Openness is important to keep alive the freewheeling type of innovation that's happening now in SDN, Lambert said. For decades, networking vendors have focused on shipping products rather than pursuing fundamental change in the Internet's software stack, he said.
"The need of the commercial vendors to create economic advantage ... had created a system that was too closed," Lambert said.
The result is a one-size-fits-all system that isn't suited to new kinds of data flows, such as those needed for big-data research. SDN can give developers the freedom to make networks operate in completely new ways, Lambert said. It's important not to let vendors lock down the ground rules of SDN too soon, he said.
"The thing that excites me most about the development of OpenFlow and SDN ... is the opportunity to have a network stack that's open again, that people can actually get their hands on, and use it and do disruptive things," Lambert said.