After more than 20 years of development, Linux is the largest, most successful collaborative project in the world. More than 10,000 developers from more than 1,000 companies have contributed to the Linux kernel since tracking began in 2005, according to the foundation’s latest annual development report. It powers servers, mobile devices, stock exchanges, cars, appliances, air traffic control towers, the space station, genomics research… the list goes on and on. So, what’s next?
Ask Mark Hinkle, senior director of open source solutions at Citrix. He’ll speak at LinuxCon and CloudOpen Europe in Edinburgh, Oct. 21-23 on how the Linux and open source communities can build upon their success for the betterment of technology and the world. In this Q&A he gives a preview of his talk and discusses maintaining the values of the Linux community; how users can help sustain innovation; Citrix’s contributions to open source software and Linux; and the role of cloud computing in the future of Linux.
Can you give us a preview of your talk? Where does Linux go from here?
Linux has become an unquestionable success. The 21-year history of Linux is a manifestation of the Mahatma Ghandi statement, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” As it has evolved from Linus’ hobby to a worldwide success as a server, desktop, mobile and embedded platform Linux has had a drag-along effect providing a rising tide to so many other open source boats.
This talk will focus on how Linux is no longer just an operating system. Open source isn’t just a software development methodology, as the term is no longer being applied only to specifically licensed software projects. It has become a platform for innovation that provides both technology and a blueprint for success. You’ll have to show up or watch the video stream to get any more out of me.
If there is no roadmap for Linux, how do we discuss the future of the OS?
Linux has prospered since its genesis because users wanting to scratch their own itch have driven it. I believe innovation will continue to come from the users of technology as much or more so than from software vendors (who still provide an essential supporting role). As we go forward I think we discuss the set of values that we adhere to as we develop Linux rather than a technology direction.
I believe those active in the development of Linux should strive to maintain the greatest degree of openness not only in its licensing, or its APIs or source code but in the ability for users to participate, improve and refactor the software. And of course while we do that WE DO NOT BREAK USER SPACE! as Linus so gently puts it.
Linux should continue to embrace a meritocracy where user or vendor alike can set direction by the quality of their participation. We want to make sure we continue to foster that innovation and instill confidence in prospective participants that the Linux community wants to collaborate and continually evolve in that direction.
In an interview with Linux.com, Wired’s Kevin Kelly said that in order for Linux to overcome the innovator’s dilemma it will need to try something where it’s likely to fail and that will require “some very well placed nudges.” Do you have an idea what those nudges should be?
In the context of the Innovator’s Dilemma Linux is a sustaining innovation. Simply put it brought better value to an existing one provided by other operating systems. The next act could be a disruptive innovation breaking new ground. I believe the medical field would be an ideal direction to nudge Linux.
I can foresee Linux trying to help power biomedical devices. Given its capacity to run on embedded devices it seems that computers in the body would ostensibly be a good fit for the field of biomedical devices.
I learned by way of the Open Prosthetic Project that one of the most common prosthetics for arm amputees is still the David Dorrance body-powered arm developed in 1912. Most medical devices are very simple today for various reasons of stability and safety. Growing up watching Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar man, I would think that given our pervasive use of technology that we’d have astounding computer powered limbs for those who need them. The reality is that information technology lags behind miserably in the medical field and that industry is ripe for innovation.
Though it may fail as well Linux users are used to building redundant highly available systems to minimize interruption. There are also some hiccups. Some days we can’t see our LOLcats or post pictures of our lunch to our favorite social media sites when the Interwebs are borked. The stakes would be considerably higher if Linux powered things like heartbeats or brain functions. Though these types of endeavors are well worth pursuing even if we fall short initially.
How is Citrix planning for and contributing to the future of Linux?
Citrix is both a user and developer of Linux, though admittedly we are small part of a gigantic ecosystem. Our vision is that we see a world of “Any-Ness” which enables you to access your data and your apps on any device, anywhere, anytime. We want to enable the infrastructure to deliver that promise. Linux is a dominating force in the data center and mobile alike so we want to invest in making that successful by providing development and other resources to open source projects that support that goal.
How we are doing that is by sponsoring the Linux Foundation as a Gold member and being an active participant in both the Xen Project and OpenDaylight. In Xen Project we believe by providing a robust Type I hypervisor that is works well via the Linux kernel via ParaVirtual OPerationS(PVOPS). In OpenDaylight we want to drive a pervasive SDN solution that is extensible just like Linux. Our CloudStack developers also provide patches upstream when possible to make Linux even better suited to cloud computing.
Citrix also wants to help champion virtualization for Linux on the ARM platform. Recently we joined Linaro, an industry-wide engineering effort to drive the future of Linux on ARM. We want to continue to collaborate on initiatives that help provide the best Linux experience for ARM users whether that is in the GCC toolchain, power management or other ways that are deemed necessary.
What is the future of cloud computing and where does Linux fit in?
In the cloud we see Linux as the foundation for the world’s largest cloud computing environments for a reason. It’s stable, scalable and extensible and as I stated earlier, it is a platform for innovation. It’s not only a common host operating system that can be augmented and segmented by hypervisors it is also a guest operating system that runs the applications that we have come to depend on so it fulfills a dual purpose.
One place that is evolving quickly is the use of containers for Linux applications. While the hypervisor is ideal for providing secure, portable containers there’s also a user-driven need arising to provide lighter weight virtualization for the Linux application layer. LXC in combination with SELinux for security could be groundbreaking as it could provide an industry changing solution to the problem of Linux application portability across clouds.
It is difficult to write the future of the cloud today while we are steeped in the moment of groundbreaking innovation the application of this new technology is really a story that will be written by the users of the cloud.