Cisco Makes a Developer Push and Launches DevNet

Earlier this week, Cisco announced DevNet – the company’s latest program aimed at wooing developers.

Focusing on developers is nothing new to Cisco, as the company has had different programs targeting developer partners for over a decade. Cisco's first attempt at building an ISV community came when Cisco acquired Metreos to develop applications for Cisco IP phones. After that, the VoIP program morphed into the Cisco Technology Developer Program (CTDP) and was focused more broadly on UC.

Since then, Cisco has added more developer programs, including the Application eXchange Program (AXP), Mobile Service Engine (MSE), WebEx developer environment, a call center developer forum and others. Most recently the company has added developer tools for the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) for SDNs and for Internet of Things (IoT). The net result is that Cisco has many individual developer programs for the various business units.

Feedback from developers has been that the experience from one product area to another is very different. This means differences in testing support, API structure and management, SDKs and developer tools. The downside of this is that instead of having a large community of developers and programmers to share ideas with, Cisco has a number of small communities. A single, large community has exponentially more value than multiple small ones.

The concept behind Cisco DevNet is that it creates a single community that offers the tools and resources to enable developers to build applications that leverage Cisco more broadly rather than just a single business unit. Historically, the network hasn't been exactly developer friendly, but Cisco has slowly being changing this and now the community can be used to drive greater awareness of what's possible.

Software developers can leverage the DevNet ecosystem and tap into the community to build network aware applications. This becomes increasingly more important as cloud, mobility and IoT become mainstream. DevNet lowers the barrier to entry for innovation by providing consistent resources, technical support, APIs, SDKs, ready-to-use code, a developer sandbox and community management.

Cisco has invested a significant amount of time and resources in DevNet, including the following:

API Development - Cisco has rolled out APIs for almost every product area including SDN, IoT, Unified Communications and Collaboration, Mobility and security. There are currently over a 100 fully documented APIs. A list of all the product areas can be found on the DevNet portal

API Management - The company is managing APIs through Mulesoft to enable developers to access REST-based APIs. The use of Mulesoft is crucial as it's familiar to software developers. One challenge Cisco has had in the past is that they used tools that were familiar to network engineers, minimizing the appeal to the software community.

Developer Tools - Cisco has invested in SDKs, API tutorials and a sandbox so developers can easily integrate with Cisco technology without having to buy a bunch of Cisco hardware. The use of a sandbox also enables developers to test applications before pushing it into a production environment. This can be particularly helpful for in house developers.

Shared Support - To prime the DevNet pump, Cisco is building a large support team that includes evangelists, community mangers and support engineers. These resources can provide guidance on programmable networks and how to best leverage the community and tools.

Cisco launched the portal earlier this year and has seen strong interest from developers. Cisco has seen a growth rate of 40% over the past seven months and has 80,000 developers registered today. While this isn't Microsoft-like, it's certainly a strong start for a company that's misfired on its developer initiatives in the past. The key this time is that the product-oriented communities have given way to a single, Cisco way.

Cisco has a lofty goal of hitting about a million developers by 2020. With Cisco's size and share, it's certainly possible, it just needs consistent execution. It seems the biggest lesson Cisco has learned over the past decade is that developers wouldn't come to Cisco and stay unless the whole experience was improved. Cisco has done everything it can to make the developer experience easy and simple, and that should go a long way in attracting new ISV partners.

CEO John Chambers has talked about the network being a platform for years. Given computing is becoming more network centric, Cisco has never had a better opportunity to capitalize on this concept of being a platform vendor. It's had the assets for some time now, but the new DevNet can deliver a large community to fuel innovation much faster than the old siloed structure.

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