This is a guest post from Larry Dignan. You can read the original article on Larry’s blog Between the Lines on TechRepublic’s sister site ZDNet.

Cisco on Thursday said that it has opened up its family of integrated services router (ISR), which combines security, switching, routing and unified communications in one box, to third party developers.

The announcement, being made at Cisco’s partner summit in Hawaii, is designed to take advantage of the trend of application centralization and take it to branch offices. Think of it as hosting an application in a branch specific cloud.

These applications, built on Linux, will be developed by third party software vendors and be delivered via a module that plugs into 3 million of the 4 million ISRs that Cisco has sold over the last four years. Applications are being hosted on modules so they don’t gobble up routing processing power.

Inbar Lasser-Raab, Cisco’s senior director of network systems, says it’s the first time the network giant has opened its platform to third party developers. “A lot of businesses are moving applications into the data centers, but how do they reconstruct their branches?” says Lasser-Raab.

Initially, applications are being tailored to specific verticals–healthcare, banking and retail that have numerous branches with little IT support–but Lasser-Raab added that there are no limits to what applications could be ported to Cisco’s platform.

Here are a few highlights from the Cisco presentation:

The ecosystem and application detail:

The ISR family (applications module plug into every ISR above the 800 series):

And pricing and availability: