Ronny Lam


Open Source: The Biggest Risk to SDN

Now, here is an eye-opener:

For aspiring SDN start-ups, established networking or virtualization vendors, software developers or even end customers; these Vendor Dominated open source projects are risky projects to place strategic focus and investments in, due to:

  1. Rules of engagements are set by one organization which can be changed at anytime with a lack of transparency around how decisions are made about the project or sometime even how or why contributions are accepted or rejected.
  2. Acquisition of the dominating vendor in an ecosystem by a less friendly company puts entire ecosystem at commercial risk (ala MySQL via Sun to Oracle; Java (again Sun) to Oracle; or in the SDN space Open vSwitch from Nicira to VMware).  There are plenty of plays the acquiring company can run:  such as changing licensing terms for future versions to slow rolling acceptance of 3rd party contributions or standards.
  3. Business model always favors the dominating vendor — by definition a vendor dominated project is organized to make the most within the ecosystem for the vendor that dominates it.  They also have the power to change their rules that adversely impact other members of the ecosystem.  This is one reason why it difficult for companies supporting a Vendor Dominated project to raise venture financing — meaning what venture investor is going to invest in company that is dependent on another company that may compete with them in an early market?  One common trick the dominating vendor may play is encourage people to write apps for their project — only to write their own version of once the 3rd party app has customer traction.

The same has happened to Open Office. I think the ONF must play a leading role in this situation as an independent party. LibOF is a good start, but we have to pull this even further. I think the real answer here is: how open is open source really?