Why Apache is important to Openflow

As everyone in the networking world knows, OpenFlow has developed a nearly unstoppable amount of momentum.  It began as an academic tool for segmenting networks and is currently thriving in academia and campus environments.  It’s finding its way into cloud providers, entering the datacenter, and emerging as the defacto communication protocol for Software-Defined Networking.  In fact, a number of switch vendors like Cisco, Juniper, and IBM have made announcements about supporting the protocol in their switches and routers.As open source advocates and developers, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we can turn this momentum into ubiquitous OpenFlow adoption.  In looking at the controller landscape, it became obvious that OpenFlow needed a professional quality, truly open controller platform that could support both academic and commercial interests.  This is why we created the Floodlight OpenFlow Controller and chose the Apache license for it.Why is Apache so important for Floodlight and OpenFlow?  As OpenFlow makes the shift from academia to industry, it’s important to offer a truly free, open development platform that does not place any limitations on how OpenFlow is used or commercialized.  A liberal open source license will play a key role in fostering innovation in a startup ecosystem, attracting key industry players, and easing enterprise adoption.

Lets look at two of the most popular open source projects today, OpenStack and Hadoop.  OpenStack was created by Rackspace and NASA under and Apache license and has spawned an ecosystem of over 140 companies including  startups like Nebula, Piston, Cloudscaling, Stackops, and major players like Rackspace, HP, and Citrix.  Hadoop, created by Yahoo and also offered under an Apache license, has a huge ecosystem including Cloudera, HortonWorks, Mapr, Datameer, Platfora, Karmasphere, Hadapt and has been adopted by virtually every large scale internet company.  In the cases of both Hadoop and OpenStack, the existence of a high quality, flexibly licensed reference platform has spurred a tremendous amount of innovation.

Even beyond fostering a startup and vendor ecosystem, there is actually concrete data that enterprises prefer adopting Apache licensed projects.   A survey by OpenLogic released in May 2011 found that 69% of open source applications are licensed under the GPL but GPL projects represent only 9.5% of open source applications used in the enterprise.  Flexible licenses (Apache, MIT, BSD) on the other hand represent 36.6%.  Kim Weins, senior vice president of marketing for OpenLogic, went on record saying that “open source developers choosing more liberal licenses will lower the barriers to enterprise adoption.”

While OpenFlow has achieved some great successes so far, it has the potential to fundamentally transform the networking industry just as Hadoop is tranforming data analytics and OpenStack is transforming cloud infrastructure.   Realizing this potential will require openness in just about every dimension — open working groups, specifications, and high quality, flexibly licensed open source tools.  This is why we are so happy to make Floodlight available under the Apache license.

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