It seems that open programming specs for routers are like buses - you wait for ages, then three come along at once. First we had Juniper releasing a software development kit (SDK) and partner developer programme for its JUNOS routers.

Next we had open-source router company Vyatta saying that actually Juniper wasn't first, because Vyatta's router software has been open-source for almost two years. Oh, and Juniper's not really open either, as you need an invitation before you can become a JUNOS application developer.

And then there were reports from Cisco's C-Scape analyst conference, saying that it too was working on APIs that would allow third-parties to write apps to run on its IOS platform.

So, three open-router statements in three days - is it coincidence, confusion or conspiracy?

Our old friend vapourware

After a bit of digging, it turns out that Cisco hasn't actually announced anything at all - yes folks, it's vapourware. The comments reported were made by the senior VP of its network software and systems technology group during a panel session. I've not yet been able to find out what he was asked but I'd be entirely unsurprised to find that it was along the lines of "Are you going to open your routers like Juniper has?"

That same Cisco SVP also let slip that the Big C has been trying to rationalise the many different flavours of IOS into a single 'componentised' (modular by another name) system and move it all onto a Unix-based platform. Are you surprised by that? I'm not.

If I were a Juniper marketeer, I'd be depressed by just how quickly the story got reported as 'Cisco trumps Juniper' - as the Cisco SVP no doubt knew it would be. Juniper was getting far too many headlines, and if revealing a couple of on-going engineering programmes could steal its thunder for Cisco, then so be it.

That's despite the fact that the Juniper SDK is here now while Cisco's could be anything up to two years away - two years is reportedly how long it took to put Juniper's PSDP together, and Juniper already had its routers running a modular Unix-based OS, while Cisco hasn't even got that far yet.

Open interfaces are not open source

Then again, Vyatta's challenge to post code on the web raises some questions over just how 'open' either Juniper or Cisco will be. Yes, they will let others develop apps for their devices - then again, Microsoft lets people develop apps for Windows, but it hasn't posted its source code on the web.

It's almost certainly why JUNOS is based on FreeBSD Unix, which is licenced to suit proprietary developers, unlike Linux. I'll bet that Cisco's engineers are already taking a similar route.

The lesson, to networking marketeers and controversy-hungry bloggers alike? Don't confuse published APIs with open-source.

And there we have it - confusion, conspiracy and coincidence, all rolled into one by headline-hunting marketeers, aided and abetted by bloggers desperate to be first with the 'news'.

Remember folks, you read it here first....