Cisco Mounting Massive Open API Offensive; Says APIs Are The 'Holy Grail' For Partners

Cisco is unleashing an API offensive like never before with an army of more than 400,000 developers, including engineers from 1,450 channel partners, who are developing custom solutions alongside third-party vendors.

"This is the new and next wave of opportunity," said Nirav Sheth, senior director of solutions, architectures and engineering for Cisco's Global Partner Organization, in an interview with CRN. "Every portfolio, every architecture that we have – whether it's our collaboration stack, our next generation data center stack or core stack, etc. is open and extensible. Cisco is committed to open APIs and extensibility across our entire portfolio."

Fresh off its $3.7 billion planned acquisition of application specialist AppDynamics, partners say they're using Cisco APIs to evolve into the next generation of system integrators which will feature more software development and become more software-centric businesses. 

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"One of our biggest initiatives is to pivot from a traditional integration partner to an infrastructure plus software-defined developer partner," said Steve Rogers, vice president of Solutions & Alliances at Groupware Technology, a Campbell, Calif.-based Cisco partner ranked No. 76 on CRN's Solution Provider 500 list. "Adding a rich software development offering whether it's for public cloud, private cloud or whether its application integration -- that's really where we’re heading. That's the partner of the future."

By using Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) APIs together with Microsoft Azure and NetApp, Groupware created its own cloud-based, pre-configured turnkey solution: Lighthouse. "Think of Lighthouse as a FlexPod architecture with Microsoft integration," said Rogers.

The Infrastructure as-a-Service platform, Lighthouse, provides managers fast access to a self-service portal that delivers capacity on-demand in an effort to solve business outcomes. Groupware delivers and integrates the prebuilt rack that is implemented into a customer's data center or colocation facility.

"It's designed for automation and rapid deployments into an Azure environment. So not only do you get the benefits of a Cisco-powered data center solution with Cisco and NetApp and Microsoft, but we've built some really interesting and automated components that connect it to Microsoft Azure," said Rogers. "We needed to leverage Cisco API sets and that's one reason while we're well-versed in the Cisco DevNet environment."

Three years ago, former Cisco CEO John Chambers approved the creation of a software developers program that morphed into what is now known as Cisco DevNet. More than 400,000 individuals, including engineers from 1,450 channel partner organizations, are now developing on various Cisco's platform through the DevNet community.

Cisco has been criticized in the past for what many have called a proprietary philosophy with regards to its IOS (Internetwork Operating System). However, partners say Cisco has been shedding that image, pointing at the recent vendor push of opening up Meraki APIs.

Susie Wee, vice president and CTO of Networked Experiences and DevNet at Cisco, said the goal is to get 1 million people certified through DevNet to develop custom software solutions.

"These APIs actually give our partners the ability to customize solutions and to make integrations that work with the bigger solutions that involve Cisco and non-Cisco parts. We're allowing them to customize and to create differentiation, to create whole new solutions for areas that Cisco wouldn't go in directly alone," said Wee. "This is a corporate-wide commitment, and we're mobilizing because we want our partners to embrace this opportunity and continue to innovate."

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