On Opening Up to “Open Source”
It wasn’t that long ago – two years, maybe three – that the term “open source,” to industries like cable, which operate giant, two-way networks, was dismissed as too risky. Guaranteed to introduce malware and other kinds of security hazards.
It just wasn’t a wise idea, the thinking went, to usher the techniques of The Big Internet into professionally managed networks.
That’s all changed. It changed quickly and pervasively, such that even those of us who make it a habit to track the technologies of this industry find ourselves thinking, “I saw the whole thing. What happened?”
Open source. Open stack. Open flow. Open this, open that. Open is good; proprietary is bad. That’s the trajectory.
Before we start breaking this down: Our apologies to those readers who’ve maneuvered the software jargon jungle long before the rest of us. You know who you are. Hunch: You’re a smaller percentage of the readership of this magazine than the rest of us.
What happened? It’s all part of the unstoppable flow of technologies, networks, services and people toward “all IP,” where the “IP” stands for “Internet Protocol.” As it is, the industry’s broadband networks are becoming “virtualized” – broken apart into individual chunks, or modules, of activity. At the same time, competition from all sides forces the need to do everything faster.
That’s where the open source community comes in. You need a module to get your network to do something? What if that something already exists, in the open source community – why reinvent that wheel?
Also: Open components are generally more transparent, which matters a lot in times of trouble. In today’s (proprietary) world, when something konks out, step one is to call the supplier. Here’s an actual example, from a recent batch of notes:
“With every (supplier) release, you get one large executable file. And if something doesn’t work, you don’t know what it is that doesn’t work. You test it. You go back to the vendor. They take a look at it – they don’t know where the problem is. They send you another large executable file. You go through that cycle four, five times.”
By contrast, with code that’s based on open source techniques, you’re able to see into the code, to fix problems on the fly. That load balancer that’s giving you fits? Move the logic out into an application layer for inspection. Find the bug, fix it, six hours.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the “open” world is thick with activity, participants, “solutions,” and jargon. We’ll tease out the parts that matter, and bring them to you here.
This column originally appeared in the Platforms section of Multichannel News.