Last week at the Hotel Kabuki in Japantown in San Francisco, Calif., Linux developers gathered for the Linux Collaboration Summit. The first day was a series of “keynotes” given by various parties interested and involved in areas of Linux, and days two and three consisted of focused workshops on subtopics within Linux.
Linux Foundation President Jim Zemlin, kicked off Wednesday’s keynotes with an optimistic view of Linux’s role in the current operating system market. He compared the competing demands of “free and open” with “fabulous” – specifically calling out Steve Jobs’ pitch of the iPad in a humorous clipped video that isolated the adjectives used to describe the new gadget. Zemlin said that Linux can be both free and fabulous, and because of that, will be well-suited to compete in this economy.
To summarize everything that occurred would take too long, but I’d like to highlight three keynote talks that were of particular interest to me.
IBM says get involved in Linux: early
Dan Frye, IBM’s Vice President of Open Systems Development, shared the 10+ years of IBM’s history and experience with Linux. He dished out advice to other companies that might be curious or worried about how they should or could contribute to Linux.
One piece of advice Frye gave was that the Linux developers from your company need to be from, or know how to work within the Linux community. Using contractors to do this work is not advised, said Frye, as the relationship with the Linux community over time is valuable to your company in terms of getting development projects through the process.
“You need to manage your open source developers, but you can’t manage their maintainers,” said Frye. “You have to understand open source and the communities the developers work in. The only thing that matters is the results. The thing you want is ‘influence.’ You can’t have control.”
As for those projects, it’s OK to scratch your own itch, says Frye. If you’re unsure about how to contribute to the kernel, get your developers to work on things that are of interest to your company.
“Initiate early – don’t spends months behind closed doors – approach the community,” said Frye. “If you’re going to make large contributions in an area, you can’t throw code and run.”
Frye also shared that Linux is now just as predictable to IBM as any other operating system, noting the maturity of the OS.
Open source = open cloud?
The cloud buzzword made it to the Collaboration Summit, with a blue-ribbon panel of clouderati including James Urquhart, product marketing manager for Cloud Computing and Virtualized Data Centers at Cisco, David Lutterkort, software engineer and Deltacloud Architect at Red Hat, Sam Ramji, vice president of Strategy at Sonoa and President of the CodePlex Foundation, and Doug Tidwell, IBM evangelist for Cloud Computing and SCA.
The panel examined the potential for cloud computing in the open source model. While open source is the technology behind a lot of cloud enablement (Linux is the operating system on servers running Amazon EC2 instances, etc.) because of the cost structure, having open source infrastructure beneath platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings may be impossible.
“The situation we’re in right now is that the market has to determine if having infrastructure openness is an important thing,” said Urquhart. Eucalyptus is the closest effort in this vein, but no major cloud providers are yet using Eucalyptus, keeping the open source community from tweaking the cloud systems to suit their needs.
The conversation further delved into data openness and the constraints placed on that by laws and regulations.
“I think in the next one to three years we’ll see a meaningful standard for data ownership,” said Ramji. “It will become accepted and normalized.”
As with any new technology, the panel discussion concluded without any real resolution, but there will be plenty more discussion on the respective panel members’ blogs and Twitter feeds if you want to keep up with it.
Your life may depend on Linux
Yes. Linux can be that serious.
In a real sign of the maturity of Linux, the head of the DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH (German Air Navigation Services) data center, Alexander Schanz, gave a presentation on how the agency is transitioning their entire data center from Unix to Linux. Still a work in progress (very methodical progress), the agency plans to port 1,500 systems from Unix to Linux. They are on their way to migrate primary systems to Linux, and all new ATC systems will be on Linux (both SUSE and Red Hat).
“With the appropriate skills and planning, Linux is stable enough to use in air traffic control,” said Schanz.
To deal with the learning curve of their administrators and operators, the agency has developed a special training program for their staff to learn Linux.
“Linux is not free,” said Schanz. “We have to employ people who know Linux, and they are not cheap.”
But still the agency is finding that it can save quite a bit of money with the platform that it makes all these investments worthwhile. I plan to follow up with Schanz and share more of the DFS story here in a future article. If you have any questions you would like me to ask Schanz, leave your comments here.
But all these great, inspiring, informative talks aside, the highlight of the event for many attendees may have been the best schwag giveaway ever: a new Nexus One phone (full disclosure: I didn’t take one). To get a visual of the event, some great photos were captured by Kenny Moy.