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Bob Laliberte
Bob Laliberte
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Open Source Vs. Open Enough

Open source networking is a hot trend, but its success hinges on organizations making a real commitment to open source technology.

There's a big drive in networking towards open source with OpenDaylight and other initiatives. But enterprises aiming for open networking must make a decision: Either settle for "open enough" options from vendors that may not be truly open source but offer the interoperability and support they need, or commit to the ideals and development of true open source technology.

While IT buyers may design strategies based on open source technologies, many typically end up opening their checkbooks to a vendor that provides a solution that's "open enough." What "open" really means is open APIs (hopefully an open standard API, and not a vendor-specific open API) and some level of interoperability in order to create solutions. The openness should allow an organization to integrate a technology into an environment and then easily add new capabilities to that environment.

Do these buyers really care if the technology is open source? Or do they just care that it works, is supported, and is open enough to fit into their current world (and maybe their future world) and drive new levels of productivity for the business?

So what does this mean for the networking world? Open Daylight (run by the Linux Foundation) enables organizations to download an "open source networking platform" to run their networks. This is the Hydrogen release, which comes in basic, virtualization, and service provider editions. I'm sure there have been a lot of downloads to test the software and to play with it in an IT sandbox, but I have not heard of anyone using it in production (but would be happy to talk to anyone who is).

For now, I expect most organizations will still purchase products from incumbent vendors or even innovative startups. There is a lot of brain power working on the Open Daylight project, but it's still way too early to tell if it will become "Linux for networking."

It appears that many of the network and technology vendors participating in ODL want to leverage the open source code to deliver a hardened, and perhaps even differentiated, version for their customers. The question becomes: Is that "open" enough for those organizations that have made it a long-term strategy to leverage open source software and industry-standard hardware for their network?

Innovative and disruptive startups with open source initiatives like Big Switch (Floodlight, Indigo), Cumulus (Linux OS), Pluribus Networks (Linux, Illumos, and BSD communities), and Vello Systems (Open Source Optical Forum) want to promote open source ideals and benefits to help accelerate new technology adoption in a fully supported manner.

Simultaneously, networking players like Arista, Brocade, Cisco, Dell, Extreme, HP, IBM, Juniper, and Plexxi have either joined an open source community like ODL or developed their own version of an open solution, either by developing new industry standards (Cisco OpFlex) or by partnering with a startup (Dell with Big Switch and Cumulus). All this activity makes for great discussion, but where does it leave companies that have to make a decision today?

Organizations with long-term strategies to deploy open source solutions to build cost-effective networks should closely follow the developments of ODL and those companies participating in the project.

Any networking decisions today should be balanced with a clear understanding of a vendor's roadmap and commitment to open source, or at least openness. This should also be aligned with the breadth and depth of solutions, either developed internally or via a robust ecosystem of partners that can take advantage of open APIs.

The momentum for open source networking solutions requires customers that will do more than just pay lip service to open source and begin to assert these requirements more aggressively with vendors and open source projects, as well as continue to test and deploy open source solutions.

However, that's easier said than done when your job is on the line and your company's ability to produce a product hangs in the balance. So the question remains: Will you select open source or open your checkbook to buy a fully supported solution that is open enough?

ESG Senior Analyst Bob Laliberte focuses on data center networking technologies and management software. He is particularly involved in tracking issues related to data center networking discontinuity, software-defined networks, and network optimization. An expert in ... View Full Bio
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Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Strategist
7/29/2014 | 10:40:32 AM
Re: The problem with "open"
You're welcome, Aditya -- glad to help. I'll let you know if I come across any other simple explanations of the project :)
aditshar1
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aditshar1,
User Rank: Ninja
7/28/2014 | 10:20:15 AM
Re: The problem with "open"
Thank You Susan, sounds interesting in fact a good learning on my way to understand how open is this open source service delivery.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
7/27/2014 | 10:14:44 PM
Re: The problem with "open"
@Susan, here is another resource that deals with the case for lighting to be on the network.
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Strategist
7/25/2014 | 11:19:06 AM
Re: The problem with "open"
Aditya, I am part of the Experiasphere Google group and Tom Nolle, its founder, is an old acquaintance of mine. However, exactly what he is working on has been a bit of a mystery to me and I have not had the time to investigate and try to understand it fully. From what I can tell, it is a an open source service delivery and orchestration platform that runs concurrently with SDN and/or NVF. There is a powerpoint tutorial you can download on this page, and Tom is working on a video version of the tutorial as well: http://blog.experiasphere.com/?p=87

I'll see if I can grab Tom for an interview and get some more details. 
aditshar1
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aditshar1,
User Rank: Ninja
7/24/2014 | 2:55:41 AM
Re: The problem with "open"
Yes i am reading and hearing about this project but i have very limited information available with me, that was the reason i tried asking experts on this site.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
7/23/2014 | 8:58:48 PM
Re: The problem with "open"
@Marcia, same here, all I can recall is that the project aimed to bring together business like Facebook, Google, etc., and data providers like AT&T, Verizon using SDN/NFV. 

On the one hand, I think, projects such as Facebook's internet.org and Google's project loon are great. Because, the internet is a valuable resource that provides the most valuable resource of them all: information. Information can be used to kick start an economy into productivity, or increase the efficiency of an economy, create new business models, and so many things.

On the other hand, Facebook and Google would like 7 billion people connected to the internet, their business model requires scale. And infrastructure is expensive -- connecting 7 billion people is not going to happen unless the economics is right.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
7/23/2014 | 8:31:13 PM
Re: The problem with "open"
@Susan, well placed pun!

Keith Dawson has a good article on this topic on a sister site. Interestingly, the article deals with APIs, PoE, LEDs and Economics, newer technologies rely a lot on its ability to provide saving, hybrid cars are a good example -- the engine is combined with batteries and the differences in miles per gallon by a hybrid car vs. a normal car becomes a strong selling point. 

I feel, LEDs are the same, one could say that on average newer LEDs deliver 110lumen/watt, while on average fluorescent bulbs deliver 60lumen/watt, that comes to almost 55 percent better performance. However, due to LEDs being more expensive at the moment, around 8 times the cost of fluorescent bulbs, calculating the breakeven point for ROI becomes important -- an LED over a work desk might breakeven in 3 years' time and the subsequent years providing real savings while, an LED in a supply closet that is only switched on for 10-minutes a day would take decades to break even. To gain an accurate calculation the networks seems like a great place to attach lighting for it to be metered.

Like the hybrid car that combines an engine with batteries, creates an extra layer of complications, so will LEDs on networks create an extra layer of complication. But, if businesses are to be delivered a high level of service -- extra work will be required.
MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
7/23/2014 | 7:05:09 PM
Re: The problem with "open"
I'm not familiar with the ExperiaSphere project, but it looks like a pretty active community. Are you hearing much about it?
aditshar1
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aditshar1,
User Rank: Ninja
7/23/2014 | 1:13:08 PM
Re: The problem with "open"
Most of the good comments below , any idea what experiasphere project is all about.
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Strategist
7/23/2014 | 9:54:16 AM
Re: The problem with "open"
Thanks Brian, that's very illuminating (bad pun intended)! I hadn't even realized there was such a thing as Li-Fi and the potential for lighting on the network. But what you say is so true. We surely need to work out a lot of the complexity issues if we think about what our future networks could possibly transmit.

I clearly need to do more reading in these emerging areas -- can you recommend any resources?
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