Cisco Looks to Open Source for 'Badder Ass' Internet

Mitch Wagner
News Analysis
Mitch Wagner, Editor, Enterprise Cloud
5/26/2016
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Big Communications Event -- Cisco needs open source to build a "badder ass" Internet -- a network with sufficient performance, reliability and security for major business applications, a company executive said.

"Open source has shifted the innovation model in ways that allow for more rapid development, faster access to products and code for customers, and the ability for Cisco to get innovative technology out the door faster than we could have in the past," said Lauren Cooney, who heads up Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s open source strategy from her position as senior director, strategic programs, in the chief technology and architecture office at Cisco.

Open source is essential, not just for Cisco, but for all companies, Cooney told Light Reading in a one-on-one interview this week. "It's critical that companies have an open source strategy," she said. "If they don't have one, they need one fast."

Cisco Open Source Champion
Lauren Cooney
Lauren Cooney

For an example of why open source is needed, Cooney suggested the difficulties faced by big online retailers. Even a millisecond delay to customers is a big expense to a shop doing millions of dollars of transactions every minute. A tiny delay is long enough for customers to become distracted and cost a retailer sales. Reducing those kinds of delays requires coordination across the Internet community as a whole to build a "badder ass" -- more robust -- Internet. And that requires the innovation speed and cooperation brought by open source.

Cooney's perspective on open source is useful for a couple of reasons: It provides insight on how to implement an open source strategy from a technologist at a company that has been active in the open source community for years.

And it's also insight for Cisco's customers and partners on how Cisco -- a company with a reputation for proprietary technology and customer lock-in -- is working to change that perception and become known for its open source participation instead.

"People think Cisco is not engaged in open source," Cooney said.

But Cisco makes at least 1,500 contributions to open source per month, on average. That figure is based on contributions to Github coming from cisco.com addresses alone. The actual number is far higher than that, as many people register for Github from their personal email address, rather than business address. "I would guess it's probably double," Cooney said.


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"We have really moved into open source strongly in the past two years," Cooney commented. In that time, Cisco has gone from participating in three open source projects -- OpenDaylight, Linux and OpenStack -- to more than 20, including Hyperledger Project, Kinetic, OPNFV, DPDK and the Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK).

The move to open source for Cisco is driven by the transition in networking to a "data centric world." Application developers need to pull information from the network into applications -- such as retail apps -- that deliver business value.

"We want developers to use the Internet in a more effective way than they have in the past," she said. "We want to do this in the open and build a badder-ass Internet."

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