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Open Source Powers the Global Economy

By Jim Zemlin Executive Director, Linux Foundation

In an incredibly short time, Huawei has transformed from one of the world’s largest equipment makers to one of the largest ICT software solutions companies. How was Huawei able to achieve this so quickly? The answer lies in one key insight: In a world powered by software — whether for Software-Defined Networking (SDN), Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), cloud computing, or the Internet of Things (IoT) — there is simply too much software to be developed.

The Linux Foundation is working with thousands of organizations, including Huawei, to build the greatest shared technology asset in the history of the world. The Linux platform — worth billions of dollars — literally runs modern society.

Linux operates the vast majority of the world’s stock markets, holds the majority share in the mobile device and embedded systems industries, and runs virtually all high-performance computing systems. By far the most successful software endeavor to date, it is not just the scope of the organization but the velocity at which it continues to accelerate: Each day, a Linux project adds an average of 10,800 lines of code, subtracts 5,300 lines of code, and modifies 1,800 lines of code — a daily net gain of 7,300 lines of new or modified code.

The Transformation to Open Source

Open source is here to stay. Today, more than 3.8 million open source contributors have created 31 billion lines of code across a wide variety of publicly available repositories. Billions of dollars have been and continue to be invested in open technology-based companies. In Silicon Valley alone, investors are backing hundreds of companies, 10 of which are worth over a billion dollars each. This is an amazing transformation — from a world where technology companies built everything themselves to one where they can no longer compete using that model.

The first generation of open source was much simpler: to create free alternatives of existing proprietary technologies. Whether operating systems (Linux) or databases (MySQL), these free alternatives shrunk the legacy markets. Today, however, that has all changed. We have entered a new era of open source development.

Open source ecosystems now make it possible to open new markets and create new opportunities. Emerging ecosystems include the Hadoop Big Data frameworks as well as container cloud technologies that have produced the Kubernetes and Docker projects. It is fair to argue that the future of all cloud technology lies with open source software.

At virtually every layer of the software stack, an open source project leads in innovation, developer adoption, and pace of development. These benefits are found in every aspect of the ecosystem, from the lowest layers of data plane services (Open vSwitch) to high in the management stack with Open Orchestrator (OPEN-O).

Huawei and China Mobile announced their OPEN-O project at the 2016 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. At this event, China Mobile said their future Operational Support System (OSS) will be based on three different open source JavaScript frameworks, including server-side JavaScript, the world’s fastest-growing web technology platform.

The total effect is a form of organic innovation — a kind of natural selection with thousands of companies and tens of thousands of developers competing for who can develop the best code. The aim of the Linux Foundation, which hosts most of these projects, is to accelerate innovation up and down the stack in order to create more secure and stable software for everyone.

The foundation is working with more than 20 of the top technology companies, including Intel and Huawei, on initiatives to teach open source developers to write more secure software, perform better threat modeling and testing, and create stronger, more responsible disclosure policies. More secure code means less vulnerability when the finished software is deployed in commercial products.

Creating Exceptional Ecosystems

The Linux Foundation is organized to enable all of these open source projects to create exceptional ecosystems that accelerate scaling. The companies that invest in open source projects recognize that software code and intellectual property assets will be freely available for decades to come. A core foundation activity is to speed the development of open source by teaching thousands of organizations how to manage their intellectual property in an industry based on software assets. The successful companies are those that learn how to manage open source licenses, patent commitments, and other aspects of sharing intellectual property while protecting valuable assets.

Finally, the Linux Foundation works with companies like Huawei to create training and certification programs to ensure that, as the pace of open source adoption increases, developers will be available to meet the demand.

A Top Contributor

Huawei is a top contributor to the open source movement. In addition to the Hadoop project, Huawei is a founding member of and top contributor to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation and a top-four contributor to Spark, a fast, general engine for large-scale data processing.

More than five years ago, Huawei decided to take open source seriously. The company created internal groups that specialize in managing open source and devised a strategy to pick the right open source projects for their products. Huawei integrated open source development into their procurement and engineering processes, enabling them to bring code in, modify it, create products, and then share their revisions with the original open source projects. This approach created a beneficial innovation cycle, not just within Huawei but with hundreds of other companies as well. It took considerable effort in planning and training. The results have been effective because Huawei understands, as do all leading technology companies, that we simply need too much software for any single company to develop it alone.

As we all work together to create the greatest shared technology asset in history, not only do we recognize that there is too much code to be written in-house by any single company, we also understand that together we are smarter than any one of us alone. Good companies create products, but great companies create ecosystems based on open source.

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ICT Insights Issue 21 (03/2017)

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