September 6, 2018

Open Source Summit: Innovation, Allies, and Open Development

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Linus Torvalds
At Open Source Summit, Linux creator Linus Torvalds sat down with VMware's Dirk Hohndel to discuss hardware, code complexity, kernel maintenance, and more.

August was an exciting month for Linux and open source, with the release of Linux kernel 4.18, a new ebook offering practical advice for enterprise open source, and the formation of the Academy Software Foundation. And, to cap it off, we ended the month with a successful Open Source Summit event highlighting open source innovation at every level and featuring keynote presentations from Linus Torvalds, Van Jones, Jim Zemlin, Jennifer Cloer, and many others.

In his welcoming address in Vancouver, The Linux Foundation’s Executive Director, Jim Zemlin, explained that The Foundation’s job is to create engines of innovation and enable the gears of those engines to spin faster.

This acceleration can be seen in the remarkable growth of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) and in the Google Cloud announcement transferring ownership and management of the Kubernetes project’s cloud resources to the CNCF, along with a $9 million grant over three years to cover infrastructure costs.

Such investment underscores a strong belief in the power of open source technologies to speed innovation and solve problems, which was echoed by Zemlin, who encouraged the audience to go solve big problems, one person, one project, one industry at a time.

Empathy

In another conference keynote, Van Jones, President and founder of Dream Corps, best-selling author, and CNN contributor, spoke with Jamie Smith, Chief Marketing Officer at The Linux Foundation about the power of tech and related social responsibilities.  

“There was a time when the future was written in law,” Jones said. “Now the future is written in Silicon Valley in code.” Jones went on to say that those working in technology today possess a new set of superpowers and they need to understand how to use those powers for good.

A big deficit that Jones sees, not just in technology but in politics and elsewhere, is an empathy gap. He noted, however, that listening and mentoring can help bridge this gap. “Each person has an opportunity to mentor one person… Don’t underestimate the one person in your life who gave you a shot; you can be that person,” he said.

Allies and advocates

Jennifer Cloer, founder and lead consultant at reTHINKit PR and co-founder of Wicked Flicks, also explored the power of mentors and supporters in her talk highlighting the “Chasing Grace” video project. Cloer offered a preview of the project in a short episode featuring Nithya Ruff, Senior Director, Open Source Practice at Comcast, and member of the Board of Directors for The Linux Foundation. In the video preview, Ruff described the important role that her father played in supporting her career.

Ruff also moderated a panel discussion at Open Source Summit examining issues of diversity and inclusion and exploring solid strategies for success. Ruff acknowledged that the efforts of open source communities to attract and retain diverse contributors with unique talent and perspectives have gathered momentum, but she said, “We cannot tackle these issues without the support of allies and advocates.”

Open development

On the last day of the conference, Linux creator Linus Torvalds sat down with Dirk Hohndel, VMware VP and chief open source officer, for their now-familiar fireside chat session. In the discussion, they touched on topics including hardware, quantum computing, kernel maintainership, and more.

In speaking of recent hardware vulnerabilities, Torvalds said, “These hardware issues were kept under wraps. Because it was secret and we were not allowed to talk about it, we were not allowed to use our usual open development model. That makes it way more painful than it should be.”

“When you’re doing a complex project, the only way to deal with complexity is to have the code out there,” Torvalds said. “There are so many layers. No one knows how all this works,” he continued, describing it as an “explosion of complexity.”

Nonetheless, Torvalds said he doesn’t worry so much about issues of technology within the kernel. “What I’m really worried about is the flow of patches. If you have the right workflow, the code will sort itself out.”

When asked whether he still understands the Linux kernel, Torvalds replied, “No. … Nobody knows the whole kernel. Having looked at patches for many, many years, I know the big picture, and I can tell by looking if it’s right or wrong.”

Join us at Open Source Summit + Embedded Linux Conference Europe in Edinburgh, UK on October 22-24, 2018, for 100+ sessions on Linux, Cloud, Containers, AI, Community, and more.

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