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How much support will there be for open source WAN products?

May 04, 20062 mins
NetworkingOpen SourceWAN

* Open source WAN products need an active community

In a recent newsletter, we discussed the development of open source-based routers and PBXs from companies such as Vyatta and Asterisk. We got a lot of response to that newsletter, including one reader who asked if we thought that there would be as much of a community for open source based routers and PBXs as there is for Linux.

That is a very important question because the success of an open source solution is highly dependent on having an active community.

The open source community plays multiple roles, including resolving issues with the product as well as further enhancement of it. Another key role is to develop value added functionality that resides on top of the open source product. Note that this value added functionality may be additional open source products, closed source products, or both.

While the open source community is broad in scope, academe does play a major role. For example, virtually any university around the world that grants a Ph.D. in computer science conducts research into operating systems. As such, many of these researchers naturally align themselves with the Linux community.

While the number of researchers in academe who work in the area of data networking is not as large as the number of those who work in the area of operating systems, it is still quite large. As such, the community for open source-based router products will be well represented by academics.

The area where we have some concern is open source-based PBXs. Compared to the number of researchers in academe who work either in operating systems or in data networking, the number of researchers in the area of voice is quite small. That does not mean that there will not be a vigorous community that develops around open source-based PBXs. What it does mean is that unlike the Linux and Vyatta communities, academics will not be a major component of the open source PBX community.

While academe is important, it is only one component of an open source community. The vendors that adopt an open source solution are also important. For example, we both began to take Linux more seriously the day IBM announced that it was supporting Linux. We wonder how long it will be before a company such as Juniper or Extreme Networks announces that it is adopting open source based WAN products.

Jim has a broad background in the IT industry. This includes serving as a software engineer, an engineering manager for high-speed data services for a major network service provider, a product manager for network hardware, a network manager at two Fortune 500 companies, and the principal of a consulting organization. In addition, Jim has created software tools for designing customer networks for a major network service provider and directed and performed market research at a major industry analyst firm. Jim’s current interests include both cloud networking and application and service delivery. Jim has a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Boston University.

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