Service Provider Cloud

AT&T: What Is 'Open Source,' Anyway?

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Companies evaluating open source technology need to be careful that they get all the open source benefits. That's sometimes tricky, which is why AT&T has defined "three key characteristics of open source software that we consider paramount," says Greg Stiegler, AT&T assistant vice president of cloud.

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is a leader among big network operators making a big open source commitment, with involvement in multiple projects and aggressive code-sharing. Last month, it released its Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy (ECOMP) for network management and orchestration (MANO) as open source. (See AT&T Offers 'Mature' ECOMP as Open Source MANO, AT&T Makes Case for Open Source Sharing and AT&T's Chiosi: Unite on Open Source or Suffer.)

A year ago, John Donovan, AT&T senior vice president of technology and operations, said open source comprised 5% of the carrier's code, with a target "north of 50%." He advised network operators to use proprietary code only sparingly, where there was real competitive advantage. (See AT&T Describes Next Steps for Network Virtualization.)

Head in the Cloud
AT&T's Greg Stiegler
AT&T's Greg Stiegler

With that kind of commitment to open source, AT&T has to remain vigilant that it's getting the real deal. "Open source sounds very straightforward. We have found it is not," Stiegler says. "We have defined three key characteristics for open source software that we consider paramount."

First: No license cost. "That's pretty clear -- it's free software," Stiegler says. Not everything about free software is free; you still need to support and extend it. But the licensing should be no cost.

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Second: A vibrant community backed by a foundation, not locked in by a vendor.

Third: Source code is accessible. "We found a condition recently where you couldn't get to the source code."

AT&T divides open source into two models: pure and commercial. Pure open source meets the three characteristics. Commercial software requires a proprietary edition to use it in the enterprise, or extensions with use costs. "The nature of vendor control leads to less public documentation such as testing and bugs. It also doesn't include test frameworks to evaluate production readiness. These problems make it clear that the pure open source model is preferred," Stiegler said.

— Mitch Wagner, Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor, Light Reading Enterprise Cloud

sandraoboyle 8/19/2016 | 11:51:55 AM
good work Mitch I really like this and the one you did last week 'what people don't get about opensource'. Good to hear it in plain speaking terms from AT&T as CSPs are the ones that need IT and network systems to work together in real-time speeds. Can you also ask them about open APIs, RESTFUL APIs...
DHagar 8/19/2016 | 2:14:17 PM
Re: good work Mitch @sandraoboyle, I agree with you - this is excellent!  Mitch, you have done it again.  This is the most clear and concise descriptions of the meaning and use of open source  I have seen.  AT&T is truly leading the way.
Mitch Wagner 8/19/2016 | 4:04:10 PM
Re: good work Mitch Thanks, Sandra! I'm fascinated by the process of open source development.
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