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Cumulus Networks is Linux in Name Only


Cumulus Networks recently unveiled their flagship product, Cumulus Linux, as Sam reported yesterday, but don't let the name fool you. Although Cumulus Linux is based on Debian, it is not open source. It is an operating system optimized for a short list of networking devices. Cumulus Linux has an impressive list of capabilities designed for a modern data center, but using the Linux name when they are not giving back to the community is a missed opportunity.

Cumulus Networks repeatedly states that they want to "bring the Linux revolution to your network", but it appears that they are missing the point. Capabilities are one thing, and the software defined network and data center are certainly the future, but the Linux revolution was not about what a Linux distribution could do when it was shipped by the vendor. It was about the community as a whole having access to the source code so that everyone could keep making it better. Cumulus Networks is benefiting from the work done by the community, and holding back their contributions so they can charge licensing fees. You know, like Microsoft.


Read more at Ostatic


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  • Nolan Leake Said:

    A look at the quagga mailing list, the LKML, and the libnl mailing lists will show our a selection o f our contributions. We upstream every bit of code we write, with the exception of a proprietary userspace device driver for the forwarding ASIC. That part must remain closed for now, due to linking proprietary code that we don't own, as well as programming ASIC registers that were documented to us under NDA. It isn't any different from using Nvidia's proprietary driver on your desktop. Not ideal, but still radically more open than windows or OSX, and certainly still Linux. - Nolan Leake co-founder & CTO

  • James Maki Said:

    Nolan, Per the GPL you are required to provide "the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it". I would like to download the source code for the full distribution in a useful form. Please provide a link to download this. Here is the full paragraph from section 3 of the GPL: " The source code for a work means the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it. For an executable work, complete source code means all the source code for all modules it contains, plus any associated interface definition files, plus the scripts used to control compilation and installation of the executable. However, as a special exception, the source code distributed need not include anything that is normally distributed (in either source or binary form) with the major components (compiler, kernel, and so on) of the operating system on which the executable runs, unless that component itself accompanies the executable." -James

  • Nolan Leake Said:

    Hi James, The GPL only requires distribution of source modifications to people or entites who have received binaries generated from the modified code. This is, as an example, how Google can avoid publishing their modifications to the linux kernel that they use in their clusters; since they do not distribute the binaries, they do not have any obligation to distribute source. That said, most of our modifications are already available either upstream (for patches that were accepted already) or on the various project's mailing lists. The remaining patches (as well as the ones that are already upstream/mailed out but not yet applied) will be available soon on our website for anyone to download. This will happen well in advance of widespread distribution of Cumulus Linux binaries. - nolan

  • James Maki Said:

    Hi Nolan, I understand that Google uses Linux internally which is inline with the GPL. They are not distributing it or selling it, so they have no obligation to release the full source code. In Cumulus' case you are selling it. Your website list Dreamhost and fastly as customers. See GPL FAQ The easiest way to comply with the GPL is to provide a link to download the full source code. Providing a link to download the source code is also inline with the Linux and OpenSource way. You cannot truly be "The first true Linux network operating system" and then NOT provide source code. Your concept is exciting. I just hope you keep the community that will ultimately make it successful, happy. -James

  • Nolan Leake Said:

    Hi James, All of our customers have access to all of our patches to upstream software, and are free to redistribute it as they see fit. This will not change now as we sell and distribute to a larger audience. I agree 100% that the easiest way to comply with the GPL is to publish all modified source code. It is also in line with my personal beliefs. I wish we had our OSS site up at launch time, but it didn't quite happen. We're all working setting up the site, and personally, it is my #1 priority. Thank you for being vigilant on licensing issues. I am a long time (since 1995) linux user and contributor, and I love both benefiting from and having opportunities to contribute back to open source software of all license styles. Rest assured that our publications will include our changes to BSD-licensed code, as well as GPLed code. I hope that others will do the same. - nolan

  • Bones Said:

    I just don't understand it - why are more and more parties constantly being allowed to get away with taking Linux and using to serve their own ends, without giving back everything they have done with it - in source - not in product - but -at- -least- in source? Because if you aren't modifying the remotest thing, well then, you're good. But if you are modifying the slightest thing that IS open source then you have no business keeping it to yourself! And yet Google, and now countless others because they got away with it, now think they can keep this crap right on up, forever. Where are GNU? Where are you Linus?

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