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Cisco rewards bit twiddlers in router-to-server contest

Cash for Linux-module customization

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If you're an IT shop using one of the seven million AXP routers from Cisco Systems and you have some time on your hands, then you just missed an opportunity to make some coin.

Cisco has announced the winners of a contest, called Think Inside The Box, that asked bit-twiddlers and server tweakers to come up with interesting server applications to run on the routers.

The contest, says senior manager for enterprise marketing Shashi Kiran, was to have real IT people come up with some uses for the embedded Linux module that is tucked up inside the AXP routers. AXP is short for Application Extension Platform, and these routers were intended to have embedded applications in them.

Like other Cisco routers, the AXP routers run IOS - Cisco's routing operating system. The AXPs also have a tiny x64-based server module that supports 2GB of memory and a 160GB disk drive that runs a hardened variant of Linux that is cooked up by Cisco. This Linux has a development environment that includes APIs that let it hook into the IOS router operating system.

In the past, Cisco and its partners have used the Linux module to provide DNS serving, voice recording, or various security applications. There are about 20 different applications available for the AXPs, but Cisco wants that base to grow much larger. Hence, the contest.

Over 900 people applied to the contest, which was launched last October. All the proposals were in by February of this year, and by May Cisco and its outside judges (including Brian Proffitt of the Linux Developer Network) whittled the entries down 110 different teams, who were then cut back to 10 teams that were invited to do their projects.

Most of them did their projects while moonlighting at work (what do you expect, in this economy?), and they did so because there was a $100,000 purse. Cisco does not own the resulting entries, but it will probably be debatable if individuals who won or their companies own the IP.

Third prize, for $20,000, was lead by Bernhard Beckham of Germany, who created a Linux application that ran on the AXPs that interfaced with VoIP software and IP phones to do security and remote audio monitoring in offices.

A team lead by Rajesh Kotagiri of India tweaked the AXP routers so they could be used to drive in-store rich media advertising inside of retail outlets that use the routers to link back to the central offices; this project was awarded second prize and $30,000.

The first place prize winner, a team lead by David Perez from Spain, was awarded $50,000 for creating a building automation system that controlled air conditioning, lighting, plumbing, and other systems.

Where will Cisco stick a server next? ®

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