Growing Up Open Source
“I guess I got tired of waiting around for someone else to do it for me?” ~ Young Frank Walker.
This quote was taken from the Movie “Tomorrowland.” This was the innocent response young Frank Walker gave when asked why he built a jet pack. I couldn’t find a better description to answer the common question, “How did Open Source Software come to existence?”
Twenty years ago, in my teenage years, I got struck by cupid’s arrow, for the internet. A network with the power to connect the world, is too strong to miss. It wasn’t long before I sacrificed a sound system capable of playing the nastiest rap tunes that were so dear to me, to buy a computer, get on the internet bandwagon.
Just like every other teenage kid, my jaw dropped every time I came across news of how teenagers can break security of sophisticated systems from their bedrooms, I was intrigued, wanted to begin but not sure where to go? I headed down to where these genius teenagers would hang out, the IRC chat rooms of EFNet.
On these chat rooms, lots of ambiguous technical terms were continuously scrolling, the one that caught my eyes, ended with the letter X (Linux).. It took me some time to realize that LinuX is not really a hacking tool, it is nothing but an Operating System.
Completely clueless but extremely determined, my mission in life was installing Slackware Linux on my Desktop. Bear in mind, that was 1994, so installing Linux was not as easy as today, I remember holding 3 floppy disks, not knowing what to do with them, one had the Kernel, one had the Master boot record and one with the Shell. After nights on end of head banging, “Linux” was installed, only with a black terminal and a blinking cursor. A 13 year old kid could not be happier.
Ten years later (2004), I found myself responsible for securing the network of an Internet Service Provider, serving thousands of subscribers. Such a responsibility was never going to be possible for a young guy of my age, without the Open Source exposure of my teenage years. That time, the challenge was different, but the solution was the same. Find a way to stop Denial of Service attacks on the network, without paying top dollar for fancy solutions.
The IRC world of Open Source enthusiasts turned into serious business, I found myself sitting in meetings with Executives, explaining why our internet gateway was receiving millions of malicious packets, filling our pipes, and how I came across an ‘experimental’ piece of software with a funny name (Zazu), to stop these attacks. As you would expect, Zazu is Open Source. The author and I collaborated to modify it and ultimately ended up with a solution that was tailored to our needs.
Fast forward again, ten years later (2015), where Open Source has gone mainstream. The culture is expanding into new frontiers. Check out OPNFV (Open Platform for NFV). This is not your common Open Source project, it’s not about writing code, it’s about system-integration, but in an Open Source fashion.
The Linux foundation is working with Network Operators and Vendors on OPNFV, a community-driven effort to integrate NFV and SDN projects.
Cisco is heavily involved in OPNFV and other Open Source initiatives like Opendaylight, Openstack…etc. The Cisco team of contributors and I attended the OPNFV first Summit in San Francisco (November 2015), we gave different presentations on different projects, My presentation was to demonstrate a use-case of how building a fancy cloud-based service is no longer a daunting task, using Open Source components included in OPNFV.
OPNFV produced their first release (Arno) as a lab-ready reference platform that integrated Openstack, Opendaylight and OVS, Previously, that required a complex setup that takes weeks or even months. These are big projects that require lots of integration work. They also offer easy programmable interfaces (REST APIs) that the community can leverage to build valuable applications. The second release of OPNFV is called (Brahmaputra).
During the OPNFV Summit, It was particularly interesting to see the cross-vendor collaboration. Ignoring commercial or technical competitiveness, I saw people from competing vendors sit together to discuss progress, hack code, and practice slides. I found this spirit to be too good to miss, so I signed up to one of the OPNFV projects (Functest) and I am happy to be back to the IRC-style meetings that I used to enjoy 20 years ago.
In conclusion, over the span of 20 years, It is obvious that Open Source was and still is the major contributor to my career development, no matter how different my scope is, whether a child’s play, a network operator or a product vendor. Open Source culture finds a way to get involved, solve problems, encourage collaboration and networking between people and bits/bytes.
Curious about getting started in Open Source. Here is great example from OPNFV.
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