the APIs, SDKs and support they need to build unified communications and other applications.

Cisco Systems is formalizing a developer program that will open up more of the company's interfaces and tools to third-party developers.

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The newly named and structured Cisco Developer Network is an acknowledgement that the vendor has grown beyond its networking hardware roots. It is also recognition that when it comes to new-fangled technology like unified communications, which melds presence, chat and IP telephony, people buy applications, not bits and bytes, said one long-time Cisco watcher who declined to be named.

"Avaya sells more unified communications than Cisco and Microsoft, and [the reason is] Avaya has apps," the source added.

The goal of the Cisco Developer Network is to give developers within partner and customer organizations, as well as smaller "garage shops," the application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs) they need and the support necessary to build sustainable applications.

Cisco Developer Network: It's all about the apps

Don Seiler, business development manager at World Wide Technology Inc., a Cisco partner based in St. Louis, said the more access companies like his get to the innards of Cisco's products, the more customization and integration work they can do.

"For us, the more APIs they have, the easier it is for a solutions consultant to go in and develop apps that go deeper into the business processes," he said. "Without the APIs, you don't have the hooks to tie it into the line-of-business application and create middleware to communicate -- [like] between CRM and ERP solutions."

For example, unified communications vendors, like Microsoft and Cisco, highlight customer-service type applications where incoming calls are routed to a rep with the caller's purchase and service history with the company. These PC-era companies are coming at unified communications systems from the PC era, while other competitors like Avaya parlay their telecommunications expertise. (Avaya is expected to update its unified comms offering soon.)

Cisco and Microsoft increasingly compete in unified communications, and Microsoft has a very long and strong relationship with developers. Cisco is looking to make up ground there with this program.

There will be three member tiers for developers. To attain the lowest "registered" level, the developer must sign an annual agreement, have a company website and field a Cisco-complementary product. Fee for entry to that level is $3,500 per organization per year.

To attain the middle "solution developer" designation, the organization must also complete interoperability testing in a Cisco lab and pay $5,000 per year. In return, they participate in deal registration, get sales and marketing collateral and 24-7 support.

The highest level "preferred solution developer" must field dedicated business development for Cisco-related work.

All developer members have access to Cisco's developer portal for downloading software, which has been up and running since June 2009.

Another goal is to make it easier for Cisco developers to find channel partners to bring their products to market. Those developers in the top two tiers will have access to Cisco's Industry Solutions Partner Network (ISPN) go-to-market program.

Cisco has offered developers downloadable tools before, but the new program gives the effort structure and emphasis, Cisco executives said.

"There is a Cisco tech developer program already, [but] it focused on technical enablement, which most developers look to first," said Shawn Yuskitas, senior manager, industry solution partner for Cisco. "[But developers] also want marketing and sales enablement."

Specifically, this week the company will release an API for third-party integration around Cisco Communications Manager (formerly known as Call Manager Express). In March 2010, it will release APIs and SDKs for Cisco's Converged Building Systems, TelePresence and network and physical security technologies.

"Developers get access to support engineers on a certain number of cases based on their tier," said Todd Young, strategic management lead for Cisco Developer Network." That access can be via phone or email, or they can collaborate via the portal."

Young said the company's integrated services routers (ISRs) were an early foray into opening up more Cisco code to developers, and they have paid off.

"With app extension platform or AXP that sits on an ISR router, we're seeing a lot of unique apps being developed or proposed for bank branches, hospitals [and] what have you," he said.

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