Open Source Needs Butts More Than Bucks
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- OpenDaylight Summit -- More than financial contributions, open source projects require participation from end users, communications providers said here on Tuesday.
In other words: They need butts in seats -- contributing code, documentation, time and hard work -- more than they need bucks.
"I am really adamant. We need more end users to participate," AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) Distinguished Network Architect Margaret Chiosi said, speaking on a panel of end user advisors to the OpenDaylight Project. "We don't need money. We need participants. We need people to work on use cases and bust things out."
End user participation is how open source technology translates into real-world use cases, said panelists. "We need end user participation in open source," Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) Senior Principal Engineer Chris Luke said. "That's how we succeed."
Comcast got involved in OpenDaylight from the beginning to help guide the project in useful directions. "We've always felt it is very important in any open source project to be represented by end users," Luke said.
Christos Kolias, senior research scientist at Orange (NYSE: FTE) Silicon Valley, agreed. He said the need for end user participation drove Orange to involve itself in OpenDaylight early on. "From our perspective, there was something missing from OpenDaylight, and that was the end users and the end users' voice," he said.
AT&T is "immersed in OpenDaylight," Chiosi said. It's using parts of OpenDaylight in its local controller, and using an OpenDaylight-based controller and an open Open ROADM implementation. (See AT&T Describes Next Steps for Network Virtualization.)
AT&T is also using OpenDaylight in application controllers, after an internal team first wanted to create its own controller, Chiosi said. Later, AT&T adopted YANG, as well as using service and cloud orchestration network controllers for applications as well.
Comcast has been using OpenDaylight since the software was first announced, as it explores giving internal applications more intelligence using OpenDaylight as a starting point, Luke said.
The company also has a large OpenStack deployment, with a team in Reston, Va. The team is about 30 people -- "not huge," Luke said. "You don't need a massive organization to do it. If you bring in a large development organization, you miss the benefit. You spend more time managing than doing."
Comcast bases an internal CDN on an Apache project, managed by another small group which has built a small community around it.
In addition, Comcast makes a point of contributing code, to OpenStack and the other projects it participates in, rather than just taking. "The more you put into open source, the more you get out of it," Luke said. AT&T follows the same philosophy. (See AT&T Makes Case for Open Source Sharing.)
However, communications providers face significant challenges implementing open source, panelists said.
Challenges include operationalization, integration, changing internal culture and training, Kolias said. "Maybe some [staff] will have to depart," he said. Organizations need to shift from a NetOps to a DevOps mindset.
Open source technology needs to be made carrier-grade, Kolias said. Reliability doesn't need to be five nines, but it should be close.
"My main concern is to sanitize open source," he said. Open source projects require security, compliance and scalability.
"At the end of the day, who is going to do the testing? How do you make sure it's carrier-grade?" Kolias asked. Network operators need a third-party facilitator to enable those capabilities.
Network operators also need to ensure backward compatibility. Orange has been working with OpenFlow since the early days, along with the Floodlight controller. "As you change environments, things can break down," Kolias said. Network operators upgrading OpenDaylight versions from Hydrogen, Helium and Lithium need to be sure they're backward compatible. "You have to make sure it doesn't break down, and if it does break down, who's going to fix it?" Kolias said.
One of the challenges network operators face is prioritizing which open source projects to participate in. AT&T prioritizes participation in projects that help with technology it's currently deploying, Chiosi said.
OPNFV helps tie together multiple open source projects into a cohesive whole, Chiosi said. Every open source project or consortium has its particular focus. "But we end users can't just use one. We need the whole thing to work. Whatever is the weakest part of the wheel is how weak the whole platform is," Chiosi said.