The Cisco “Think Inside the Box” Developer Contest just ended. Cisco was nice enough to get me in touch with the winning team to learn more about their application and their experience with developing on the new Cisco AXP platform.

The winning team is Team MADNetwork, headed by David Perez, in Spain. He won $50,000 for his idea, which is a system for monitoring building control systems made from different vendors within one application. The second place winner, Team Enhancers, won $30,000 with their Local Advertising Mesh Network. Team BugsBernie, which created an office security system that made use of the phones in the office the existing phones, received $20,000 for its third place win.

Insights from the winning team’s leader

The winning application is called the Building Automation Service (BAS). When I spoke with David, he explained to me that building control systems do not have a standardized management system, so it is not possible to integrate them into a whole. The BAS application works with the management systems of individual vendors and exposes their management functions as SNMP. This allows organizations to leverage their existing SNMP infrastructure to monitor and manage their building control systems. BAS was developed with support for three major manufacturers, but more can be added.

David and I talked about his experience with working on the AXP platform. He has a lot of experience in firmware development, Java development, and Linux development; this served him well on this project, and he said that developing for AXP was not a large conceptual leap. Developers can use C, Java, and a number of scripting languages for AXP development. David did not use any special tools; in fact, he told me that he used vi as his code editor.

David thinks that learning to develop for the AXP platform is a winning move. Cisco has a massive market share, and this is a brand new niche, so getting in on the ground floor of this market can pay dividends. He also pointed out that AXP exposes a unified, standard interface that is familiar to sys admins, NOCs, and so on; this means that you can focus on the functionality of the application, and that your users will already be comfortable with it. David said many of the AXP platform’s built-in tools handled things that he thought would require him to write code.

Contest details

I also spoke with Shashi Kiran, who leads Cisco’s Enterprise Routing Team, to get more details about the contest. They had more than 100 teams from around the world participate. From the initial proposals, they selected 10 finalists to perform actual implementations and gave them access to a virtual lab of devices. The finalists had a mere 90 days to put together their proof-of-concept applications, and eight of them made the deadline. (TechRepublic blogger Jack Wallen recently interviewed three of the finalists.)

The quality of the entries is even more impressive when you take into account that none of them were working on this full time — they had to go to jobs, attend school, and so on; plus, most of them had no prior experience with routers, switches, etc.

The judging panel spanned a range of industry analysts and Cisco customers. Sashi wrapped up by telling me that Cisco was very happy to run this contest, and that they learned a lot from the entries and the teams’ experiences.

So, congratulations to Team MADnetwork, Team Enhancers, and Team BugsBernie! Great work, folks!


Disclosure of Justin’s industry affiliations: Justin James has a contract with Spiceworks to write product buying guides. He is also under contract to OpenAmplify, which is owned by Hapax, to write a series of blogs, tutorials, and other articles.


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