The Cisco Application eXtension Platform (AXP) is made up of a hardware card (three different models), modified Linux software that runs on the card, and a program for software developers. You could also say that the AXP represents “network virtualization.”
In 2007, I wrote the article, “Server Virtualization, Network Virtualization, and Storage Virtualization Explained.” I explained the difference between these three concepts. Server virtualization is what we all think of when we talk about “virtualization.” However, what Cisco’s AXP offers is network virtualization (NV). With NV, you are moving applications that typically run on a server into the network.
To make this work, Cisco AXP provides an open Linux development environment. That’s right — the AXP is a card that goes into your Cisco router and that card runs a hardened version of Linux, customized by Cisco. So, you aren’t running Linux on your current Cisco router CPU, RAM, and Flash or in the IOS. You are running Linux on a card that is inserted into the router.
Once you have this card and the Linux OS, you can then run third-party applications on that platform. Think about that for a minute. What if you could run a protocol analyzer like Ethereal or an IPS like SNORT “in your router?” What if you could run WAN Compression, performance monitoring, and network management software ‘in your router?” Wow — that would be amazing!
The AXP card that goes in your router will work in Cisco ISR Routers. Specifically, the models that it works in are the 1841, 2800, and 3800 series routers. This card is a standard network module (NME) or AIM card, depending on the router you are using.
This AXP card has its own memory, CPU, and Flash HD (and GB Ethernet in the case of the NME).
AXP is the first example I’ve seen that really lives up to the idea of Cisco’s “network as a platform” solution. With the AXP, the router becomes a platform, not only to route packets, but also to provide a platform to run any application you want — whether it is a network-related application or an application that is tailored to your business.