Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Podcast: Arpit Joshipura on open source networking

Arpit Joshipura, general manager of networking at The Linux Foundation, takes us through the evolution of networking from its proprietary beginning. He describes the networking layers that make up the full stack and explains how technical capabilities like disaggregation, the software-defined phenomenon more broadly, and virtual functions have led to the big changes in the telco world and increasingly networking more broadly that we see today.

Listen to podcast MP3 [00:12:25]

Listen to podcast OGG [12:25]

Screen Shot 2018 03 14 at 2 36 05 PM

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Huawei Chief Strategy Officer Bryan Che talks the China market and open source


I worked for Bryan Che for my first seven years at Red Hat. We caught up with each other at the Open Source Leadership Summit in Sonoma. Bryan thought it would be interesting to share his observations and experiences on open source adoption in China, the China cloud market and cloud portability, and what it's like living in China. One of the interesting dynamics we discuss is that China is starting afresh in areas such as public clouds where, in the US, patterns were well-established before the current generation of open source software became available. 

Listen to podcast MP3 [00:22:26]

Listen to podcast OGG [00:22:26]


Gordon Haff:  Today I am joined at the Open Source Leadership Summit in Sonoma by Bryan Che. Bryan Che is actually the person who hired me on at Red Hat, about eight years ago.

He is now working at Huawei in ChinaHe's going to give us some insights about the China market, about open source in China, his personal experiences in China, and things in transformation. Welcome, Bryan.

Bryan Che:  Thanks, Gordon. It's great to see you again here, and a lot of old friends from Red Hat, as well as many new friends from the area.

Gordon:  Maybe you can start by introducing yourself, and tell us about your journey.

Bryan:  I'm currently the Chief Strategy Officer at Huawei. I'm working out in their headquarters in Shenzhen, China, which borders with Hong Kong and southern China. I was at Red Hat for 15 years. Before that, straight out of MIT, where I did my bachelor's and master's in computer science. Spent the last 20 odd years in Boston, and never figured I'd move overseas to work.

This was a really interesting opportunity to be able to work in open source software, but also in everything from consumer electronics, to telecommunications and hardware, and also see a lot of the things that were happening on the other side of the world. I'd read about it. I'd visited a few times ‑‑ on business trips and vacations ‑‑ but it's another thing to actually be in the midst of it, day by day.

Gordon:  We were talking the other night about the China market, and how it's so very different from ‑‑ it's probably fair to say ‑‑ every place else in the world. I thought it'd be interesting, now that you've had some time, some perspective...With your work, you've obviously spent a lot of time looking at it in depth.

What is the few‑minute‑or‑so summary of how you see the Chinese market around telecoms, around computing, around consumer apps...all of that kind of stuff?

Bryan:  I think one of the fascinating things for me that I've observed, is that technology space is really booming. A lot of the really high‑level themes are similar to what we've seen in the US, in Europe, and elsewhere. There's a big focus on digital transformation, on machine learning and AI, and IoT.

The way these technologies are evolving and being deployed is very, very different from what I've seen elsewhere. Just as one example in the public cloud space, we've had AWS and a lot of these other public clouds like Google and Microsoft and IBM and so on starting 10, 11 years ago in the US. It's a more recent market in China.

One of the things that's been really interesting for me as I've been working with our cloud business in terms of their public cloud strategy and what we do around open source is that if you had the opportunity to do public cloud again, now with 10 years hindsight and now with all these new open source technologies and architectures and microservices and Kubernetes and OpenStack, what would you do differently?

Being able to have the chance to do that in China where adoption is growing very, very quickly in the public cloud standpoint, but is still relatively new compared to the adoption in the US and other parts, it provides a really fun thought experiment as well as a way to be able to try new things.

On the other hand, we're also seeing because China doesn't have as much incumbent technology, in many cases, it's leapfrogging a lot of the things that I've experienced here in the US.

Just as one example, at Huawei, we've been working with some of the bike sharing companies like Ofo. If you come around Shenzhen or Shanghai or Beijing or any of the major cities around China, you'll see all these bikes everywhere.

They're just parked in the streets and not at a dock. One of the things that has become really popular is you can just pick up a bike, unlock it with your smartphone, ride it to somewhere else and then immediately drop it off there.

If you take a look at what they've had to enable from a digital standpoint to do those kinds of things, first off, they have to be able to track where all the bicycles are and so they built in all these new sensors and chipsets into them. They have to work indoors and congested areas. They've got to be able to work with their phones in an easy way to do mobile payments around that.

Then, you've got to be able to have the logistics necessary to manage OK, if they're not just going from a fixed point A to B, how do you manage all that?

These kinds of things where it's been sort of leading in China as opposed to first coming from the US over to the China market, it's interesting to see how digital technology is really changing a lot of people's lives in ways that are very different compared to other parts of the world.

Gordon:  It seems particularly when you talk about payment methods and things like that, there is a huge amount of inertia and custom and we've always done it this way. I always find it interesting even between countries in Europe, there's very different attitudes towards cash and credit cards and things like that.

Of course, the residents of any given country, whether it's the US or the UK or Sweden, just can't understand how messed up the rest of the world is compared to what's obviously the right thing. China's had an amazing transformation. Just really, I think, totally different from any place else in that regard.

Bryan:  Yeah. Most of the people that I interact with have gone completely cashless in Shenzhen and in Greater China. For example, just to give one story about how mobile payments has totally integrated, when I go to a restaurant, sitting on the restaurant table will be QR codes.

You scan the QR code and up shows the menu on your phone. There'll be pictures of all the dishes. Sometimes, there'll be reviews from other people. You just order the dishes straight from your phone.

Because there's a QR code for every single seat, the restaurant knows where you're sitting so the food just arrives at your table. You pay for the food directly on your phone, so you never have to get a bill and it just goes away.

The entire process of how do you get your food, how do you order it, how do you pay for it is totally streamlined and integrated into your phone. Afterwards, if you want to split the bill with somebody else, you can just send money from your phone to somebody else's.

There's ways to be able to have groups set up so you just automatically send money to everyone at the same time. It's really, really easy to be able to do all these things.

When you think about the US process, typically you pay by credit card, you have to add your tip, you've got to wait for somebody to bring your menu and order for you. It's taken a lot of the friction out of even just how do you sit down and order a meal.

Gordon:  I imagine it must be very frustrating for a lot of Silicon Valley startups because they can do the backend infrastructure for this sort of thing, but people just don't do it because habits are established. Let's switch to you personally.

What's it been like? This was a big change for you from Cambridge Massachusetts and Red Hat right out of school to moving to Hong Kong.

Bryan:  Yeah, it's been really different. It's been really fun. Hong Kong is a world‑class city with tons of food. Everyone who knows me knows that I like to go out and eat and sample things. Then, Shenzhen is a really fascinating city just with all the hyper growth and technology that's going on there.

Working within a Chinese company has also been different. Working in the US, of course, for example, everyone speaks English. All my communications were in English and emails.

Working at a Chinese company, the vast majority of my emails come across in written Chinese. My Mandarin, it's spoken Mandarin. It's not very good. I've actually become super dependent on machine learning and AI.

Huawei has built out its own internal machine learning trained translation tools. Every day, I'm sitting on those tools translating everything back and forth between Mandarin and English. That's been one change.

Other things, obviously, when I go to the company cafeteria, I'm not eating salad bars anymore every day but trying all sorts of other things like that. Some of the other ways that people work over there, the company cultural values I find a little bit different from the US.

Just one thing that really surprised me, in the US, every tech company talks about being customer‑centric. In the US, when we talk about being customer‑centric, that means we build the best product for our customers, we listen to them, we pay attention to them, we provide good customer support.

At Huawei, their number one priority is also being customer‑centric and being dedicated to customers. But when I started learning about what it means to be customer‑centric at Huawei, we have a very different view on that compared to any place I've seen in the US.

For example, all the stories that Huawei has started telling us when I went to orientation about what it means to be customer‑centric is things like during the Ebola crisis in Africa a few years ago, all the Huawei engineers voluntarily stayed behind and didn't evacuate because they wanted to keep the mobile communication infrastructures up and running in Africa.

Or during the tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis in Japan a few years ago, Huawei engineers were the very first ones to go back to Japan and Tokyo and other parts where the radiation was really high in order to reset up their infrastructure.

Huawei is able to be successful because they stick by their customers even at personal costs. It's about know how dedicated are you to your customer and how loyal are you to them when they talk about being customer‑centric.

A very, very different way of looking at the world, which I just found really surprising and fascinating.

Gordon:  We're at the Open Source Leadership Summit. Let's talk a little more about open source. What's the open source story in China?

Bryan:  Open source has been booming in China. Last year, for example, a lot of the key conferences by Linux Foundation...They started hosting parallel events over in Beijing, in Shanghai, and other places. Really, really, high attendance.

If you look at a lot of the companies, Huawei was one of the very, very early companies in to open source. Now it's amongst the top contributors to all the major projects, like Kubernetes, and OpenStack, and so on.

It's not just Huawei anymore. We're seeing a lot of other companies that are building their businesses using entirely open source technologies. Many of the Chinese companies are also starting to get involved in the open source community.

I know that when I was at Red Hat and working with you, we often met with a lot of different customers who were asking, "How do we get involved in open source? How do we contribute? How do we strategically adopt open source?"

I'm seeing those exact same conversations happening at many of the companies across China. Many of them are now starting to see open source is a very strategic way to build platforms because they're seeing all the innovations that can be possible and what happens as you start to collaborate together.

Gordon:  Do you see differences in the approach to open source? You mentioned earlier about cloud providers may be doing things a bit differently because they didn't have the 10 years of, "This is how we did things in 2006."

There's a lot of legacy carried forward because of that. When it comes to adopting open source, are you seeing different patterns in China compared to the US, given that it's fair to say, a lot of conservative US companies resisted open source for a long time. Some still are.

Bryan:  I actually think you'll see a higher percentage deployment of open source at many of these companies. Just to use public cloud as an example, the public cloud market, as I mentioned, is relatively nascent. There's many, many different companies also competing in the space, all building public clouds.

Unlike the US market, the vast majority of these public clouds are all built on open source, at the core, using OpenStack, for example. Most of the top clouds in China, whether from Huawei or from Tencent, or from China Mobile, and so on, they're all building on top of OpenStack which is not the case in the US where most of the public clouds preexisted, these open source technologies. They all built their own stuff.

That's just one example where you see, because these platforms came along a little bit later. Then when they saw that, "Hey, somebody's already invented this stuff in open source. Let's just take advantage of that, and then go and build the other things that matter to our customers."

You're starting to see default to open source in many of these places where it wasn't possible, markets where you had a longer term of no incumbency.

Gordon:  Of course, the fact that if you're buying proprietary software, you are probably going to have to buy a lot of it from US companies. I imagine that plays a role in open source as well.

Bryan:  Definitely. One of the great benefits of open source is that it puts you in control of your own destiny. Just like all the typical startups today in the US and elsewhere, open source is very natural for them.

It's very much a startup mentality almost, especially in Shenzhen where there's so many new businesses being formed all the time. There's pretty much a maker's mentality in terms of how do you hack hardware, and how do you hack software?

Open source does play along very, very nicely with a lot of that dynamic in terms of what people are trying to do.

Gordon:  You mentioned language, in your case, earlier on. How are you seeing that affecting...There are a variety of reasons why it's probably harder for someone in China or a company in China to fully interact with a number of the open source communities.

How do you see that playing out?

Bryan:  That can be one of the big challenges. I see both language as well as communication medium as one of the challenges. Obviously, English has become the de facto language everyone uses in open source.

If you come across it in China, it's a little bit uneven in terms of how fluent people are, being able to communicate in English, let alone be able to persuade, or evangelize, or say "This is why this commit should be good" or to take some of the leadership positions. The good thing is that the open source communities have, in general, been welcoming.

The other dynamic is a lot of the communication channels that people typically use in China, WeChat is dominant in terms of the major communication channels.

Then some of the other popular forms, like Twitter or Google, are not even accessible in China. It makes "How do you even connect with each other" a little more difficult at times. There's a couple things that have been happening.

One is that you're starting to see many of the open source foundations, like Linux Foundation here, set up. It's supporting infrastructure in China, a greater Asia‑Pacific, and so on to try to foster a lot of the communities.

One of the effects of that has been now you're starting to see pockets of projects that are initiated by collections of Chinese companies. Then coming into other parts of the world, instead of everything just happening from US, or Europe, or Latin America, or some other part, and then coming back into China.

I think that's good because now it means that contributions, and innovations, and leadership is coming from everywhere. I still think that there's a lot of things to be figured out in terms of how do you best incorporate people from all over the world into a community when the language, and communication mediums, and other things like that are just barriers.

Gordon:  What do you see ahead? You're doing strategy, without giving away any secrets. What are some of the things related to China broadly that you think people should be thinking about in looking out over the next few years? I'm not sure it makes much sense. In this industry, you don't talk about more than a few years.

Bryan:  Huawei, obviously. We're based in China, so we think a lot about China. Huawei is a very interesting company within there in that the vast majority of its business is actually overseas and not in mainland China, plus when I take a look strategically I think across a few different dimensions.

One is from our overall technology portfolio. How do we make it useful for everyone in the world? Obviously, we take advantage of the fact that a different market dynamics exists, whether in China, the UK, or Brazil, or something like that.

The good thing is that a lot of these macro trends around digital transformation, around technology, is like IoT, or machine learning and cloud computing. Those are the same things that are happening everywhere. It's more about, "What is the actual solution deployment that you get into these other areas?"

Based on that, there's a few things that we look at in terms of, "OK, how do we create a good baseline of technologies, or good platforms, that can support all these different areas?" Some of the principles that we think are very useful to build these generic platforms being open is hugely important.

This is why Huawei has invested so much in open source because if we want to go to these different markets and be able to have it adapt, the only way that's possible is to build on an open foundation, and to make it so that people can do what they want with it in their own individual markets.

We also take a look at how do we take the benefits of one market and bring it to the other. A good example is in public cloud. Huawei operates its own public cloud in China, as I mentioned, for the software built on OpenStack on top of the CMCF Stack, and so on.

Then Huawei also sells an OEM, this exact same technology platform to many of our partners around the world. For example, Deutsche Telecom or France Telecom. Telefonica, China Mobile, and many of these large Telcos around the world. All building the same public clouds and operating them in their local markets.

One of the reasons for this is that if you take a look at a lot of the existing public cloud today. The dominant one is in the US, for example, if you just look at AWS, and Microsoft, and Google. First off, Google's not even present in China.

If you look at Amazon and Microsoft, they're much weaker in the China market. They can't even operate their own data centers there.

What we think is the best approach is to say, "Well, let's let the specialists in their own geographies operate their own leading class, public clouds. Let's figure out a way so that everything works together, so that if you want to buy all your cloud capacity through Deutsche Telecom but you happen to be a multi‑national like Volkswagen.

Also, when you need to deploy into data centers in China, you can take advantage of a first‑class operator like Huawei, a first‑class operator in Germany, like DT, versus a cloud provider that happens to be strong in one market but relatively weak or non‑existent in another.

This is our approach to say, "How do we get the best local experience, but on that same technology platform, whether we operate it ourselves, or we resell it, and OEM it with others." It's using that shared platform, but then offering specialized experience to be able to deliver that in a best in class, local customer experience.

Gordon:  As you well know, that's something we see a lot at Red Hat. A lot of people go, "Oh. The public cloud market, that's AWS, Google, and Microsoft. If they're thinking more internationally, “there's a couple of people in China, too, whose names I forget.”

Obviously, we do a lot of business with regional Telcos, regional cloud providers running portable platforms, like OpenShift and, obviously, Red Hat Enterprise Linux

You do have this portable and transferrable experience among clouds in different regions, different countries, what have you.

Bryan:  Absolutely. This is one of the reasons why Red Hat and Huawei have both been partnering as well. Red Hat's open hybrid cloud strategy and portfolio around it, being able to enable customers to use open source technology so they can run their applications in all these different environments.

That's very consistent at Huawei as well as we're looking to enable these platforms to run workloads like Red Hat and others around the world. We very much believe as well that being open and being able to give customers that flexibility and the best in class experience. However they want to use it, that's the most critical thing.


Podcast: Open source past, present, and future with the Linux Foundation's Jim Zemlin


Jim Zemlin carved some time out of his busy schedule to sit down with me at the Open Source Leadership Summit in early March 2018. I’ve known Jim since he took this role when the Linux Foundation was formed by the merger of the Free Standards Group and the Open Source Development Labs in 2000, right around the time that I became an industry analyst. 

In this podcast, Jim reflects back on how Linux and open source have evolved, the lessons he and the Linux Foundation (where he is the executive director) have learned, and why open source has become so pervasive. He talks about “the defeatism of free-riding” and how over time, the recognition that there’s business value in collectively-developed software has become increasingly widespread.

Listen to the podcast MP3 [00:18:10]

Listen to the podcast OGG [00:18:10]


Gordon Haff:  I'm very pleased to be here at the Open Source Leadership Summit with Jim Zemlin who has taken time out of his very, very, very packed schedule here. He's the Executive Director of the Linux Foundation.

Jim, you headed the Free Standards Group until it merged with the Open Source Development Labs to become the Linux Foundation. That was clearly a very different time for open source, generally, and Linux, in particular. I'm probably showing my age as well that I probably met Jim right when he took this position.

Can you describe your involvement early on, how you thought about open source at the time, and how things have changed since then?

Jim:  I grew up in the computing industry, to some degree. My father was a computer programmer growing up. My grandfather was a programmer, oddly. He was also one of the founders of the company called Cray Research, and that's just been part of my blood.

The funny thing is that this job combines something that's technical with something that was a big influence on my grandmother's side. She was a single mom of my father and my uncle. My uncle, who's mentally disabled, and in 1953 she started the first vocational education nonprofit for adults with developmental disabilities.

When you see someone working at, maybe, a restaurant or somewhere that have these developmental disabilities, my grandmother started this organizational opportunity workshop to help them find opportunities and live their lives in a meaningful way.

It was this combination of two huge influences, the nonprofit work and technology. For me, that's what was the appeal of getting into this. Now having said that, I do recall at the same time meeting my ‑‑ now ‑‑ wife for the first time, and having her ask me what I did for a living and say, "Well, I work at this nonprofit and it's technology. It's all open source. Everyone shares everything." The look of disappointment on her face was just palpable.

Since then, our organization, which I consider this supporting cast in open source and Linux and the projects we work on, has certainly grown. Much more importantly, open source as a way of collectively innovating and creating incredible technology has grown exponentially.

It's now part and parcel to how almost every technology, product, and service is built.

Gordon:  You started out in Linux. Really, what we've seen over the last number of years has been this morphing from everything's about Linux. Of course, there have been other projects, like Apache, and so forth for a long time.

Still, there was this centrality of Linux to everything. It's obviously still very important. You employ Linus, and so forth. The Linux Foundation and the industry more broadly has come to be about so many other forms of open source.

What was the point, as executive director of the Linux Foundation, did you come to realize or to start making a real effort to broaden the Linux Foundation to encompass all these other things?

Jim:  Yeah, it happened. Good timing and luck beats any grand strategy every time. It started when open source as, again, a more mainstream innovation platform, started taking off in the tech sector. I would have organization after organization come to me.

They didn't want to talk about Linux, they wanted to talk about the process about how open source works or what the legal frameworks were. They were no longer wondering whether or not Linux itself, as a technology, was good, or secure, or reliable, or scalable.

They were no longer concerned about whether or not open source was an important thing or of high value as a way to innovate. They wanted the specific playbook. They wanted the detailed instructions on "How do I take code, co‑develop it with, maybe, my competitors or my peers.

"What licenses should I choose? What do those legal licenses mean so that I can share effectively? How do I build an engineering organization that can work both internally and externally to my particular firm? How do I build an open source project with thousands of people? How do I make that scalable?"

They wanted that. Of course, Linux was the quintessential existence proof of good open source projects. Because of that, we started to say, "Hey, if we can take some of the best things around Linux, and the processes, and the methodologies and lend them to other technologies that would of super high value."

To some degree, we got dragged into it. Then over a number of years, we've just been improving how we help grow open source projects, whether it's Kubernetes, or Hyperledger, or Node.js, or others to create massive ecosystems around them.

In retrospect, Linux proves to be one of the more exceptional unique projects [laughs] in terms of how it's organized and how it's run, and so forth. We started, in terms of lending the best practices of Linux, to create these big ecosystems around different technologies.

Different open source projects have proven to be less and less of those practices and more of just borrowing from the great comments of the open source community in terms of how to run these.

Gordon:  What's, maybe, the biggest couple of lessons you think you've learned in the last 10 years or however many years, things that have surprised you, things that you didn't expect, things that caused you to revisit your assumptions?

Jim:  I mean, humility is something that you certainly have to have in this particular role myself. That's the personal lesson that I've learned over 10 years or more than that, I guess, about 15 years now. Is that being in the background leading through influence, being the supporting cast, letting people rise to the greatness that's in them through these great projects, and not taking credit for any that work, showcasing those people, whether it's a developer or an attorney who's moved the needle on convincing their firm to participate in open source in a big meaningful way.

It's the most important part of what I have learned is that at the foundation we have this saying, and it's part of our culture, of being humble, hopeful, and helpful. It's what we need to do. The humility is we're not the rock stars, or the folks who create all the value. It's developers and folks who invest in these communities and create incredible technology products and services from them.

The hopeful part is, I'll tell you, almost every project we start, many people tell me that it will never work and that we're doing everything wrong. [laughs] If you're not optimistic, it certainly can be very, very difficult.

Then the helpful part is just what we do. We're facilitators in bringing together now over a thousand organizations from all over the world and tens of thousands of developers to work on modernizing the world's mobile networks.

Or using open source technology to manage the Walmart's food supply chain, or creating an automotive system for 20 million production vehicles. We're not going to actually do that. Developers and companies, like Toyota, who make automobiles and roll them out by the millions are the ones who are responsible for that.

That lesson of humility, and optimism, and helpfulness is what I think is the most important one for me, at least.

Gordon:  Let's look forward. I've been going to these events for a long time. My impression is that for quite a few of those years you and others in the Linux Foundation almost felt a need to celebrate open source and Linux and send the message that, "Look, this stuff's really important, and these are all these great stats about it."

Your keynote yesterday was interesting because it was like, "We don't need to do that any longer, but we're not perfect. We're not there. We need to keep improving." You talked to the audience about where some of the areas you think open source still has work to do."

Jim:  Again, no one needs to be convinced these days that open source is doing great, although I will say I do like to indulge in talking about how great it is every now and then. It's part of the job.

What I showed yesterday, I mentioned that these are intentionally detailed slides that I'm showing. There's a lot of very detailed methodology behind the interplay of building a community that is a great upstream to a downstream industry that is taking this code and using it.

It doesn't necessarily have to be for‑profit, it can be governments. We saw the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, today talking about how they're using open source to share big data to help with climate change and help with our oceans.

At the same time, we saw a commercial company Change Healthcare which manages two‑thirds of the medical claims in the United States using open source Hyperledger to make that process work.

We need a detailed way to say, "Upstream to create an ecosystem of knowledgeable developers from many diverse backgrounds solving a meaningful problem, sharing intellectual property, providing some form of consistency and conformance of those projects so that they can be downstream consumed in these wonderful ways. It's something that's detailed.

"We can improve upon in terms of the speed in which those ecosystems can grow. Then the pace at which they can be consumed and reinvested back in."

I was intentionally detailed because we can always get better at, for example, how do we create more secure code in upstream projects? How do we take the responsibility of this code being used in important systems that impact the privacy or the health of millions of individuals? These are always areas that we can improve in.

This event where you have the actual people who make the decisions about what code goes into what particular projects and the community leaders who are maintainers at these huge open source projects to get together and collaborate on how we can improve those things.

Again, whether it's cybersecurity, whether it's new licenses for sharing large data sets, whether it's ways to automate the sharing of AI models that have been trained for various purposes and can be reused effectively across different competitors or peers.

Those are all the things we can improve in. That was the detail that matters. All the rest is typical Zemlin hyperbole about how great open source is. People have seen that movie before.

Gordon:  Open source is interesting today. You have this loose confederation of companies that are working together, contributing to the commons individually, any of these companies could pull back and free ride on what others are doing. Arguably, some do more than they should.

How do you see this going forward? Is this a new type of business relationship, or has it always existed?

Jim:  I'll tell you over 10 years ago, a lot of my personal time, and a lot of time of our organization, was spent convincing organizations of the defeatism of free riding in open source projects.

We had written white papers on why it would be important to open source your device drivers for Linux, and showed the actual business value of having collectively maintained in open drivers as opposed to trying to maintain some random proprietary driver, and so forth.

We would explain the futility of just forking an open source project and not sharing your changes back so much to the degree to which you've defeated the whole purpose in terms of collective value. You're now, basically, supporting your own proprietary fork, whether or not it's open source. It doesn't matter at that point. No one understands it but you.

The epiphany that many companies have had over the last three to four years, in particular, has been, "Wow. If I have processes where I can bring code in, modify it for my purposes, and then, most importantly, share those changes back, those changes will be maintained over time.

"When I build my next project or a product, I should say, that project will be in line with, in a much more effective way, the products that I'm building.

"To get the value, it's not just consumed, it is to share back and that there's not some moral obligation, although I would argue that that's also important. There's an actual incredibly large business benefit to that as well." The industry has gotten that, and that's a big change.

Gordon:  Over a relatively short period of time, I would argue, at least, in the broad landscape this recognition that open source is not this hippy thing, but that it does deliver business value for companies.

Jim:  This morning it was such a fun session where we had Mark Russinovich, the CTO of Microsoft Azure, talking about how important open source is to the AI platforms they're building and how they're using open source to diagnose pneumonia in children.

You heard the least hippy, at least, from my perspective, company in the United States, Home Depot, talking about how important open source is, not just to building their tools to help automate the systems that help run Home Depot. But to hire developers that want to come work at Home Depot, if they're seen as an open source company.

NOAA, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration is just a very old and non‑hippy, very conservative organization. You hear them talking about how important open source is for them and how important it is for allowing them to share the petabytes of data that they have with the world.

We've thoroughly crossed over into the non‑hippy part, although I will say there is a special place in my heart that will live forever for the antiestablishment sensibility that is represented in the open source movement ‑‑ the questioning of people's assumptions, the demand for sharing.

All of those things, those iconoclastic and what some people would consider antiestablishment sensibilities are now mainstream. Maybe, the world's a little better off with some of that hippiness in the mainstream now.

Podcast: Containers and Kubernetes with Chris Aniszczyk

Chris Aniszczyk Cloud Native Foundation

Chris Aniszczyk is the Executive Director of the Open Container Initiative. In this podcast, recorded at the Open Source Leadership Summit in 2018, Chris speaks to me about the role of container standardization, what's coming next with the OCI, and how open source collaboration changes at scale. Also on this podcast, Kubernetes graduates in the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), how companies like Red Hat create products such as OpenShift using projects under the CNCF and elsewhere, and the need to tailor approaches for individual open source communities.

Listen to podcast MP3 [00:19:17]

Listen to podcast OGG [00:19:17]


Gordon Haff: We talked at the last Open Source Leadership Summit. We're going to review a little bit about what has changed since then, where things stand right now, but I'm going to spend most of this podcast talking with Chris about the role that OCI plays and the broader landscape in how the sorts of things that the Open Container Initiative does plays into open source more broadly.

Chris Aniszczyk: I can give a little bit of an update about where we are with OCI. For folks who aren't familiar, we founded OCI a little over two and a half years ago with the express purpose of bringing some very basic, minimal container standards to prevent an issue at the time where people feared that we would have multiple competing container run‑times that were diverging.

If you built a container for one system and tried to move clouds or something, you'd have to rebuild everything. Essentially, it would kill portability, it would kill the whole momentum around us pushing forward cloud‑native and container‑computing forwards.

The OCI was founded with Docker, Core OS, Red Hat, Microsoft, a lot of the major cloud providers, AWS, Google, and so on, to build these minimal standards. We've, in my opinion, been very successful. It's taken a little while, but mid‑last year, we had our first 1.0 release.

It's been great to see that finally happen, which basically blessed two specific ‑‑ we call them "specifications." We are somewhat of a standards body, but more of a modern standards body, is the best way I like to describe it. We're very much a code‑first organization, when it comes to things with trailing specs.

We coalesced around two specifications. One was the run‑time, which is how do you execute a start‑stop lifecycle of a container, and then the image spec, which is the underlying image format of how a container is packaged.

We hit 1.0, and every major cloud provider and any company that is running containers is adhering and taking advantage of the OCI specification. It's been a great journey to see the adoption happen naturally. I'm very stoked to see that.

In terms of what's going on for this year, recently we just announced...Every year we have elections around our Technical Oversight Board. The OCI TOB is responsible for adding projects, making any crazy changes in directions, and so on.

We had a bit of a shuffling, and now, of those nine members, we have folks from Red Hat, Microsoft, Docker, IBM, Google, and even the honorable Greg KH from the kernel team are on the Technical Oversight Board. It's great to mix of folks there.

We're also adding some new members in the coming weeks. Some different cloud providers in China and a container project called Kata Containers is joining. We'll be adhering and supporting OCI within that project.

In terms of what's next, let's see. There's a lot of discussion in the OCI community to add something called a "distribution specification." Now that we've nailed the run‑time and image bits, how do we fetch containers? How do we distribute them?

There's a lot of different container registries out there. They all have similar APIs, but there's been a bit of incompatibility between them. The community is proposing to take parts of the Docker V2 registry API spec that's already there, make some improvements, get the final input from the community, and bless that as a specification.

Gordon:  Thanks. That was great rundown of where we are. I'm going to take things up maybe 20,000 feet now and talk about the philosophy here and how it pervades open source more broadly.

You talked about the specific motivations behind starting OCI, but let's take that up a level about what's the general problem in open source that OCI was trying to address that may exist in other places, as well?

Chris: If you saw Jim's keynote today, the whole interest around open source collaboration sustainability. When you're dealing with a lot of different companies, a lot of mutual self‑interests, you do need a neutral setting where they can all come together, collaborate in software, and agree to a set of rules and ensure that there is a fair playing field for everyone.

OCI, and even other open source foundations under the Linux Foundation like CNCF, help guarantee that for projects and companies. That there is a fair playing field, so one company doesn't take advantage of another.

It's business at the end of the day. It's all mutual self‑interest, everyone's out for themselves. Foundations like OCI exist to ensure that things are fair and that projects are supported in a neutral way. I think that's a problem space that OCI and other efforts apply in the Linux Foundation.

Gordon:  In some ways, these are, at least, potential problems that are growing out of scale and out of success, that when open source was a fairly small thing and a relatively small set of communities, everyone knew each other, and this kind of thing wasn't as big a problem.

At one level, open source, generally, has certainly helped. You'll never solve the collaboration problem, people are people. It's certainly helped the collaboration problem in general, but it seems as if we're seeing that there needs to be more process around collaboration, open source, that things like OCI can address.

Chris:  To me, it's all about fairness. Humans and businesses innately want things to be fair and will call things out otherwise. Foundations and efforts like the OCI help establish those rules, so companies feel comfortable collaborating. It's all about establishing that initial level of trust. If people and companies trust each other within the projects, good work will happen.

The other thing that Jim also alluded a little bit today in his keynote was open source has done extremely well. We've come a long way since those Linux days, "Microsoft's the evil empire," all those fun jokes you had. Microsoft's a huge adopter of open source now. It's incredible to see how the company has changed.

We have this cool effort within the Linux Foundation called The Automotive Grade Linux, where a bunch of companies ‑‑ Toyota and so on ‑‑ are getting together to collaborate, to bring open source to vehicles and cars. It's a whole new industry being impacted by open source.

We're going to see other let's call them "industry verticals," for lack of a better word, starting to embrace and take advantage of open source. I spend a small portion of my job helping companies, through the Linux Foundation, come and learn how to build an open source program or how to build an open source strategy for the company.

I'm seeing industries out of left field, that you're like, "Why is film interested in open source? Why is pharma?" They really want to do something with open source?

It's just incredible to see that interest in other verticals out there, where companies are like, "Look, let's find ways to collaborate." A lot of the stuff that we do isn't how we're generating our business value, it's some commodity that we need to get our business done. Let's collaborate on that and then focus on the business value.

That's the trend I think you'll continue to see in the future.

Gordon:  This seems to be the really dramatic change over the last few years. I'm writing this book on open source. Historically, there was so much attention being paid to things like licenses, to things like being able to view source code, to having free distribution, that kind of thing. Originally, there wasn't much attention paid to this coordination and collaboration.

Chris:  Licensing and all that is table stakes. That's a requirement to get the gears going for collaboration, but there's whole aspects around values, coordination, governance. One of the hacks that we came up with ‑‑ at least, in the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, in CNCF ‑‑ was not to prescribe one explicit governance model for projects.

We give them the choice to craft their own, as long as it's transparent and fair. I think that's the reality, that each open source project is different. They have their own unique needs. Like the Tolstoy principal for open source, "Each project is unhappy in its unique own way." You trying to prescribe one way for them to solve things, potentially leads to ruin, in my opinion.

I think the whole custom crafting of governance and allowing projects to evolve that over time as they grow has been a great thing, a lesson learned for us.

Gordon:  Looking forward, the OCI, this idea of creating a standard syscall layer, if you would, for other aspects of the open source world, where are some things, if you look out there, that there's benefits to a similar type of approach?

Chris:  That's a great question. Obviously, in OCI I mentioned the distribution of containers as a specific problem that we want to standardize, and within the OCI context further than that. I'm not sure where things will go. There's been discussions around maybe standardizing the way containers are built. There's many different ways to do that.

Outside of OCI, I don't know. I think there's been [laughs] many efforts within this industry to standardize on certain things. It's a mixed road of failure and successes. Some of us may remember the LSB ‑‑ [laughs] Linux Standard Base ‑‑ and where that went.

The idea was noble, but sometimes these things don't necessarily succeed. I'm sure we'll see other efforts, at least in the Linux Foundation, around this.

Gordon:  I think, as maybe you've alluded to, we do have this idea of standards coming out of code, rather than establishing standards these days.

Chris:  To me, that's probably the biggest change. The archetype of the traditional standards organization, where you have a bunch of architects locked in a room, drawing pictures and diagrams. I think that's dead.

I think what we're going to transition to is, where we're going to go, to these organizations, where they're like OCI. They do have the traditional model that exists in a standards organization, but they are a code‑first organization.

There is no cabal meeting of architects drawing pictures and then sending this message from high‑up high, "Go implement this." That's just not how it works anymore. I think standards organizations are realizing this, and I think OCI is a trendsetter in setting how a modern standards organization should work.

Gordon:  In one of the keynotes this morning, we talked about Kubernetes and the idea that the extensibility points really evolve out of the code.

Chris:  Kubernetes has evolved significantly. They've evolved their governance. Their values have shifted a little bit. I give them a lot of credit, they have listened to their end‑users and community, more so than probably any other project that I've interact with. They've been very thoughtful, and they should be very proud of graduating today, which was another big announcement.

Gordon:  I confess to, given how many customers [laughs] that are getting Kubernetes in production today, I'm like, "What? They hadn't graduated?"

Chris:  I know. It's funny, but you have to remember, both OCI and CNCF, they're about two and a half years old. When we started CNCF, we didn't have a Technical Board. We didn't have the TOC, we had to bootstrap that. When the TOC was established six months later, "OK, we need a development process," and that takes a while.

We're constantly evolving these things. I would say about a year ago, we settled on a graduation and development process, and we're like, "OK, it's there. Let's see how projects will progress before we start asking projects to graduate."

We eventually reached out to Kubernetes, once they recently established their steering committee ‑‑ we were waiting for that ‑‑ and they decided that, "Yeah, things look great! We should formally apply to graduate." The TOC gladly accepted it, voted, and approved.

I think it's a great sign, reflects on the maturity of where CNCF as an organization. That we have a good graduation and development process, but it took a while to make that. We had to create this stuff on our own. We definitely learned from other foundations out there, but we had to create it on our own and put our own spin on it.

Gordon:  I think a lot of people out there would like to hear, "Here's the playbook. Here's how you do open source," and it just doesn't work that way.

Chris:  I wish there was a playbook. From my experience at the Linux Foundation, like I said, each open source project is unhappy in its own way. Creating custom governance, custom bylaws, and how these communities coordinate and interact? It's what the Linux Foundation does. You cannot just have one way to do things.

There are other successful efforts out there, like Apache and the Apache way. I've been involved in the Eclipse Foundation, there was the Eclipse way and development process. To me it's just hard to prescribe one specific solution for all projects to adopt, because every project has its own unique needs, depending on the business and users and so on.

Our work at the Linux Foundation is all catering to those needs and providing the best possible solution for them.

Gordon:  You're saying your work is never done? [laughs] That's probably a good end.

Chris:  We're busy. We're extremely busy. For me, it's interesting, because I wear multiple hats at the LF. Working on the OCI, that's a very constrained focus base. CNCF, obviously, we have grown and expanded from just one project, Kubernetes, to now 16, and ever‑growing.

It reflects how Cloud Native has taken the industry by storm. People really want to take advantage of some of the lessons learned from Google and other Internet‑scale giants, because they themselves are trying to take advantage of the needs or they're becoming software companies themselves.

We had discussions with the Automotive Grade Linux folks like, "Great! They're working together on packaging software in cars and the integrated console and work together." They're like, "Holy crap, we're going to need a cloud to back this. Where are we going to go for this?"

I'm like, "The CNCF, the Cloud Native folks, they've figured this out, so why don't we leverage that?" To me, it's just great to see that level of collaboration and interest.

Gordon:  The CNCF, over the last year, is pretty amazing. I did a podcast with Dan Kohn, the Executive Director, at Open Source Leadership Summit last year. At the time, Kubernetes was obviously in there, and I think Prometheus had just been established. That was it.

Chris: I know. We had just two projects, a barely‑formed Technical Board and process, and it's amazing to see. Today's, like I said, a very special day for a lot of us who have been involved with the foundation in the beginning, including those folks on the TOC.

It's great to see Kubernetes graduate. I'm excited to kick off a vote soon for Prometheus, which was our second project. They're a very important project within the ecosystem. It integrates not only with Kubernetes, but to be honest, many people use Prometheus, even without Kubernetes, for all sorts of things.

It's a very useful tool in the Cloud Native space, but it is also a very mature project. [laughs]

Gordon:  Probably should wrap up, but projects within CNCF, among other places, are such a great example of how open source creates this environment where someone can come up with a new, distributive tracing tool ‑‑ logging, monitoring, whatever ‑‑ and that stuff can all work together very modularly.

Chris:  Absolutely. One of the key lessons we learned when we were starting CNCF was we didn't want to force the integration. If you look at the new interactive landscape and the cute little trail map we launched today, the whole point of that is to state that each project independently works on its own.

Some companies, like Red Hat, are free to integrate them and build a cool product like OpenShift with, but in general, there is no forced integration. The integration happens by our members building products and serving end‑users. There is no forced train or thing to say, "All projects must work together."

The key hack for us was, let the end‑users and members build useful things for end‑use and have that dictate how things are integrated and work together. I think it's working out.