One day after Juniper Networks announced it was opening up its JUNOS network operating system to third-party developers, rival networking vendor Cisco Systems followed suit, saying it would open up its IOS networking OS in the near future.
But Juniper and others contend Cisco was throwing its hat into the ring because Juniper beat them to the punch. Additionally, an open source networking vendor has come out of the fold to say its operating systems is and always has been open. Belmont, Calif.-based Vyatta has become a vocal player in the open OS wars, taking both Juniper and Cisco to task about what Vyatta calls their plans for "proprietary openness."
"This is certainly new in the realm of proprietary routing," said Dave Roberts, vice president of strategy for Vyatta. "But we've been open from the start."
Roberts said Vyatta published its OS code on the Web for download. From there, customers and partners can work on router-hosted applications.
And while Roberts is quick to point out Vyatta's openness, he added that he applauds both Juniper and Cisco for attempting to make strides in openness. Still, he is baiting both vendors to truly "go open" and publish their code on the Web.
At last week's C-Scape Global Forum 2007, the San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco said it plans to open its IOS network operating system and allow developers access to its application programming interfaces (API).
In a panel discussion at C-Scape, Cisco's senior vice president of network software and systems technology group Alan Baratz said Cisco is working to address fragmentation in its IOS platform, a problem caused by the operating software having too many dialects. Baratz said Cisco plans to build a componentized IOS platform and is moving the entire IOS code base onto an open Unix-based operating environment.
Cisco's intentions were unveiled just one day after Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Juniper unveiled a plan to offer a software development kit with intelligent and secure interfaces to its JUNOS operating system, also a Unix environment.
"What Cisco announced is a reorganization of its software development team," Roberts said. "They said 'we'll be as open as Juniper is too.' They're alluding to doing something, someday, somehow."
Juniper said its Partner Solution Development Platform, or PSDP, will let partners and customers have greater control in designing, developing and deploying specialized applications like event-optimized routing, customized bandwidth management, advanced security services and extended operations toolsets.
Cathy Gadecki, JUNOS product marketing manager at Juniper, said Juniper's PSDP offering is different from what Cisco and others in the market offer.
"Cisco made a directional statement in response to our announcement, but has not offered a timeline and has essentially stated that a first step is to change their architecture so that it is more modular to allow the necessary separation to deliver security and reliability," she said.
Gadecki added that Juniper has long insisted on a single code base for JUNOS, meaning "PSDP applications can be used on all relevant JUNOS products without requiring multiple application developments for different platforms."
Still, Roberts said Juniper's open bid "still seems like an exclusive country club. It's invitation only." He said the program is open to big companies, like inaugural partners Aricent and Avaya, that Juniper decides are worthy, after they sign an NDA and pay a yearly fee to develop applications that will run on the control plan processor or line cards for its router.
"What's really open about that?" Roberts asked.
While Roberts said Juniper's PSDP release signifies that Juniper is admitting there are things customers want that Juniper can't deliver alone, he said true openness is still a long way away.
"You can download Vyatta's code without us knowing, without signing an NDA," he said. "It allows for more people to come in and get involved. Come on in, the water's fine."
Roberts added that both Juniper and Cisco have a tall hill to climb. Transitioning from proprietary to open is a difficult challenge. But Roberts said he's less than convinced both powerhouse vendors are intent on becoming truly open.
"I applaud them in the direction they're going," he said. "But if you're going to go open, go open. I want to see the code on the Web."