On a cold evening in Ottawa I started to think of the “open” side of OpenWiFi. What makes a technology open? And what makes an open technology successful? I think we have a few key ingredients:
An open source foundation. Stating the obvious, a successful “open” project nowadays needs to have a foundation of open source building blocks. The ability to share code and not having every technology provider reinvent the wheel is beneficial to the industry. Velocity increases. Innovation increases by having multiple contributors and by having commercial software providers focus their development effort on differentiating features.
A platform for differentiation. Open source or “open” does not mean every provider has same, identical product. On the contrary, OpenWiFi allows companies like us to innovate and build unique capabilities riding on a common base platform.
An ”anti lock” feature. A key requirement in OpenWiFi is to prevent “vendor lock”. Our commercial platform is compatible both with standard and NetExperience enhanced Access Point firmware. We ensure “anti lock” by supporting migration from an enhanced NetExperience firmware to standard firmware and then with a simple Access Point restart command the AP is able to latch on to a different platform.
A vibrant ecosystem driven by insurgents. There are many code “repos” some successful some less so. Good open projects are able to rally a vibrant ecosystem of companies contributing and building. The ecosystem builds collaboratively from the bottom up with more and more companies joining the value creation. In contrast by the time a larger company decides to open source some of its code a very different dynamic exists in the creation of an ecosystem, one where the incumbent, large company controls the ecosystem autocratically while masquerading as a democratic fair playing field. Thankfully the OpenWiFi system has been built by many industry “insurgents”, none of whom dominate or control the ecosystem but rather who at times compete but most of the time collaborate.
A technically strong protocol or interface. In our case it is uCentral, the natural interface in the OpenWiFi architecture between the Access Point and the Cloud. It is modern (new), and it is tightly coupled with OpenWRT and Linux. It was designed and continuously enhanced by the team driving OpenWRT. uCentral code is available to TIP members to use and improve and we are now happy to be contributing to this project.