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Networking Debate: Open vs Proprietary as the Way Forward?

Within
the networking industry, there is a growing divide between two
schools of thought; between those companies that believe that the
future of the network lies in openness, and those that think a
proprietary approach is the compelling way to go.

Within
the networking industry, there is a growing divide between two
schools of thought; between those companies that believe that the
future of the network lies in openness, and those that think a
proprietary approach is the compelling way to go.

Many
readers will pause here and say “Hang on… That debate is over.
Everyone knows that customers want open standards!” And that
highlights an important point. Customers do, by and large, want
openness. Vendors have recognized that preference and highlighted
their membership in various open communities. No vendor has leapt
forth and insisted that closed is the way to go. The tension is more
complex; it is between open-and-fully-interoperable, and
ostensibly-open-yet-proprietary. The question of interoperability
will clearly impact how your network and your business will be able
to function and evolve in the long-term.

In
essence, the open approach is based on the belief that, in order to
truly align an enterprise’s infrastructure strategy with its
business requirements, customers must be free to choose the solutions
that best meet their specific needs, regardless of which vendor
builds them. In order for this ‘best of breed’ approach to work,
technologies must be – not just based on open standards – but
genuinely interoperable, giving customers the option to bring in
specific products and components as their needs evolve and change.

At
the other end of the spectrum is the open-yet-proprietary approach,
which requires organizations to stick solely to one equipment
provider. Advocates of this proprietary approach will tell you that
it too has its own advantages. However, with the demands placed on
enterprises’ core infrastructure growing all the time and new
innovations bringing major changes to the way that networks are
deployed, configured and controlled, this ‘locked in’ approach is
increasingly seen as dated and restrictive, rather than efficient.

The
open, interoperable approach, with the flexibility and choice that it
brings, makes it the best option for customers, who all have unique
and complex requirements and need to be able to design and adapt
their infrastructure to meet those needs.

With
the industry moving towards Software-Defined Networking (SDN), the
importance of this kind of openness will only increase. The growing
complexity of today’s networks, and the move to greater use of
virtualization, mean that it is simply no longer feasible to rely on
a single vendor to deliver an end-to-end solution that fits every
customer’s requirements of service agility and scalability.

Cloud
and telecommunications service need an open and modular networking
platform that provides greater choice and flexibility as they move
towards SDN and NFV. As a working group chair at the Open Networking
Foundation, I have worked closely with the world’s leading experts on
SDN and I have seen first-hand the progress that has been made in the
development of open frameworks, architecture and standards for SDN.
I expect the next 12 months to be especially fruitful for open SDN.

And
yet, I expect the debate between the interoperability and proprietary
philosophies to continue for some time to come. The good news is
that organizations will have an increasing ability to choose a path
that works for them. And over time, with agility, flexibility and
control now more important to customers than ever, I’m willing to
bet that true openness will win out.

 

 

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1 thought on “Networking Debate: Open vs Proprietary as the Way Forward?”

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