Open Source as a Dumping Group

Cisco just announced that they are open sourcing their network access control client (known as Cisco Trust Agent.)  While on the surface it might seem like a generous move, Alan Shimel (at one of my portfolio companies – StillSecure) has a somewhat different point of view.


I’ve noticed an increasing trend of large companies embracing the open source movement by “open sourcing” their lousy software that doesn’t work very well and that has little to no adoption.  An optimist would say “this is good – at least the open source community can fix that crap.”  My view is that this just pollutes the efforts of companies that are legitimately trying to work effectively with open source communities.  “Open sourcing orphaned software” as a marketing strategy just doesn’t feel effective or useful to me.

  • Dave

    It depends on how much hype they put behind it. Perhaps there is a nugget of useful code in that system somewhere, that someone can use. Don’t forget that part of the point of open source is to be able to use parts and components of it – it’s only since open source has become commercialized that this has gotten lost in open source “products.”

  • Dave

    Also, if you’re going to level this critique at companies that do it, why isn’t the same thing applicable to all the little crappy programs that individuals wrote and open sourced? Should they shelve it or share it? The open source movement is all about “share it.”

  • So now the latest is that Cisco is not going to open source the CTA agent. Here is the fulls story on the blog.

    As to “share it” comments from Dave, you have to understand the history of CTA with Cisco NAC. It has always been free and only works with Cisco gear. So they are giving away nothing here. Plus in this age of open source licenses, no guarantee you would be able to do anything with it really.

  • Dave G

    Another thing about the CTA to understand is that it is going to be obsoleted with NAP. Cisco is providing a Windows hotfix that will plug into the Windows connection manager which implements the Cisco proprietary protocols (the meat of the partnership between the two So, as Alan suggests, they aren’t really giving us anything. The one good thing is the open source linux 802.1x clients can now legally and more easily implement the Cisco protocols… which they did before by reverse engineering and talking with “friends” at Cisco.