The latest era of open standards, open architectures, and open platforms is revolutionizing the way networking and IT administration is done. By pushing both hardware and software beyond proprietary boundaries, proponents hope that innovation will move faster and cleaner. While this is certain to be a disruption in the current profit model, vendors big and small have finally started to play ball, supporting openness in a way that would have been unheard of a decade ago. They are finally figuring out how to maximize the model's commercial success while still enabling customers to maintain maximum flexibility.
In the same vein, more enterprises are seeing the benefit of freeing up man hours to contribute to open source projects. In the Future of Open Source survey of 1,240 industry influencers, conducted by Northbridge Partners on behalf of Black Duck, 56 percent of respondents expected enterprises to contribute to more open source projects in 2014. Why? Just over 60 percent reported cost reductions, but another 45 percent said it would help them gain competitive advantages.
Who doesn't love the idea of an IaaS product jointly launched by NASA? Except, possibly, NASA, which has since moved over to public cloud offerings. The project was little fazed, however, and has since fostered a community of thousands of supporters worldwide, attracted to the largely-Python based cloud operating system. Through Openstack, administrators can manage an entire data center's worth of hypervisors, allowing admins and users to easily spin up virtual machines and handle provisioning from a single interface.
OpenFlow is a communications protocol launched in 2011, meant to solve a particularly thorny problem. Networks that rely on a number of different vendors for their routers and switches often find that the variable level of consistency in traffic management programmability makes administration difficult and inefficient. The open source standard separates the data path and control path functions, making it easier to create a standard hook, so that networks can function optimally without forcing each individual vendor to lay bare the internal workings of each device.
OpenDaylight is a collaborative project between industry vendors hosted by the Linux Foundation. The project strives to accelerate the drive toward software-defined networking and network functions virtualization through new standards and coordination. It has released a modular, open source platform called Hydrogen.
The goal of Open vSwitch is to bring a higher level of complexity and capability to the virtual multilayer switch. The switch, programmed in C and licensed under the Apache 2.0 license, allows the administrator to automate network infrastructure in a virtual environment, much as they might in a physical one. It's fast, sophisticated, and easily ported to operating systems beyond its Linux roots.
The Open Middleware Agnostic Messaging API shares a goal with many open source network projects -- namely, eliminating vendor lock-in while simplifying processes. Now operated by the Linux Foundation, the OpenMAMA project had its genesis in the financial industry, created by NYSE Technologies with an eye toward making global trading easier. The API assists developers in creating applications without having to worry about a wide variety of message-oriented middleware.
Open Compute Project
The Open Compute Project is the fruit of a two-year redesign of Facebook's Oregon data center. The initiative is made up of cheap vanity-free servers, modular I/O storage for Open Rack and a relatively "green" data center design. Even Microsoft has signed on, to the surprise of many in the tech industry. Other fans and contributors so far include Intel and Goldman Sachs. The open hardware project recently announced two options for licensing: an Apache 2-like license that allows for derivative works, and a more "prescriptive" license that encourages changes to be rolled into the original software.
Kernel-based Virtual Machine
Anyone familiar with VMware will very quickly grasp the concept behind the Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM). This GNU General Public License project exposes the /dev/kvm interface in many Linux distributions, turning the kernel into a hypervisor and allowing an administrator to run several virtual machines. Officially, support is limited to Linux-based x86 hardware, although it is possible to port to Windows and Mac OSX.
The guest of honor at any open source party, Hadoop and its happy little elephant revolutionized the world of data processing and helped usher in the era of big data. Cheap, highly scalable, and flexible, Hadoop empowers users to analyze staggering amounts of unstructured data. The framework has run away from its relatively humble roots and is now employed by over half of Fortune 50 companies. The Apache Software Foundation -- which licenses Hadoop -- and the broader development community have been reluctant to allow vendors to commercialize the trade name.
While a bit more absolute in the beginning, the implementation of NoSQL elements to MySQL has led the community to re-interpret "NoSql" less narrowly, now meaning "Not Only SQL." At essence, the ecosystem is about moving away from relational databases, adding speed and reliability when there are huge volumes of data.
The current push for DevOps environments has led to a demand for an effective framework to help developers and sysadmins ship and run distributed applications efficiently. Docker is an open platform, licensed under Apache 2.0, and has been adopted by eBay and Spotify, among many others. Docker provides a standardized development platform, creating portability through the use of Linux containers. The hope is that detailed change tracking and abstracting of OS distributions and infrastructure will make deployment quicker, the workflow between developers smoother, and the workplace freer of finger-pointing and conflict.
Interop, The independent IT conference
What better place to learn about open technologies than at Interop, the conference where thought leaders from around the world gather to share the latest in IT developments and best practices? Held next from Sept. 29 to Oct. 3 in New York City, Interop is a perfect opportunity to hear directly from the experts about initiatives like OpenStack and OpenFlow, and to find out how your peers are responding.
Related educational sessions include: