The enterprise OSS play

“…most of today’s open source companies license under an Apache software license (ASL), which lets the vendor decide whether to share code changes with the community or keep them as proprietary. Under this hybrid or dual-license, open source companies can charge for proprietary product extensions, and not just for services and support, accelerating revenue growth and improving margins.”
Aaref Hilaly
in just a small snippet of a very interesting article here on LinkedIn.

In previous decades, OSS (Operational Support Systems) have largely been the domain of tier-one telcos and major corporations due to total cost of ownership. Enterprise still found ways to manage their networks on a shoestring budget using enterprise products, open source tools and clever in-house solutions.

As Aaref suggests, the ASL model provides open source developers with an opportunity to build sustainable business models, which in turn gives the opportunity to make better products. ““Free” is a compelling value proposition, but it’s not enough. Open source also has to be better, and that’s what’s happened over the past 10 years as open source technologies have improved at a faster rate than proprietary software products.”

SDN (Software Defined Networking) and NFV (Network Function Virtualisation) have many in the ICT industry salivating over theoretical benefits / opportunities. Unfortunately they will only thrive if management tools like OSS can step up to harness (ie operationalize) these potential benefits. Under a traditional OSS model, SDN/NFV appear to be more complex to manage, thus likely to push prices further beyond the enterprise budget.

For this reason, I can’t help but wonder whether a completely innovative open-source OSS platform will be the key to bringing SDN/NFV to the masses (ie enterprise), built under a profitable, sustainable, crowd-supported business model that allows quality product(s) to be developed to evolve to the community’s diverse needs. Open source projects such as OpenStack and OpenDaylight are already deeply entrenched in the management of virtualised networks, so it will be interesting to see whether they are optimally leveraged by the traditional OSS players or smaller disruptors.

With open-source innovators like Cloudera, MongoDB, Hadoop and others placing pressure on complex commercial infrastructure solutions, perhaps the commercial OSS industry should be looking beyond their traditional competitors for their next big threats.

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2 thoughts on “The enterprise OSS play

  1. There’s plenty of open source or free-as-in-beer IP and VM management tools out there, already in use by enterprise, that could step-up to the challenge of SDN/NFV. As we know, enterprise OSS is rarely suitable for carriers. So where will open source agility and innovation come from to make NFV and particularly SDN efficient enough to be feasible for CSPs? Maybe we’ll see a major OSS vendor ‘do an IBM’ and spin out their legacy OSS platform as an open source project? I cant imagine Big OSS doing this, but Cisco and Oracle are both sitting on a lot of 90s/00s developed platforms that could get a new lease of life from a different license model….

  2. Hi James,
    Great questions and insights.
    You’re right that there are lots of open-source OSS tools but none of them have reached critical mass in a way that MySQL did for example in the database industry. The OSS market is still highly fragmented and there are no open-source providers that cover a broad spectrum of TMF’s TAM (or in simpler models, the full FCAPS). Not that I’m aware of anyway.

    The interesting thing about open-source OSS is that there’s so many products that community contribution tends to be spread really thin across them all. I’m wondering whether an OSS equivalent of Hadoop will come from nowhere and reach critical mass amongst the OSS community so that many contributors all take up the challenge to build it into the next big thing. There are already movements within the OpenStack community to spread its reach into something approaching a full-spectrum OSS (albeit probably more like ITSM than OSS, but….)

    And if a groundswell does start then the vendors may start to jump onboard and start sharing their code as you suggest, just like they have already been doing in SDN/NFV circles.
    Similarly, I’m wondering whether if the right framework existed, many of the wonderful existing open-source OSS projects might be able to contribute their functionality too.

    Thanks for your insightful dialogue as usual James! 🙂

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