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Open Source Is Killing Us

Mitch Wagner
3/17/2016
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Open Networking Summit -- The event I'm covering this week is dedicated to technology that's killing the service provider industry. It's like kudzu smothering a forest. That technology is open source.

Steve Garrison, VP marketing at white box switch vendor Pica8 Inc. , warned me about the dangers of open source over a casual lunch here.

At first I said: You're crazy. I literally said that. When it comes to professional behavior, my motto is: I've heard of it.

Pretty Poison
This is what open source looks like.
This is what open source looks like.

Open source is fantastic, I said.

But Garrison raised two problems with open source.

One is that there's so darn much of it. Service providers are overwhelmed trying to keep up with it all.

This was the subject of a panel at last year's Light Reading Big Telecom Event. Open source advocates then said that proliferation isn't a problem because all the groups are trying to solve different problems. Maybe so, but it's still a huge job for network operators to keep up. (See Why So Many SDN Groups?.)

Consider orchestration, which is just a single networking problem. There are now at least two groups working on orchestrating NFV: OPEN-O (which sounds like the name of a sugary breakfast cereal) and Open Source MANO. (See OPEN-O Focused on Orchestrating SDN & NFV, Split Emerges in Open Source MANO Efforts, and OSM Demos First Steps to Open Source MANO.)

And here at the conference, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) announced E-COMP, which looks like it might be a competitor with OPEN-O and Open Source MANO. (See AT&T Shares ECOMP Vision, Might Share Software.)

Or consider open source SDN controllers, which include Open Daylight, ONOS, OpenContrail, Floodlight and Ryu. We counted nine open source SDN controllers in a December, 2014 overview. (See Who Does What: SDN Controllers.)

Or consider Linux distros. This Wikipedia directory of Linux distros lists 515. Five hundred and fifteen!

Now of course not every company has to keep up with every flavor of every open source software package. For example Linux shows up in many places not related to networking, such as desktops, embedded systems, and TiVo DVRs. But still, just figuring out what's relevant and what's not is overwhelming.


Find out more about open source at our upcoming Big Communications Event in Austin, TX, May 24-25. Register now!

Vendors, meanwhile, find open source an inhospitable environment for making money. It's staggeringly hard to compete with free.

Garrison is half-right about the fatal nature of open source. Viewed in isolation, these problems are insurmountable.

But if you put them together, the problems solve each other. Service providers overwhelmed by open source can turn to vendors to solve the problem, and pay the vendors to do it.

Sure, it's a tough competitive environment for both service providers and vendors. But that's what disruption looks like.

— Mitch Wagner, Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading.

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kq4ym
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kq4ym,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/27/2016 | 4:16:19 PM
Re: Oh, really?
Yes, the tme element is probably being discounted by many. There's no free lunch as they say and the open source  is no exception. It will be interesting to see how it all works out as "providers are overwhelmed trying to keep up with it all," and pro-open folks say "no problem."
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/21/2016 | 12:07:17 PM
Re: Oh, really?
heavywolf781 - Open source is free if you don't value your time. 
brooks7
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brooks7,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/21/2016 | 10:38:06 AM
Re: All roads lead to ...
This is the kind of stuff that makes it very clear why service providers are not going to get all this wonderous service back...

SDN was codified in the Open Networking Foundation in 2011.  There was university work going back to about 2008 to suport it.

On the application side, Uber was founded in 2009.

So in the time that we get to argue for a few more years about the technologies that we might choose to implement something, applications have gotten global.  

Here is what IT companies do:  1 - Hire people and put them in charge of projects. 2 - Have them choose whatever Open Source that seems reasonable to them.  3 - Start coding around any problems with the choices of Open Source projects.

At least we have AT&T getting on with a job with this Ecomp thing (whatever it is).  So, if you want this to work and you are a service provider stop going to standards meetings and start coding.

seven

 
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/20/2016 | 5:38:00 PM
Re: All roads lead to ...
I'm a fan of open source. Even I have to admit, it only has a place. 

Let'e remember this: We're talking about service providers here. They aren't exactly making money off of software, more on service. So I can see what navigating the muddied waters of open source is problematic.

In this business, its all about providing a solution, no matter if it is open or closed. 
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/20/2016 | 3:24:45 PM
Community
Certainly, open-source technology typically has a low barrier to entry.

Too many bugs?  Let the "community" figure it out.
MordyK
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MordyK,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/18/2016 | 4:58:31 PM
Re: Oh, really?
It's why its important for telco's to start interacting more with their IT peers and begin a real headhuting crusade from the web/cloud companies. The OpenCOmpute Telco initiative is an important first step in this direction.
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/18/2016 | 3:25:41 PM
Re: Oh, really?
That's kind of the scary part for established CSPs. There's little dispute that open source and virtualization represent big improvements and new opportunities -- and at some point will be essential for survival -- but exactly how to make the transition is a huge concern, especially when the pressure is growing to stem margin losses right now. And as Carol Wilson and other LR editors have been reporting, "transformation" at the big carriers is probably even tougher because of legacy workforce issues. It's not an excuse for inaction, but it's a reason.
MordyK
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MordyK,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/18/2016 | 3:06:15 PM
Re: Oh, really?
It's an opportunity for an ecosystem for new parties to enter the tech ecosystem, so innovation can happen in more places. Its also an opportunity for carrier to innovate with services and test hypothesis without requiring vendor work, so teams can do rapid innovation prototyping. The opportunities about, it's really just a question of where you're looking for the opportunity.

Smaller partners are likely to rely on partners more than their larger brothern.
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/18/2016 | 2:54:43 PM
Re: Oh, really?
But an opportunity for what, if not to improve margins and efficiency? And why not transition to open source through a partner?
MordyK
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MordyK,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/18/2016 | 2:47:12 PM
Re: Oh, really?
@MendyK It's neither. Open source simply enables everyone to play a larger role than before, so everyoe simply maintains a piece of a larger pie. That said the telco industry will need to gain an open source culture which is to not look at it as a savings mechanism but as an opportunity.
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
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