A Policy (Engine) for Open Source

April 13, 2015
By Chris Rice

For some, AT&T isn’t the first name mentioned when it comes to open source software contributions. But did you know that before the advent of today’s open source communities, AT&T provided several major open contributions to the software industry? To name a few, Unix, the S statistical language (a precursor to today’s open source R statistical language), and the C programming language spawned generations of programmers. All of these have roots in AT&T Labs.

Today, as we transform our network into one where software plays a prominent role, we are using open source to make a generational leap into the network of the future. And, we plan to significantly increase our usage of open source software across AT&T.

At the same time, we firmly believe that open source is not a one-way street. That’s why we’re contributing back to the community to ensure a vibrant ecosystem.

Today we are announcing that we have released software into an Apache Incubator that allows network and IT systems managers to put rules – or policies – in place that automate the who, what, when and how access is granted to certain systems and information. The software is what’s known as an eXtensible Access Control Mark-up Language (XACML) 3.0 policy engine.

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The contribution is significant. The first publicly available open source version of XACML 3.0 – the most current and robust version of the XACML standard – it’s a complete and tested framework for the full 3.0 specification.

After releasing the code on GitHub.com, we worked with members from other like-minded companies to achieve Apache Incubator status. We hope that we’ll soon attain full Apache Project status.

This is just one example of AT&T’s commitment to open source. In the last few years, we’ve made several contributions to open source projects – in cloud, SDN, and analytics – that are at the core of our network transformation.

  • R Foundation – R is a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics; AT&T has contributing members within the R Foundation.
  • Openstack – A free and open-source cloud computing software platform, AT&T holds a board position and has active contributors.
  • Open Networking Operating System (from ON.Lab) – ONOS project has a goal to build an open source distributed network operating system for the service provider networks. AT&T is a supporter and has contributing members.
  • Tigon – Built by Cask in collaboration with AT&T Labs, Tigon lets users create a range of streaming big data analytics applications to address business use cases. The open source real-time, stream-processing framework is built on top of Apache Hadoop and Apache HBase.
  • Nanocubes – This award-winning software creates real-time visualization of large datasets with billions of data points. Users don’t need a supercomputer to visualize results. They’re produced in real-time on a web browser. AT&T Labs created and released it into open source.

We believe that by contributing code and building communities around those projects, we enable others to use the software. It also allows some companies to build complete products and services based on that code. In many cases, these are products that would not have been possible without open source contributions. This allows new, lower-cost and disruptive entrants to enter the ecosystem, which is good for AT&T and the broader community.

But we aren’t doing this alone. There are other significant contributors driving the open source movement forward. For instance, Jon Gray and Nitin Motgi of Cask co-led the Tigon work with us.  Nick McKeown and Scott Shenker’s work has driven ON.Lab efforts forward. Ericsson has made notable contributions to the Openstack platform, and Carlos Scheidegger of the University of Arizona co-created Nanocubes.

Together with organizations and individual contributors like these, we’re making it easier for others to become part of an ecosystem that contributes new features and enhancements. This is what we’re doing in our network transformation, looking for fellow travelers who are similarly aligned to drive the industry forward in this direction.

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