Users have been pondering the idea of Cisco-routers-turned-Linux-app-servers and have found the idea wanting. Last week, Cisco set tongues a-waggin' with its announcement that its Integrated Services Router can be made into a Linux application server with the addition of a Cisco Application eXtension Platform (AXP) blade card. The card is accompanied by a software development kit and APIs, so users can also write their own Linuxware to be hosted by the AXP-equipped ISR. Cisco said that some apps were already available such as Avocent's MergePoint and Patch Manager software.
Fans of the router giant have proclaimed the router/Linux server combo as a surefire means for Cisco to achieve Linux market dominance. Writes internetnews.com's Sean Michael Kerner:
It would have been big news if Cisco has just opened up the routers, but by doing it with a Linux base, Cisco may well dramatically change the Linux server landscape. Instead of needing to rely on Red Hat or Novell to supply Linux running on servers from HP, IBM, Dell, etc., a user that already has an ISR (and there are 4 million of them out there) can just buy an AXP from Cisco, put that module on their ISR and -- badda boom badda bing -- they've got a Linux application server."
But users say, not so fast.
Readers on the Linux-oriented LWN.net site had a long list of reasons why they would not turn to a Cisco router as their Linux app server of choice. One noted that it would create a big old single point of failure and that keeping routing functions separate from applications is a more reliable design choice.
Another felt skeptical about Cisco's compliance with GPL licenses. (However, Cisco exec Joel Conover, manager of network systems, did promise to adhere to it and reciprocate any code originally covered by GPL, Kerner's blog reported.)
Still others noted that this was a pretty expensive way to get a Linux server when comparing the price a commodity Linux server versus a Cisco router with similar CPU and RAM capacity.
While the AXP blade card is interesting, some users say it really only marks Cisco's countermove to market forces that were threatening Cisco in the branch office. For instance, Juniper's routers have supported FreeBSD for-like-EVER.
But beyond that, the typical SMB or branch office network gear consists of a router and a server. These folks now have the means to save money by consolidating those functions onto a single box. This single box can be a low-cost Linux server that takes on the task of packet-forwarding. Cisco would, of course, prefer customers to ditch the Dell and give the router all of the app-server tasks.
Would you use Cisco gear as a Linux server for your branch offices?
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