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Sep 17 2018

Open source gives you freedom, but not for free!

As a huge fan of open source, I’m glad to see its rapidly growing importance to our industry in creating new software and products. My colleague Jonne has explained in his blogs why open source is important and how to succeed with open source projects.

There’s no question about the importance of open source when it comes to non-differentiating areas. For example, it no longer makes sense to keep developing our own operating systems. While there might be some arguments such as “our operating system is better for real-time applications”, you need solid reasons for not using Linux.

In our products and services, we already use numerous different open source projects and we are also very active in contributing to open source communities. Open source also works well for accelerating innovation in areas where legacy systems don’t exist. We have cool new products coming that use open source right from the start.

Open source is not a free lunch

Still, that doesn’t mean open source solves everything. If you create something differentiating and valuable, you’ll want the financial rewards it can bring. As open source is rarely a ready product, you’ll need additional software and support services to complement it. The real value - capabilities and products – must be built on top of open source software. Both open source development and proprietary innovation require resources, investment and leadership.

There are also areas with legacy software that is more advanced than the available open source software.

Some in the industry claim the packet core or IMS core will in the future be based on open source software. While open source projects providing packet core and IMS functions do exist, they are vanilla implementations for a single use case or for research purposes.

I have seen packet core RFPs with more than 1,000 lines of requirements, a large number of which are specific to the customer. With existing open source implementations, we could perhaps cover 10 – 20 percent of those requirements.

Replacing the core of a commercial product with an open source EPC project would mean replacing something we already have - it would require significant effort to reach the same feature richness and maturity that we already enjoy in our commercial products. This would not benefit our customers and would make the product less suitable and more expensive.

Open for new value

By replacing proprietary operating systems, databases and other product internal components with open source, we will accelerate development by focusing on creating value for our customers. We can also benefit from the quality and security provided by widely used open source software.

Open source infographic

Open source really is awesome for solving shared problems in our industry – at the same time, we must remember that innovation often requires going beyond what is available or possible with open source.

Lastly, I would like to draw your attention to the upcoming open source event – the Open Networking Summit 25-27 September 2018 in Amsterdam. The summit will address strategically important projects and technologies, such as Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) and Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV). Come and see our innovations and share your views.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokia and @nokianetworks using #opensource

About Tommy Lindgren

Exploring telecoms and Internet since early 90’s, Tommy is responsible for openness marketing in Nokia and participates in several open source projects.

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