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Cisco gets into open source in a big way

Company is opening up its new Etch messaging protocol, doing exactly what new entrants to a market should do: go open source to gain advantage.

CIO.com's James Turner has reported on a big, new development from Cisco Systems: the announcement of Etch, a "messaging protocol intended to allow developers to integrate client/server applications without the overhead of traditional protocols such as SOAP."

The biggest part of the release, however, is that it will be open source.

Like Facebook's Thrift messaging protocol, Cisco's open sourcing of Etch probably has less to do with any corporate love for open source than with a realization that the most viable way to take on an incumbent in an established software market is with open source. Open source enables a company to potentially disarm competing technologies through a bottom-up infiltration of the market.

Proprietary software is a way to guard one's position. Open source is a way to create a new position. Cisco's Etch is just one more reminder that many, if not most, new entrants to a crowded market will be open source. Whether they remain as such, however, is an entirely different question.