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New day dawns for open source

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One of the major driving forces behind the plethora of technological innovations in the cloud computing arena is the concept of open source software. With nearly one million open source projects related to the cloud believed to be in progress, new technologies such software as a service are on the rise.

Companies are contributing more in terms of time, money and support for user-led open source initiatives, with big business benefits such as operational cost reductions, application flexibility and boosts to competitive advantage being on offer.

Vendor-led development initiatives are gaining ground too, buoyed by massive collaboration projects on a global scale. The increasing 'democratisation' of the open source world is a major contributor to its burgeoning success.

Working together

The synergies between open source software and cloud computing are resulting in faster development of more powerful solutions and technologies. The Internet of Things (IOT) is a system in which the Internet is connected to the physical world via sensors that have the power to radically influence the way people live and use their leisure time.

Today, most applications deployed for (or in) the cloud are either entirely open source or have a significant amount of open source content. They are able to combine public and private cloud applications, services and support options.

In the business arena, private cloud technology is recognised as one of the foremost enabling infrastructures, able to assist companies to more effectively respond to changing business needs.

For example, private clouds are capable of adapting to the elastic demands of diverse, increasingly mobile applications as highlighted by the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon sweeping the globe. Here, vital communications requirements include flexible path management, fine-grained policy enforcement, network-wide automation and multi-vendor interoperability.

Another critical requirement is 'orchestration' to enable IT and network operators to share and provision network resources based on business and operational mandates. The concept of orchestration contributes to the streamlining of operations and the optimisation of resource utilisation - with no compromises in terms of service quality.

As corporate IT departments migrate from their traditional roles as infrastructure operators to private cloud service providers for their internal lines of business, they need the support of networks able to meet new and evolving business challenges.

The SDN solution

Software-defined networking (SDN) has emerged to fill this gap. It is a foundation technology enabling private clouds to share infrastructure resources, scale them on demand, automate operations and be more responsive to dynamic business demands.

Today, end-users are turning to SDN to solve a number of additional requirements, including enhanced security, increased network utilisation, improved deployment and management functionality, while helping to cut operating costs. There is a belief that open source can deliver the benefits of SDN faster by overcoming traditional barriers to the adoption of emerging technologies, addressing migration and interoperability issues more effectively.

Within the next two to three years, SDN philosophies are expected to encompass entire networks, with orchestration - in the form of governance frameworks - enabling its drivers to reside either in the cloud or on-premises.

Most applications deployed for (or in) the cloud are either entirely open source or have a significant amount of open source content.

The advance of SDN is actively and aggressively promoted by the OpenDaylight Project (ODP), a community-led and industry-supported open source initiative also linked to the promotion of Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV), a complementary technology.

One of the ODP's objectives is to bring to market an open, common framework and platform for SDN and NFV spanning the industry for customers, partners and developers. The OpenDaylight community has more than 150 contributors and gains approximately 100 commits per week, a number that's growing steadily.

The ODP's first code, named Hydrogen, was released in February this year.

Expected donations and projects for Hydrogen include an open controller, a virtual overlay network, protocol plug-ins and switch device enhancements. Currently, the ODP community is preparing for the project's second software release, dubbed Helium, due out before year-end.

Already, the cream of the networking industry's vendors have thrown their weight behind the ODP, with one leading organisation announcing plans for an SDN platform built around the ODP-developed controller incorporating a range of products, including Ethernet switches and network management and analytics software, as well as operating systems.

Future opportunities for shared open source-based infrastructures abound, and could be at the centre of collaboration initiatives in almost every industrial sector.

From an altruistic perspective, medical research is a logical place for the benefits of a shared infrastructure to flourish should the emerging 'open mentality' in this field become as all-pervasive as it is in the business community, where an esprit de corps reminiscent of the dawn of the computing era back in the early 1980s continues to drive the success of this style of collaboration.

Martin May

Regional director (Africa) of Extreme Networks.

Martin May is the regional director (Africa) of Extreme Networks. The author of the book: “Everything you need to know about networking”, he is a leading authority on infrastructure security using NAC, IDS/IPS and other network-based technologies. With experience gained in Russia, Germany, UK, the US and various parts of Africa, he is directly involved with system design and implementation at enterprise level. His emphasis is on the evolution in network architectures brought about by the concept of cloud computing. May hosts regular workshops assisting South African dealers and resellers to understand the implications, complications, opportunities and international trends surrounding the cloud. A proponent of social networking for business, he is active on Facebook and makes extensive use of YouTube.

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