"Open." In the history of networking no single word has ever invoked such a jangling of the architectural senses. The word invites visceral attacks and defenses. Is "open" possible? What does it even mean? Sure, it sounds good, but as Thoreau penned, "Be not simply good; be good for something."
So why does open matter? The answer is that open is an environmental description, not a specific statement of value. An open environment is a better environment.
It's like freedom -- free of what? It's a long list: freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of religion, freedom to innovate and other freedoms. Individually each attribute may have both benefits and drawbacks. But taken collectively, it's freedom from tyranny, the environmental basis of human success.
Similarly, open is the sum of many attributes. Each can be challenged individually, but together they enable control over our own destinies and create an environment where progress can flourish. Interestingly, the most critical attributes of openness have remarkable parallels to attributes of freedom.
Open Standards: This is democracy in action, a community's articulation of specific expected behaviors. Standards are the common rule by which we are all measured. While they do not guarantee the same outcome, they do ensure a common starting line.
Open Source: This attribute brings triple benefits. One is a global licensing model with the potential of eliminating the risk of being force-fed from a higher power with proprietary control. The second is the benefit of peer review of code, a constant and vigilant community process that makes it very difficult for nefarious schemes to be invisibly inserted. The third is pace of innovation; history has proven the "force multiplier" effect when developer communities lock arms and share code to drive change.
Open Systems: By decoupling hardware and software, the world is presented with choice. This eliminates the all-or-nothing totalitarianism of the black box model. This invites an ecosystem of options and competitors that makes supplier markets efficient and increases the potential for the end-user to innovate at the system architecture level.
So in response to the question: Yes, open is possible. Yes, open can be defined. And yes, open matters -- because an environment of freedom is a superior construct.
NFV and SDN are networking's new land. It's a land full of promise, and we must actively assert the freedom of openness within it. Passivity is not a form of advancement; this is the chance to fight entropy, to be bold… and to take control of our destinies.
-- Kelly Herrell, VP and GM of Software Networking, Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD)