Infoblox has ported its Nios network services software to run as a virtual appliance on Cisco's ISR branch routers.

Called vNios, the virtual appliance provides services such as DHCP, DNS and IP address management (IPAM). It runs on Cisco's Application eXtension Platform (AXP), an open Linux-based server blade that slots into certain ISR models and communicates with the router's IOS operating system.

The virtual appliance removes the need for branch offices to have their own domain controllers to provide essential network services such as DNS locally, said Infoblox marketing VP Rick Kagan.

"Removing a server from the branch can save hundreds of dollars a month in management costs - the cost of managing a blade on an existing router is dramatically lower than managing a server, by a factor of 10 or more," he claimed.

Kagan added that this is Infoblox' second vNios appliance - it also has a version that runs on Riverbed's Steelhead WAN optimisers.

When Cisco announced AXP last year, it also announced a software development kit (SDK) and application programming interfaces (APIs). Several other companies have already developed applications for AXP, including security and IP telephony software.

"The Cisco programme is particularly attractive, as the ISR is the most popular branch router in the world, with some 4.5 million deployed," said Kagan. He estimated that around two million of those have a slot able to accept an AXP blade.

"The beauty of it is we're not putting a server into the router - we are putting a virtual appliance into the router that looks identical to our other appliances," he added.

The vNios software costs from $1195 to $2995 (£780 to £1960), depending on the AXP model. List pricing for the AXP blades starts at around $3500 (£2300).