How to benefit from open-source SDK
by Strhuan Blomquist
Everyone in the supply chain has experienced the impact of chipset scarcity. This has led many gateway vendors of connected home products to re-think their approach when developing new products. Instead of relying on one System on a chip (SoC) supplier, sourcing from several suppliers is a path many gateway vendors have taken. But what does this mean for product development and how can an open-source SDK (Software Development Kit) help?
From products and to a platform
Managing multi-suppliers presents challenges and opportunities. Traditionally, gateway vendors have focused on a SoC locked into a specific product. As more SoCs are added, this means more SoCs and software to manage. The proprietary SDK that comes with the SoC involves a lot of resources, substantial costs, and time to manage across different products. Not to mention the certifications, licensing and testing required. Dedicated teams work on that specific SDK for a particular product. Because the SoC and SDK are niched, it is difficult for developers to move between teams.
As gateway vendors have reevaluated their SoC supply strategy, why not take the opportunity to review new product development? One approach is to switch from thinking about individual siloed products towards a platform perspective that can sustain several products. So how do you move from product to platform?
Separating HW from SW
When developing a new product, the first step is to separate the hardware (HW) from the software (SW). This means choosing hardware-independent software that extends across your new products. A good starting point is to use open-source software such as OpenWRT* – a Linux operating system targeting embedded devices. You have access to 3500 optional software packages developed by the open-source community. The next step is adding a layer on top of the open-source software that unifies the various software. In other words, one independent open-source SDK to manage all the others.
Now you can develop applications on top of the SW because the open-source SDK enables you to use the same SW across multiple products. If you find a bug in one product, it’s probably the same across many products. Now you can fix all your products at the same time. If you develop a new application, you can now launch it across all your new products. You now have a platform where you leverage R&D to work in a more extensive ecosystem of OpenWrt. All your investments and over-the-top services are now based on a platform that lives within this open-source ecosystem.
Advantages of open-source SDK
Some of the main benefits of an independent open-source SDK for the platform include:
- Leveraging peer review from the open-source community: bugs or potential security breaches are identified because the code is open for other developers to review.
- Open for collaboration: the nature of open source also means open standards. There is a bigger pool of developers and 3rd party vendors to work with.
- Ease of testing: when you move to a platform approach, you test a certain piece of the SW that can be applied to several products.
- Re-using certifications: when certifying an application, the same certification can be used across several products resulting in cost savings.
- Optimizing your platform investment: your initial investment has more value and a longer lifespan because it is dispersed across several products instead of one-off products. You spread your risks and are more flexible in meeting customer demands.
- Better ROI and stickiness: instead of spending time and money on improving proprietary SDK, you can invest in customizing for operators in local markets. This creates more “stickiness” on your platform.
- More options for purchasing: your purchasing team is better equipped to source from different SoCs, knowing that the unified SDK is not locked in.
- Attractive when recruiting developers: working within a larger ecosystem of OpenWrt is appealing for developers who want to build up their experience and collaborate with the open-source community.
*OpenWrt is a trademark owned by software in the Public Interest, Inc.