Open source is arguably one of the hottest trends in tech these days and in the networking space specifically. This week we heard about IBM’s huge acquisition of Red Hat, and recently we’ve seen deals around Microsoft and GitHub, Salesforce and MuleSoft, and Cloudera and Hortonworks. In the networking space specifically, we’ve seen the initiation of ONAP (the Open Network Automation Platform), OSM (Open Source MANO), OpenConfig and the maturation of OpenDaylight.

Amidst all this positive activity, I continue to find that trepidation around open source persists, especially among people in the networking space, where the open source trend is relatively recent. To help alleviate some confusion, I’d like to take on three common myths about open source.

Myth #1 – Open source is a “do it yourself” approach

While open source platforms put control in the hands of the user, this doesn’t have to mean “DIY”. There is a long list of vendors that can provide support and work upstream in the open source community on behalf of their customers. Lumina Networks along with our partners Cloudify, Amdocs and many others offer supported distributions.

However, for those that do want to keep more of their engineering in-house, open source communities are public efforts, under public licenses and DIY is an option for those that want to work in the open source community. Bottom line, YOU are in control how much you want to balance vendor support with home-grown engineering.

Open-Source-BenefitsMyth #2 – Open source means giving away your intellectual property

Quite the opposite is true. Open source, in most cases, can allow you to leverage a common platform and spend more of your engineering effort working on proprietary software that is specific to your business. Open source platforms are, being multi-vendor, naturally architected to support proprietary extensions and vendor or service-specific interfaces.

Everybody involved in open source has some type of business interest in either selling software or services that can be differentiated. So, the open source community tends to work on common platform-oriented software that does not contain proprietary code. This is where an understanding of open source licensing can be helpful. Most open source licenses are oriented around balancing common platform development while allowing for service-specific extensions.

Myth #3 – Open source is a difficult business model

When people say this, they are usually referring to the over-simplified concept that open source software is “free” and so it is reasonable to ask: “how can anybody make any money?” On the vendor side, there are plenty of profitable business models that include services and support programs, value-added software development and vendor-specific interfaces and testing for system integration. The recent headline exits for RedHat and others testify to the potential value of the open source business model.

But I like to look at open source business models more from the engineering cost side of the balance sheet. In other words, “How much engineering cost would it require your organization to develop the open source platform that you are using?”. Looking at open source in this way sheds a different light on the myth.

In Summary

Open source has a lot to offer network providers, vendors and the industry in general in terms of speeding up the development and deployment of new technologies such as 5G. In fact, open source may be the only good mechanism we now have to develop the platforms required for these next-generation networks.

So, we at Lumina Networks, encourage looking at open source from the developer’s point of view, and the benefits it can bring from that angle. Whether you are a developer or a consumer of networking software, get involved in the open source community and become a contributor to the emerging platforms that are going to carry us all into the future. And most definitely, don’t be afraid!

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