Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Olivier Huynh Van, Derek Weeks, Stackify Blog, Automic Blog, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

The Future - Open Source Hardware

Open Source isn't just Linux

People now understand that while Linux is about Open Source, Open Source isn't just about Linux. Today the Open Source frontier has moved well up the software stack into the application domain. Firefox is picking up market share in the browser space, for example, and MySQL is gaining on proprietary databases.

Like Open Source software, we are now seeing the beginnings of a movement up the hardware stack. Though in its infancy, it's only a matter of time before the Open Source hardware domain experiences a growth spurt similar to its Open Source software counterpart. While we sleep, the adoption of Open Source hardware should open up the playing field and ultimately revolutionize the technology landscape as we know it. This transformation will be most evident in the appliance world of audio and video devices, mobile and VoIP phones, games and entertainment servers, gateways and security devices, robots, PDAs, and the like.

In the past two decades, these products have seen their designs migrate away from their proprietary closed origins into more open flexible formats. Connectivity, interoperability, and security requirements coupled with diminishing product lifecycles and associated pressures to minimize development costs and time have driven this migration. Today the typical hardware design is built around a generic silicon core (x86, ARM, PPC) that's shrouded in a fine Linux/BSD operating gown (although many designers still feel safer wrapping their silicon in a darker embedded Windows cloth. The gown is then embossed with a sprinkling of open software modules (a dash of NetFilter for networking, OpenSSH/OpenSSL for secure access, TACACS+/LDAP for authentication, etc.). Finally a cosmetic layer of highly visible (but extremely thin) intellectual property is applied.

Over the coming years it's inevitable that these hardware designs will open up, and we'll experience a huge wave of Open Source hardware designs. It may take time to push this revolution down to the chip level (given the different capital and timing parameters there), and it may prevail only in the generic hardware market and not in the niche markets - but it will prevail.

To many, the notion of open hardware seems foreign, since we have been conditioned to associate Open Source with software. It can be reasonably argued, however, that open hardware has already had a more significant impact on our industry than GPL, or Linux, or any other modern software. The whole commoditization of the computer industry began with the IBM PC in the early 1980s. It's the force that has driven computing technology into everyone's personal space. A wealth of peripheral devices, plug-in ISA cards, applications, operating systems, services and evolutionary clones were developed that gave the PC a momentum that would otherwise not have been possible. This model still prevails in the PC hardware space where the value of leading suppliers like HP and Dell isn't so much in the IP in their hardware designs, but in the business and support services they offer.

The same forces that are driving Open Source up the software stack will inevitably drive openness down to the silicon core. And the result is that users of the resulting open hardware appliances will benefit from the same compelling value propositions:

  1. Standardization - The Open Source model is based on the notion of developing evolving and accepted standards, and this is of greater value in the hardware world. Standards increase interoperability and in today's Internet world, secure interconnection is imperative. Historically the hardware design environment was one bound by regulated and industry standards such as IEEE, ANSII, and FCC. But today's time and cost pressures have reduced the scope for these to be formally negotiated or legislated effectively. There is real opportunity for an Open Source model to take on the standardizing role in hardware design.
  2. Cost/value - Another important benefit of the open model is that customers will look to their suppliers to deliver tangible value. Being able to supply quality product becomes a basic imperative to participate in the market, not something you can charge a premium for. So suppliers in the open market are rewarded for delivering associated services and support. Open businesses spend more money on engineering and support and service departments, creating tangible value. They reduce the money spent creating mystery value in their sales and marketing departments. They also reduce the money wasted reinventing the wheel in their R&D units. Standardization brings lower costs.
  3. Quality - With an open model, the development process draws input and testing from the widest user community. Peer reviews expose weaknesses that are fixed quickly, rather than just quietly. The results are robust and meet real, rather than perceived needs. Open hardware designs will never offer free solutions, as hardware always involves tangible bill of material (BOM) costs. However, just as is the case with Open Source software, open hardware products will be adopted not because they are free, but because they are better.
There are hurdles, however, that must be leaped before the new open hardware frontier can pick up momentum. One such hurdle is the need for licensing models. The software industry has developed a robust and evolving selection of Open Source licensing models, but they don't meet the needs of hardware.

Also the whole notion of open hardware design won't become credible until a bunch of commercially successful businesses have been built around it. When we can point to wealth being created and sustained enterprises, only then will the open hardware model gain momentum.

In mid-2004, Opengear, Inc., (www.opengear.com) was founded and funded in the belief that open hardware, coupled with Open Source software, is commercially valid. Opengear is investing extensively in okvm (http://okvm.sourceforge.net), an Open Source project that is developing hardware and software solutions for the console and KVM management market.

This market typifies many hardware appliance niches. The market is small (approximately $800 million) with six to eight major suppliers (Avocent, Digi, Cyclades, Raritan, Lantronix, Perle, et al) - all of which offer Linux-based hardware solutions, with very similar features (and at quite similar prices). There is little interoperability and standardization, however. In fact it's quite the opposite, as most of the leading suppliers have developed their own unique RS232 pin-out standards for the RJ45 serial connectors they all use.

On the cost/value front, Opengear's mission is to drive all the hardware and software price barriers out of remote management. The long-term goal of the okvm project is to deliver a way to simply, quickly, affordably, and platform-independently absorb remote management technology into other products. Today you find console and KVM management solutions in major data centers. However, at Opengear we foresee that once the cost of remote management spirals down then it becomes a logical imperative to embed these capabilities not just in server blades and rack infrastructure but also in the smallest of single-board computers, telephone and entertainment devices, even household appliances. Opening up the hardware will also open up millions upon millions of new commercial opportunities.

More Stories By Bob Waldie

Bob Waldie, co-founder of Opengear, has a track record of successful entrepreneurship with Open Source ventures. Before Opengear, Bob served as CEO, then chairman, of SnapGear, a developer of embedded Linux security appliances. Bob has participated in numerous start-ups, and has served on the board of a number of private and public technology companies and government industry bodies.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Things are changing so quickly in IoT that it would take a wizard to predict which ecosystem will gain the most traction. In order for IoT to reach its potential, smart devices must be able to work together. Today, there are a slew of interoperability standards being promoted by big names to make this happen: HomeKit, Brillo and Alljoyn. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Adam Justice, vice president and general manager of Grid Connect, will review what happens when smart devices don’t work togethe...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Technologic Systems Inc., an embedded systems solutions company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Technologic Systems is an embedded systems company with headquarters in Fountain Hills, Arizona. They have been in business for 32 years, helping more than 8,000 OEM customers and building over a hundred COTS products that have never been discontinued. Technologic Systems’ pr...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Auditwerx will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Auditwerx specializes in SOC 1, SOC 2, and SOC 3 attestation services throughout the U.S. and Canada. As a division of Carr, Riggs & Ingram (CRI), one of the top 20 largest CPA firms nationally, you can expect the resources, skills, and experience of a much larger firm combined with the accessibility and attent...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named “Platinum Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business – from apparel to energy – is being rewritten by software. From ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that HTBase will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. HTBase (Gartner 2016 Cool Vendor) delivers a Composable IT infrastructure solution architected for agility and increased efficiency. It turns compute, storage, and fabric into fluid pools of resources that are easily composed and re-composed to meet each application’s needs. With HTBase, companies can quickly prov...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Loom Systems will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Founded in 2015, Loom Systems delivers an advanced AI solution to predict and prevent problems in the digital business. Loom stands alone in the industry as an AI analysis platform requiring no prior math knowledge from operators, leveraging the existing staff to succeed in the digital era. With offices in S...
Buzzword alert: Microservices and IoT at a DevOps conference? What could possibly go wrong? In this Power Panel at DevOps Summit, moderated by Jason Bloomberg, the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise and president of Intellyx, panelists peeled away the buzz and discuss the important architectural principles behind implementing IoT solutions for the enterprise. As remote IoT devices and sensors become increasingly intelligent, they become part of our distributed cloud enviro...
SYS-CON Events announced today that T-Mobile will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. As America's Un-carrier, T-Mobile US, Inc., is redefining the way consumers and businesses buy wireless services through leading product and service innovation. The Company's advanced nationwide 4G LTE network delivers outstanding wireless experiences to 67.4 million customers who are unwilling to compromise on ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Infranics will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Since 2000, Infranics has developed SysMaster Suite, which is required for the stable and efficient management of ICT infrastructure. The ICT management solution developed and provided by Infranics continues to add intelligence to the ICT infrastructure through the IMC (Infra Management Cycle) based on mathemat...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 add...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudistics, an on-premises cloud computing company, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cloudistics delivers a complete public cloud experience with composable on-premises infrastructures to medium and large enterprises. Its software-defined technology natively converges network, storage, compute, virtualization, and management into a ...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Lachapelle, CEO of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), will provide an overview of various initiatives to certifiy the security of connected devices and future trends in ensuring public trust of IoT. Eric Lachapelle is the Chief Executive Officer of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), an international certification body. His role is to help companies and individuals to achieve professional, accredited and worldw...
In his General Session at 16th Cloud Expo, David Shacochis, host of The Hybrid IT Files podcast and Vice President at CenturyLink, investigated three key trends of the “gigabit economy" though the story of a Fortune 500 communications company in transformation. Narrating how multi-modal hybrid IT, service automation, and agile delivery all intersect, he will cover the role of storytelling and empathy in achieving strategic alignment between the enterprise and its information technology.
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem" ...
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound e...
Keeping pace with advancements in software delivery processes and tooling is taxing even for the most proficient organizations. Point tools, platforms, open source and the increasing adoption of private and public cloud services requires strong engineering rigor - all in the face of developer demands to use the tools of choice. As Agile has settled in as a mainstream practice, now DevOps has emerged as the next wave to improve software delivery speed and output. To make DevOps work, organization...
My team embarked on building a data lake for our sales and marketing data to better understand customer journeys. This required building a hybrid data pipeline to connect our cloud CRM with the new Hadoop Data Lake. One challenge is that IT was not in a position to provide support until we proved value and marketing did not have the experience, so we embarked on the journey ourselves within the product marketing team for our line of business within Progress. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Sum...
Web Real-Time Communication APIs have quickly revolutionized what browsers are capable of. In addition to video and audio streams, we can now bi-directionally send arbitrary data over WebRTC's PeerConnection Data Channels. With the advent of Progressive Web Apps and new hardware APIs such as WebBluetooh and WebUSB, we can finally enable users to stitch together the Internet of Things directly from their browsers while communicating privately and securely in a decentralized way.
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.