Creating a future proof Internet infrastructure requires continuous optimisation and integration of best practises at all levels, including at the hardware and system integration level. While the software market has been commodified and democratised through free software (aka open source), the hardware market is still dominated by a small amount of vendors. Commodification of the development of networking hardware, from full-blown optical networking equipment to embedded systems and hardware cryptographic components, can help to ensure higher availability, lower costs, increase transparency and diversity, and create a more open market where anyone may introduce highly complex new services that require strongly optimised and well-integrated hardware and software.
NGI report recognizes extensible and reliable open hardware as an essential contributor towards achieving NGI vision, with the following identified benefits and risks respectively.
- Lower costs for market entrants
- Increased reusability of efforts. Otherwise there is a risk of vendor specific feature delivery with low reusability.
- Reduced market dominance of (mostly non-European) hardware vendors
- Increased transparency, otherwise in-transparency of hardware can lead to security breaches.
- Improved energy use and resource efficiency mitigating suboptimal development of ecological optimisations.
Risks of not addressing this topic
- Loss of agency within NGI due to dependency on hardware vendors
- Inability to deal with overarching issues without market buy in
- Lack of responsiveness and lower efficiency in fixing issues due to wrong market incentives.
- Inadequate capacity building and development of expertise leads to diminished competitiveness.