Behind the open source turnaround at Broadcom

Behind the open source turnaround at Broadcom

Summary: Native Linux drivers for Broadcom chip sets lets hotspots become integrated into real networks more easily. There is now a market for that.

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When I first took on this beat Broadcom was a big problem.

This was reflected in a story I did about a Linksys router. Turned out it was running Linux and the company had to be pressured to live up to its responsibility on that. It was also running a Broadcom chip set.

The two facts were related. It's hard to live up to your responsibilities as an open source hardware vendor if your upstream supplier is also reluctant.

Times have changed, and you'll get many of the details at our newest blog product, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols' Networking.

Not only is Broadcom being forthcoming with its downstream suppliers, but it has released Linux drivers for its most popular WiFi chips. It's a big Biden deal.

Not only are developers getting a native stack that supports its most popular 802.11n chips, but there's a framework for supporting future chips as well.

Broadcom had been staging a sort of cold war with developers for years, to the point where some developers were recommending against using Broadcom chips in their designs.

What made Broadcom see the light? I don't think it was the whinging from netbook owners or the open source community. The industry is changing.

Where the big money used to lie in the consumer market, now hospitals and other campuses are building extensive WiFi mesh networks. These industrial-strength networks need to be carefully engineered, with security and redundancy built-in.

Native Linux drivers for Broadcom chip sets lets hotspots become integrated into real networks more easily. There is now a market for that.

Intel has been using open source in its competing systems, and my guess is they were starting to make inroads into Broadcom's business as a result. They were eating Broadcom's cheese -- a big change from the past.

What media and hobbyist and political pressure can't do, a little market pressure can do very well. Which means some of the mesh technology being developed for hospitals may soon become available at a hotspot near you.

Topics: Networking, Linux, Mobility, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

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10 comments
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  • A sign of the times. Broadcom does NOT want to have any obstacles to using

    their WiFi chips for routers, Android tablets, ChromeOS, Linux desktop, etc. The percent of WiFi devices running Linux is expanding rapidly.
    DonnieBoy
  • RE: Behind the open source turnaround at Broadcom

    In these straightened times it makes no sense to deliberately cut yourself out of a growing market segment.
    Finally Broadcom has woken up.
    Agnostic_OS
  • Change comes slowly ...

    I suspect we will be seeing other hardware vendors slowly following along as the Linux marketplace slowly broadens out. I also suspect we will see the same pattern with ISVs. The following is just one example:

    http://it.tmcnet.com/topics/it/articles/100248-bricsys-cad-platform-available-linux-operating-system.htm

    The world is changing and those companies who want to maintain and grow their marketshares will need to consider opensource opportunities.
    George Mitchell
  • "big Biden deal"???

    So, "Biden" is a word-for-word replacement for "effing" ????

    Hmmmmm.......
    aureolin
    • RE: Behind the open source turnaround at Broadcom

      @aureolin Could be. But I didn't say effing. This is a family blog.
      DanaBlankenhorn
  • RE: Behind the open source turnaround at Broadcom

    And did Dana mean 'whinging' or 'whining'? Or even 'winging'?
    mejohnsn
  • Broadcom Got Smart Following the Crowds!

    NT
    i2fun@...
  • Broadcom Got on the Open Source Bandwagon!

    How much savvy does it take to understand that Open Source Operating Systems are the only ones that give you a FREE look at their code and allow you to write your drivers and support directly into the OS. Broadcom simply followed the crowds of hardware manufacturers that have already figured out that the future lies in Open Source Projects and Products. There are a few hardware makers or designers (like Nvidia) that found out years ago that writing a driver or support for an Open Source OS was a lot simpler than proprietary systems have ever been.

    That's why companies like Siemens, Imagination (PowerVR), ARM, VIA, Nvidia, IBM, Intel, AMD and now Broadcom are now writing their drivers and support code directly into Open Source OS's. Like ARM has done with Android while leaving out their Neon Engine, Drivers and support programs for Apple's ARM chips. Simply left for Apple to write in their close source proprietary iOS!

    Pretty obvious they're all now leaving proprietary companies to do the work themselves these days.... AND why not? It doesn't take the so called genius analysts of Piper Jaffray to spell out, that Android is headed for a 50% market share of the most plentiful device market the World has ever known!

    That's why other far more intelligent companies like Samsung put true newest next gen Broadcom technology in their products. That.... over going for the two year old cheap junk Apple went for. Apple? "...yeah let's make it look nice.... who cares if it works" mentality. Just make it cheapest you can, so we're putting more money in our pockets. Apple = True Gypsy Con Artist and Informercialistic Marketing at it's finest. Forget the customers... they're too dumb to tell the difference anyway..... Right? Pull a rabbit out of a hat while we have a shill expounding on the glories of Apple, while we pick their pockets! .....Well at least if you're a CrApple iFan that is!!!

    I mean if you are going to make this program (Facetime) for your phones and slates to use VOIP Video/Audio over 3G/4G radios, don't you think you should be smart enough to put parts in that can actually support Next Gen Technologies like VOIP over 3G/4G wireless. And how about Dual Band WiFi Direct w/DLNA support and putting hardware with BlueTooth 3.0 built into them? How about actually putting the FM Transceiver in those chips to work for your customers inside your OS (like Android 3.0 will do). Broadcom has done that.... because they are another company that has seen the light and ease of becoming a part of what that Open Source Future means by doing it themselves directly.... faster! .....that's why ARM got involved and wrote support directly into Android for their Neon Engine to take advantage of Face Recognition and Smile Detection along with other features Apple doesn't have, with the same chip hardware (or the old cheap last gen junk they opted for).

    Linux and Open Source..... is everywhere you are or ever want to be and don't know it. The Future is OPEN! :D
    i2fun@...
  • Hello!

    It is Android man, did you forget that these smart phones have wifi in them?

    Android is going to be the point where OSS Leverages everything and finally gets a place on the desktop or in thin clients.
    slickjim
  • RE: Behind the open source turnaround at Broadcom

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