Linux Foundation zeros in on harmonizing open source, standards

Open Source
To present a full picture of what's going on, this Linux Foundation chart includes open source projects that are overseen by the Linux Foundation as well as those that are related but outside the foundation.

The debate over whether standards or open source will prevail is no longer the issue—instead a new white paper published by The Linux Foundation seeks to examine how they can live in harmony.

Put another way, “there’s a place for standards and there’s a place for open source, and the two of them can be the best of friends,” said Arpit Joshipura, the general manager of The Linux Foundation’s Networking & Orchestration department who was hired last year to help harmonize the open source networking ecosystem.

And there’s a lot to harmonize, considering the open source networking ecosystem includes quite a few initiatives, including OpenDaylight, OPNFV, FD.io, Open vSwitch, OpenSwitch, IO Visor, ON.Lab, CORD and ONOS. That’s just the Linux projects; efforts are underway outside the Linux Foundation, as well as various standards bodies.

One of the goals of the white paper was to educate the world on how intellectual property or solutions are created, how they differ in open source and open standards and how they can work together. “It’s nothing more than an educational attempt for us,” he said. “We want to make sure the community understands how they all fit together.”

Included in the white paper is a slide (featured above) that Joshipura created to illustrate all the different layers. Presented at the Open Networking Summit in Santa Clara, California, last month, the slide shows the Open Compute Project (OCP) and Telecom Infra Project (TIP) at the bottom. Both of those initiatives are driving designs in hardware, with TIP, run by Facebook, considered a sister project to OCP, which includes Facebook, Nokia, Ericsson, Apple, Google and more. Above them are the myriad open source software initiatives underway.

One may argue that there are so many projects going on, something needs to give, but each of the projects has a goal and while they go about achieving it slightly differently, some are quite complementary.

“When we say harmonization, it’s not that this picture is going to look like one big block of software,” he said. “We do need choices and we do need a broad variety of use cases. But what we would like to avoid is isolation in each of these. So the first step is do we understand how each of these projects are complementary in nature. If not, that’s one of my roles to bring that out to the community.”

The second step is to ask whether they interoperate and the third revolves around whether the projects are overlapping, and if so, they may be candidates for merging.

A classic example is ONAP. There was a project called open source ECOMP underway at AT&T and the Linux Foundation had OPEN-O, which was backed by a lot of companies in China. They identified overlap between the two, and the decision was made to bring the two together and merge them as ONAP.

Considering the pace of change, it's no wonder there's a need for hamonization. Five years ago, open source networking was in its infancy, and "then all of a sudden it started gaining traction and the last couple of years have been really phenomenal for open source networking in terms of the community and the projects," he said. 

As these components started coming together, The Linux Foundation realized there’s a need to provide not just direction to the community in technical and architectural ways but to provide support and guidance on how they will come together—“so that we don’t end up with 50, hundred projects and then end user gets confused,” he said.

Having spent part of his career on the vendor side, working in open source as well as standards and doing engineering, Joshipura embraced the opportunity to take on the challenge that his new job offers.

The next five years are critical for the networking industry as open source gets adopted, and “we’ve got to get it right because once that happens, you will see a whole different way of how we consume services,” he said.