Linux Foundation exec on why Open Source is now everywhere

Linux Foundation Exec Jim Zemlin explains why Open Source just makes sense.

Speaking at the Huawei Ultra Broadband Forum in Frankfurt recently, Jim Zemlin, Executive Director at the Linux Foundation claims Open Source is now the “primary development model” for the most successful companies.

“Open Source today is very different from Open Source even five or six years ago,” he explains. “Traditionally Open Source was about following proprietary incumbents in shrinking markets. The MySQLs and Open Source alternatives to an Oracle database, Linux was an alternative to a proprietary Unix.

“Today, the reverse is happening. Every major category of software is being dominated by Open Source, and it is now expanding markets and creating innovation.

“Linux isn't just the world's largest Open Source project, Linux is the largest shared software investment in the history of computing,” he says, adding that the 25 year-old project is “dominating almost every aspect of modern computing”.

“Whether it's mobile handsets - the basis for Android; whether it's High-Performance Computing systems where it essentially owns the market; embedded systems; IoT; most of the internet, the vast majority of the stock exchanges, all this runs on Linux and Open Source.”

Citing the likes of Hadoop, AllJoyn, OpenStack, and Kubernetes, he claims Open Source is “defining the modern cloud infrastructure that is used in almost every modern cloud data centre”.

Zemlin says the reason behind this growing domination is volume and velocity. “There is A) too much software to be written for any one organisation to write it themselves, and B) no one, no single company, no matter how large they are, can keep up with the pace of development that Open Source offers.”

He says Linux sees 10,000 lines of code added, 5,000 subtracted, and 2,000 modified, every day, with changes being made every eight minutes. 

“Can you imagine anyone today going and creating a brand new Operating System from scratch when a $10 billion totally free Operating System that changes seven times an hour is available? You'd be crazy.”

The new economic norm

“Open Source has become the new norm for software development, but even more than that, it has become a new economic norm. It is a model that produces better, faster, cheaper software, but it's also an economic model where sharing developing - essentially helping others can help yourself at the same time.”

In recent years, the likes of Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and even Apple have released various projects to the Open Source community, and are basing their own product on Open Source code.

“The best organisations in the world are doing this. Why? Because it's the last 20% of the code in these products, in these software models, that truly matters to your customers.

“No company, if they try and build all of this software on their own, is going to make it. They simply won’t be able to compete.”

Lessons from the big boys

What the biggest technology companies know how to do best when it comes to embracing Open Source is manage it correctly. From picking the right projects, to integrating it into their own systems and supply chain, to having a legal department that understands how the necessary Intellectual Property requirements, to understanding and quantifying the value OSS brings.

Zemlin claims the biggest barrier for organisations isn’t the technology, but the people who don’t understand the value.

“The software developers already know how to do this stuff,” he says. “It's the business people who get in the way by not knowing how to manage it strategically, harvest that value and then profit from it. That's slowing this great shared technology investment.”