The open-source operating system Linux is at the heart of the unlikely recent partnership between Microsoft
Now the open-source meme is set to threaten the likes of Cisco Systems
The ICSI wants XORP to be the Linux of routing, which is possible, if not likely. Because it's a modularized software, it's relatively easy to modify existing modules or create new ones. So, it can be adapted quickly to specific functions and needs. Furthermore, XORP is a threat to the leading routing companies from both the software and hardware standpoints. With XORP, a network router can be assembled using standard PC components for about $1,500, which is less than a tenth of the cost of a Cisco setup.
XORP isn't likely to threaten Cisco's or Juniper's hold on large corporate networks in the near future, but it could have a significant impact on the market share for midsize to small firms in the next year or two. Since the software is free, companies can adapt it for use in low-cost routing systems targeted at this category.
To Cisco's credit, it was wise to snatch up Linksys, which would likely be one of the first companies to offer such a product. But at the Linksys end of the scale, the competition could be steep, limiting market share and leaving the current mid-tier companies, such as Avici Systems
I don't expect XORP to remotely resemble Linux's following or contributions, but there are other examples of open-source software that are taking significant market share within niche markets, such as MySQL in the database realm. XORP has the potential to have a similar impact.
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Fool contributor Mark Mahorney doesn't own shares of any companies mentioned.