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My Top 7 Predictions for Open Source in 2014

My 2014 predictions are finally complete.  If Open Source equals collaboration or credibility, 2013 has been nothing short of spectacular.  As an eternal optimist, I believe 2014 will be even better:

  1. Big data’s biggest play will be in meatspace, not cyberspace.  There is just so much data we produce and give away, great opportunity for analytics in the real world.
  2. Privacy and security will become ever more important, particularly using Open Source, not closed. Paradoxically, this is actually good news as Open Source shows us again, transparency wins and just as we see in biological systems, the most robust mechanisms do so with fewer secrets than we think.
  3. The rise of “fog” computing as a consequence of the Internet of Things (IoT) will unfortunately be driven by fashion for now (wearable computers), it will make us think again what have we done to give up our data and start reading #1 and #2 above with a different and more open mind. Again!
  4. Virtualization will enter the biggest year yet in networking.  Just like the hypervisor rode Moore’s Law in server virtualization and found a neat application in #2 above, a different breed of projects like OpenDaylight will emerge. But the drama is a bit more challenging because the network scales very differently than CPU and memory, it is a much more challenging problem. Thus, networking vendors embracing Open Source may fare well.
  5. Those that didn’t quite “get” Open Source as the ultimate development model will re-discover it as Inner Source (ACM, April 1999), as the only long-term viable development model.  Or so they think, as the glamor of new-style Open Source projects (OpenStack, OpenDaylight, AllSeen) with big budgets, big marketing, big drama, may in fact be too seductive.  Only those that truly understand the two key things that make an Open Source project successful will endure.
  6. AI recently morphed will make a comeback, not just robotics, but something different AI did not anticipate a generation ago, something one calls cognitive computing, perhaps indeed the third era in computing!  The story of Watson going beyond obliterating Jeopardy contestants, looking to open up and find commercial applications, is a truly remarkable thing to observe in our lifespan.  This may in fact be a much more noble use of big data analytics (and other key Open Source projects) than #1 above. But can it exist without it?
  7. Finally, Gen Z developers discover Open Source and embrace it just like their Millennials (Gen Y) predecessors. The level of sophistication and interaction rises and projects ranging from Bitcoin to qCraft become intriguing, presenting a different kind of challenge.  More importantly, the previous generation can now begin to relax knowing the gap is closing, the ultimate development model is in good hands, and can begin to give back more than ever before. Ah, the beauty of Open Source…

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The Age of Open Source Video Codecs

The first time I met Jim Barton (DVR pioneer and TiVo co-founder) I was a young man looking at the hottest company in Silicon Valley in the day: SGI, the place where Michael Jackson and Steven Spielberg just arrived to visit, the same building in Mountain View as it were, that same week in late Spring, 1995.

The second question that Jim asked me that day was if I knew H.263 – a fledgling, new specification promising to make video ubiquitous, affordable over any public or private network – oh, those 90’s seem so far away…

For a hard core database, kernel and compiler hacker, that was a bit too much telco chit-chat for me, though remembering this was supposed to be an interview, and that the person who asks the questions is in control, not knowing the answer, I managed to mumble a question instead of an answer.  Jim liked the conversation and obliged me with an explanation equally encrypted, that one day, we will have these really cool, ubiquitous players on all sorts of video devices, not just “geometry engines” running workstations in “Jurassic Park” post-production studios (actually, come to think of it, the scene itself), but over all sorts of networked devices and maybe that should be a great opportunity to dive into and change the world.

Open standards and open source live in an entangled relationship, or so I wrote about it years ago, the Yang of Open Standards, the Ying of Open Source.  Never has it been more intertwined and somewhat challenging than with the case of H.264, MPEG4 and the years old saga of so-called “standard” video codecs.

Almost a generation later, even if H.263 and its eventual successors H.264 and MPEG4 came a long way, we still don’t have a truly standard and open source implementation of such a video codec, though we are hoping to change that now!

My colleagues announced today that we are open sourcing our H.264 codec.  We still have a bit of work left to do as we start this new open source project and I am counting on both communities to receive it with “open” arms.  It is meant to remove all barriers, to be truly free and open, as open source was meant to be.

Please join us this morning in a twitter chat covering this event.  We are convinced no matter how one looks at this, it is a positive move for the industry.

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Why I Chose the Open Source Model I did for OpenDaylight

Now that OpenDaylight has arrived, it’s time to explain why I made the Open Source choices eventually embraced by its Founders and the community at large.  One doesn’t often see such leaders as Cisco, IBM, Intel, HP, Juniper, RedHat, VMWare, NEC, Microsoft and others agree, share and collaborate on such key technologies, let alone the latter engaging in a Linux Foundation based community (some thought hell will freeze over before that would ever happen, though it got pretty cold at times last Spring).

For those of you not familiar with OpenDaylight (see “Meet Me On The Equinox”, not a homage to Death Cab for Cutie or my Transylvanian homeland), IBM and Cisco have actually started this with an amazing set of partners, nearly that ephemeral Equinox this year (~11am, March 20th) though we couldn’t quite brag about it until all our partners saw the daylight, which by now, we’re hoping everyone does.  It was hard not to talk about all this as we saw those half baked, speculative stories before the Equinox – amazing how information flew, distorted as it were, but it did; I wish source code would be that “rapid”, we’d all be so much better for it…

The Open Source model for OpenDaylight is simple, it has only two parts: the community is hosted in the Linux Foundation and the license is Eclipse.  The details are neatly captured in a white paper we wrote and published in the Linux Foundation.  Dan Frye, my friend and fellow counterpart at IBM and I came up with the main points after two short meetings.  It would have been one, but when you work for such giants as our parent companies and soon to be OpenDaylight partners, one has to spend a little more time getting everyone to see the daylight.  It boils down to two things, which I am convinced are the quintessential elements of any successful open source project.

1) Community.  Why?  Because it trumps everything: code, money and everything else.  A poor community with great code equals failure (plenty of examples of that).  A great community with poor (or any) code equals success (plenty of examples of that too).  Why? Because open source equals collaboration, of the highest kind: I share with you, and you with me, whatever I have, I contribute my time, my energy, my intellectual property, my reputation, etc.. And ultimately it becomes “ours”.  And the next generation’s.  Open Source is not a technology; it’s a development model.  With more than 10 million open source developers world wide, it happens to be based on collaboration on a scale and diversity that humanity has never experienced before.  Just think about what made this possible and the role some of the OpenDaylight partners have already played in it since the dawn of the Internet.  Dan Frye and I agreed that the Linux Kernel community is the best in the world and so we picked the closest thing to it to model and support ours, the Linux Foundation.

2) Fragmentation, or anti-fragmentation, actually.  Why?  The biggest challenge of any open source project is how to avoid fragmentation (the opposite of collaboration).  Just ask Andy Rubin and the Android guys what they fear the most.  Just ask any open source project’s contributors, copyright holders, or high priests, how much they appreciate an open source parasite that won’t give back.  Though we would have liked to go deeper, we settled on Eclipse, largely because of the actual language and technology we dealt with in the OpenDaylight Controller: most, if not all the initial code is Java, and though some are worried about that, I’m sure Jim Gosling is proud (btw, I’m not sure the Controller has to stay that way, I actually agree with Amin Vahdat), but we had to start somewhere.  Plus having a more friendly language NB (northbound, as in the applications run on top of the Controller) is such a cool thing, we think that the #1 open source (Eclipse) and the #1 commercial (Microsoft) IDE’s are going to be very good to it, so why not?  There are more reasons that pointed in the Eclipse direction, and other reasons for such wonderful alternatives (as APL or MPL, perhaps the subject of another post, some day).  But when it comes to understanding the virtues of them all, no one understands them better than the amazing founders of these license models, most of them from IBM, of course (I wish they did that when I was there).

What happened between the Equinox and Solstice is a fascinating saga within the OpenDaylight community which I think played its course in the spirit of total and complete openness, inclusion, diversity, respect of the individual and the community, and most of all, that code rules – we do believe in running code and community consensus.  I tip my hat to all my fellow colleagues that learned these two things along the way, the enormous talent at the Eclipse and Linux Foundation that helped us launch, and even the analysts who tried (and did incredibly well at times) to speculate the secret reasons why these partners came up with the model we did: there is no secret at all, my friends, we’re simply creating a community that is truly open, diverse, inclusive, and never fragmented.  Just like a big, happy family.  Welcome to OpenDaylight, we hope you’ll stay!

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It’s A Great Time for Open Source and Cisco UCS Customers

Witnessing the advent and momentum of Open Source into the broader enterprise, and “the mainstream” Data Center, has been incredible.  Many will look back and recall a time when Open Source was met first with a look of confusion, and following not too far behind, a reaction of fear.  With that, consider how far we’ve evolved.

Taking a snapshot over the past few months, I reflect on some of the highlights from a Data Center and Cisco UCS perspective.

The Open Source Business Conference held not too long ago, centered the conversation around previously uncommon mates.  “Open Source” and “Business” used in the same sentence once stirred some emotion, though not today.  The notion now fuels curiosity and enablement, and both were alive and well in San Francisco with OSBC.  Leaders in the space, spanning established household Data Center vendors were well represented in breakout sessions and thought provoking topics on the show floor, alongside the “up and coming” vendors in Open Source.  Linux granddaddies Red Hat and SUSE also offered the Enterprise Linux perspective, with Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst taking the stage on the conference’s opening morning.  Whitehurst acknowledged the event’s commendable 10th anniversary, and touted the innovation and collaborative successes of Open Source, while reflecting on Red Hat’s significance and market leadership.  SUSE kept the Enterprise Linux subject current, presenting SUSE’s role in Big Data workloads, where attendees may have pondered “What would Big Data look like, and be today, without the success and progress of the Open Source movement?”

An “open cloud” panel featuring several notable figures in Open Source leadership for cloud infrastructure, including Marten Mickos of Eucalyptus Systems and Joshua McKenty of Piston Cloud, shared insight on how today’s generation of Open Source leaders are shaping the future of cloud software stacks, infrastructure, and API (read: interoperability).  This proved to be a fascinating discussion on project governance, expectations of Open Source, and how customers leverage Open Source to deliver the applications of tomorrow.

Open Source @Cisco

Cisco Open Source Days provide an opportunity to share, learn and grow.  Cisco engineers and product teams descend on the San Jose campus packed with an agenda to share knowledge and best practices, new developments in the community, exchange ideas and share successes, and inspire new ways of delivering software and products.  This year featured a cornucopia of topics that would make any card-carrying Open Source geek blush.  Typically there are multiple tracks and this year included Big Data and Analytics, Cloud, Internet of Everything and a few select topics in the Networking and Data Center interest areas.  Cisco teams have an incredible opportunity to learn and collaborate, which ultimately benefit the Open Source community and our customers.  Attendees enjoyed thought provoking and engaging presentations, including appearances by Chris Wright from Red Hat, and Troy Toman from Rackspace within the Cloud track, as well, our very own OpenStack leaders within Cisco.  Overall there were great takeaways on collaboration and innovation, project participation and furthering common goals through upstream contribution, and solving market problems through emphasis on differentiation rather than upstream code nomination.  Another memorable moment, I personally enjoyed Chris Wright’s comical reference to the IFC television comedy, “Portlandia”, referring to the popularity of API’s with “Put an API on it”.  :-)

Open Source in the Cisco UCS powered Data Center

One of the most exciting aspects in my role revolves around connecting Open Source innovations with Cisco’s UCS x86 based platforms.  Software and API enable many integration use cases most people are not used to expect from server and infrastructure platforms.  “Software Defined” is used quite liberally these days, with ” Software Defined __Fill_In_The_Blank__ ” found where it probably shouldn’t be.  I digress, Open Source is at the core of these “Software Defined” possibilities, enabling vendor agnostic API structures and interfaces as an alternative to traditionally proprietary closed-configuration products.

The conversation with customers today is less “Oh, Cisco makes servers?” and more about, “Help me learn more about your software integration capability in my Data Center infrastructure.”  Once customers deploy UCS, they quickly realize the efficiencies and power derived by the Cisco UCS Service Profile, and the level of control and manageability not available with other solutions.  For Data Center management requiring a view into their systems’ availability, the UCS XML API provides that ability, where the customer’s software may retrieve, configure and automate infrastructure that previously required manual intervention.  We truly feel this enables a unique “Software Defined Infrastructure” way of managing applications, availability and user workloads through software, previously not seen without custom hardware and software integration.

It’s an exciting time for Open Source, and for computing platforms like Cisco UCS which provide an open and extensible ability to deliver on business demands of tomorrow.  Exciting times are definitely ahead as customers increasingly adopt Open Source, its flexibility, advances, and innovations, into the broader enterprise and mainstream computing spaces.

How far have we come?  Further reading: “From subversive to mainstream: Looking back on 18 years with Linux

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Open Source in the Network

Join me and my good friends Dan Frye and Jim Zemlin, Tuesday June 18th at 8:30 am Pacific, in a webcast as we discuss open source, networking, communities and projects, the opportunities entailed, the win-win-win model (or win-cube model as I like to call it, for the Authors, for the Community and for the Enterprise), and the recently announced Open Daylight project hosted by the Linux Foundation.  Thank you, Shashi Kiran, for organizing a wonderful event and opportunity to talk about one of my favorite subjects, Open at Cisco.

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