April 9, 2008

What the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit is for

Author: Joe Barr

The Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit, currently in progress in Austin, Texas, is a small event, with only about 300 invited attendees. Because it is small, you can find yourself face-to-face or in conversation with some of the biggest names in and around the Linux kernel, business, and open source scenes, including Ted Ts'o, Jon "maddog" Hall, Bruce Perens, Dan Frye, and Larry Augustin. The venue for the event -- the J.J. Pickle Research Center Campus at the University of Texas -- is the same place where IBM held its first "secret" Linux summit in 1999 to announce and refine its Linux strategy internally.

The summit's first panel yesterday, a State of Linux Roundtable, was made up entirely of Linux kernel hackers. During the Q&A session that followed, a gentleman from Nortel introduced himself and told the panel that Nortel was running Linux on one of its switches, and it worked just fine, but the company had to make a number of patches to the kernel to get it to work. He wondered how Nortel could get its patches into the mainstream kernel.

He got a number of answers to his question, and at least one of the kernel hackers on the panel promised to speak to him afterward. One kernel hacker explained that you just can't "drop off" patches and expect to see them adopted: you have to participate in the process. Another panelist told him that similar kernel patches had just been applied to the kernel, though they may not meet Nortel's needs because they were done to the specs of others, underscoring the need for participation.

The gentleman's question and the answers he received illustrate the value of the summit. A highly technical user, but one obviously unfamiliar with the customs and process of Linux kernel development, was able to ask exactly the right people how to achieve the desired result. Collaboration, participating in the process, was the answer he needed.

The summit continues through tomorrow, bringing business people and kernel hackers face to face, allowing each to learn more about the wants, needs, and desires of the other, and helping both parties work together more productively.


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