Some years ago I was arguing with my then department head (whom I have
the greatest respect for, it should be said) at Cisco that IOS should
be turned open source. Needless to say, the suggestion was met with
"some" resistance, mildly speaking.
I still think the idea has a lot going for it. IOS as such is not
a major revenue source, considering equipment prices in general;
Cisco could bundle IOS at no cost merely by cranking up the hardware
prices by a small amount, and there are no big secrets in the source.
Arguably, there are things that some people might find "interesting"
to try to dig into, but in terms of making a network box, a lot of the
mystery has turned into old hat over the years. Heck, I have a completely
independent and in every possible way unencumbered BGP4 implementation
under my belt (the core was done well before my stint at Cisco), and in
terms of coding complexity I've had much worse on my plate.
Going back in time, Cisco's main claim to fame has always been to be
there when you needed them, and in the old days they always were.
Tony Li, who has posted here, is probably the best known, but there
were many others, and they were all equally respected, revered, and
honoured, not just for their knowledge and insight, but because,
unlike the case at other vendors, they were there at night, at weekends,
and at all other unholy hours, when a sinking networker needed them to
For the past many years, however, that hasn't been the case, whether
or not one is carrying a hugely expensive maintenance contract in one's
pocket. In one word, Cisco has turned "corporate". They managed to
stay alive for much longer than most other vendors, but eventually they
too couldn't remain un-corporate any longer.
But, completing the circle, turning IOS into Open Source may be a way to
bring back the heady days when Cisco/IOS ruled the world, in a fashion.
All it takes is to bring online a ton of dedicated developers, just like
any other Open Source project, and we know they're out there.
Quoting my favourite American saying, "This is an opportunity". And
the ball is in Cisco's court.