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Open Source Getting on My Nerves

Carol Wilson
9/26/2016
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Open source people can be so annoying.

I realize that is not a politically correct thing to say right now, especially as I sit on an airplane headed for Seattle and the OpenDaylight Summit, which will be swarming with open source people and/or those singing the praises of the open source community and its processes.

Speaking selfishly, however, open source processes can take the fun out of everything, particularly technology wars.

Take the current MANO wars, for instance. There is a critical need for management and network orchestration capabilities in the virtual world, because once you have broken everything down into functions and virtualized those functions as software that can run anywhere, on commercial off-the-shelf hardware, you must be able to knit all those functions back together into something that resembles services and network operations.

But there is little agreement on how that happens. A specific panel on this topic at Light Reading's NFV & Carrier SDN event earlier this month in Denver produced total agreement on only one thing: that there isn't much agreement where MANO is concerned.

Enter the open source folks. No fewer than four open source MANO projects are currently in process, each with its set of carrier advocates. Open Orchestrator (Open O); Open Source MANO Community (OSM) ; ECOMP (Enhanced Control, Orchestration and Management Platform) and Open Baton all are addressing some aspect of the MANO challenge -- and that's in addition to groups such as Open Platform for NFV Project Inc. and the TM Forum.

This is therefore a great time to be talking to folks about these processes and getting them to dish the dirt on each other. That's the way it goes when there are competing answers to a telecom industry problem. Or at least the way it used to go.

Open source people are generally not dirt dishers, however. Take Phil Robb of OpenDaylight , where he is senior technical director. Robb was on that MANO panel in Denver, and he spoke to me shortly afterward in an interview on ODL's new Boron software release. I specifically asked him about the "messy MANO situation" right now.

His response was frustratingly calm. "I would equate the MANO space with where the controller space was three years ago," he says. "One of the great things about open source is that real code is going to be up, going to be used, stuff will work or it will fall over. But we'll fail fast and move on." (See Carriers Driving ODL's Boron Release.)

So having multiple versions in process isn't a bad thing, Robb says, because it might be that one approach works better for a set of use cases than another. What the industry will come around to "sooner rather than later" is that one approach likely addresses the broadest set of use cases and will be more widely adopted, while others address niches and either are used alongside the major approach or incorporated into it.

It all comes down to whose code works, he said. That's probably true but also really boring.

ODL Executive Director Neela Jacques sees the same scenario in the SDN controller space today where both his organization and ONOS have developed open source controllers that are finding market acceptance, alongside vendor solutions from companies such as Cisco and VMWare.

The two open source projects can "learn from each other" and co-exist in the market, even if there is some overlap between them, he says. As proof of this, he cites work by ODL with OPNFV to deliver CORD -- the Central Office Redesigned as a Data Center project created by ONOS -- using an ODL controller.

"Overlap will happen -- we seek to be collaborative as possible, but different people want to take two different paths to solving a problem," he says.

That's about as non-newsworthy an answer as you can get, which brings me back to the opening premise of this blog.

Contrast that to what Margaret Chiosi, former AT&T executive, said on the Light Reading MANO panel. "Divide and we will be conquered," she stated, referring to the different MANO open source groups. If the telecom industry can't come to an agreement on a MANO approach sooner rather than later, its ability to compete against web-scale giants is at risk.

That's what I call a good quote, and I'm going to be wandering around Seattle -- well, Bellevue, actually -- the next couple of days looking for more drama like this and less of this "Hey, we're open source, we all get along" nonsense.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/27/2016 | 5:13:43 PM
Re: bring on the drama
Open source means forks. It's part of the technology and can be divsive. However, over the long term, things like forks make for better software. Does it mean people are going to get along peacefully? Not really. But it does mean better software, and more options. 
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/27/2016 | 2:58:11 PM
Re: bring on the drama
Liz -- You just captured the essence of this year's election cycle -- for better AND worse.
brooks7
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brooks7,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/27/2016 | 1:43:16 PM
Re: bring on the drama
Much of software engineering ends up being a religious war (anybody who has tried to have a rational discussion with a Pythonista knows).  That is why you will never get resolution, just have to pick your architects and let them choose.  Send it to a committee and you will be waiting forever for them to decide what you are going to use.  There is no perfect answer.  You just have to live with the consequences of the answer you picked.

seven
cnwedit
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cnwedit,
User Rank: Light Beer
9/26/2016 | 9:07:30 PM
Re: bring on the drama
I think there will be lively discussion of some kind - I don't know that I'll hear any real arguments, but hopefully at least some folks reading from different playbooks.
TeleWRTRLiz
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TeleWRTRLiz,
User Rank: Lightning
9/26/2016 | 7:33:10 PM
bring on the drama
I do hope there is drama Carol. It makes things so much more interesting than hearing everyone saying the same thing over and over.
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