BCE Panel: Open Source Makes Telcos 'Nimble'
Heather Kirksey, Linux Foundation VP, community and ecosystem development, networking, said she sees much less doubt that open source is carrier grade. "There were some questions [in the past]," she said.
"Now the question is, if there's a missing feature or missing capability, how do we work with the community to fix it? The power of open source is you aren't banging on a vendor to work a feature into the roadmap; you're working with the community and inspiring the community," she said. And if you have an internal development team, which carriers increasingly do, they can work on adding features internally.
Kirksey noted that she previously worked on standards development for Alcatel-Lucent before working on open source.
Prayson Pate, ADVA Optical Networking (Frankfurt: ADV) CTO, Ensemble, has seen the shift too. Previously, carrier customers wanted assurances that there was no open source in a product; now it's the opposite -- customers want assurance which open source projects are in a product and which communities the vendor is involved in, Pate said. (See ADVA Moves Encryption Into Software to Protect Cloud-Based Apps.)
Cultural barriers Carriers implementing open source face cultural barriers, Kallo said. Carriers need to find developers who can understand, develop and deploy open source. And the companies will face internal resistance, with some people forward-looking and others focused on the legacy infrastructure.
"You have to be outcome-focused," Fagan said. Operators need to start with the customer experience and work backwards to develop the technology needed to deliver that experience.
"Developers tend to fall in love with shiny new options," Fagan said. "You have to keep them on the path. But experimentation leads to breakthroughs." That means operators need a disciplined approach. Fagan said his team doesn't make technology decisions it can't back out of in six months if the technology proves unsuitable.
Where do operators find software developers? "Is it easier to take a traditional network operator or network engineer and make them a software developer or is it easier to take a software developer and teach them networking fundamentals?" Feger asked, adding that in his experience he finds it difficult for an operations team to make the transition to software. Feger said he polled his table at the Light Reading Leading Lights award ceremony this week on that question, and found mixed results.
Engineers find it difficult to look to internal colleagues to solve software problems, rather than going to a vendor, Feger said. "The cultural shift is more in the mind of, 'Well, I talk to you all day long, why would I call you to fix my problem?'" Feger said. "That's the biggest hurdle."
No vendors allowed? Should network operators limit their participation in open source to communities with other operators -- no vendors allowed?
"I don't understand why you would want to do that," Kirksey said. "Why would you want to rob yourself of that pool? Developers are the most precious resource we have, they are the hardest to find, to train, to keep happy, and keep them from going to Google or Facebook or wherever they can become millionaires." Open source communities need more developers, from every source, including vendors, she said.
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— Mitch Wagner Executive Editor, Light Reading