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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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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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Cisco Open Source Conference 2013

It’s May 1st again, which means it’s time for our annual Open Source Conference, a time to celebrate the multitude of free and open source software developers world wide. Even more so than last May 1st, I’m very impressed to see the large turnout and the great feedback after the keynote and four tracks on Big Data, Cloud, Internet of Everything (IoE), and Software Defined Networking (SDN). Our keynote was from Dan Frye, a wonderful friend and partner at IBM. Wonderful to see Doug Cutting from Cloudera, Adrian Cockroft from Netflix, Troy Torman from Rackspace, Chris Wright from Red Hat, Juan Negron from Canonical, Mark Hinkle from Citrix and Vijoy Pandey from IBM and the great discussions that ensued. My thanks to Bhushan Kanekar who helped me put together the SDN track and also to our other tracks leaders, Mark Voelker for Big Data, Kyle Mestery and Brian Mullen for Cloud, and Fabio Maino and Laurent Philonenko for IoE and Collaboration — it’s great to see these guys come of age in open source, enjoying the moment and helping the open community grow. To all those of you who came, contributed and enjoyed this event, we salute you! Open at Cisco is proving it has indeed become a vibrant and fast growing community. Happy May Day!

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The Yang of Open Standards, the Yin of Open Source

Every time I think about the relationship between Open Standards and Open Source I am reminded of a fascinating talk by Paul Saltman, a biochemist from Caltech, invited to speak to a Chinese forum years ago, about national food policy for China, later published in Caltech’s Engineering & Science, titled The Yang of Nutrition…The Yin of Food.

I am not a nutritionist, or biochemist, or expert on food -- though in more than one occasion I’ve been known to venture in the art - but I do know a little about open standards and open source - let’s just say enough to be sentient of the wholeness and synergy in which these opposites attract and coexist, perhaps not unlike The Cathedral and the Bazaar.

By the very nature of our industry, open standards are not just important, they are indispensable, the foundation upon which every internetworking protocol is based, the pre-requisite of interoperability, so naturally we take open standards seriously, the yang side, as it were.  But what is often overlooked, just as the case with the yin of food in Saltman’s parallel, is the yin of open source, some of which is in fact the implementation, the other side, or yin as it were, of these open standards and more, with things like jabber or tigerstripe just to name a few.  We’d like to tell you more about what we’re doing with these and other open projects, soon to be covered in this blog.

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