Stop abusing the word “Open”


I woke up this morning to a nice blog post that appeared in my RSS reader.

Finally! An Open Intent-Based Networking Platform Managed Service Providers Can Embrace

Now, if you know me, whenever the word “Open” gets mentioned, I’m immediately captivated by it, so I tapped on the link and read it once. Then I re-read it again, and again.

Why three times? The content is not particularly challenging from a technical point-of-view (I would argue it’s any technical at all). What puzzled me was that I couldn’t understand the link between the content of the post (and the product described in it) and the word “Open”.

The author writes about a d-day in the history of “intent-based networking”. At this point my levels of adrenaline almost doubled and I immediately got into an “alert” mode, my pupils dilated, my heart rate increased and all my (little) cognitive resources were completely focused on what was next.

The big announcement is that there is (yet) another product called Cisco MSX.

“Cisco MSX is an open service creation platform that helps you easily create and deliver managed network, security, and business services to enterprises.”

The closest thing to “openness” I read in the post is: “MSX is a highly extensible API-driven platform, enabling an unlimited range of personalized, differentiated services based on virtual or physical network functions from Cisco and third-parties.”

Is this open-ness though? Is the capability of programming endpoints with different northbound APIs a proof that you are Open?

I strongly believe this is NOT the case, and – moreover – abusing the word “Open” is detrimental to the understanding of what open really means.
Every time a major vendor mentions it, all its aficionados end up (sometimes subconsciously) learning the meaning of the word by inferring from the context it’s used in.

Open-ness means two main things to me (but it can be many more):

  1. Open-source
    We all know what that means. And I seriously doubt that Cisco MSX is open-source.
  2. Open-interfaces
    Is the northbound interface of Cisco MSX open? Is it based on standard APIs and data models (such as IETF YANG or OpenConfig?)

Is Cisco MSX any of the above?

Unless I’m completely wrong here, I think it’s not.

So, let’s give the word “open” the respect it deserves and stop abusing it.
Let’s try to understand what open means, so that every time a vendor tries to catch our attention by throwing it into a bold announcement, we have some awareness.

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