OpenSource: A Discussion with the Linux Foundation


OpenSource is a series where we discuss technology and innovation with thought leaders and the various ways information, data and platforms are influencing financial markets.

In the fall of 2008, CME Group continued its ongoing leadership in technology by joining the Linux Foundation based out of San Francisco.  I have been deeply involved in our Linux efforts, which we began exploring in 2003 and deployed in 2004, and during that time we have been able to learn and integrate some incredible solutions like we have done with Red Hat. Acting as the company’s representative to the Linux Foundation, I have enjoyed an incredible amount of teamwork and collaboration from the many people representing various industries. Last week I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Jim Zemlin, Executive Director of the Linux Foundation to discuss the current state of open source software and what’s ahead.


The Linux operating system has been around for 20 years and the community around it seems stronger than ever. What do you think has made it so successful?

Two words: the community. From the Linux kernel developers, including Linux creator Linus Torvalds, to the companies who underwrite much of its development to the Linux users who are pushing the limits on technology every day, there is no other technology collaboration that can compare. It is the largest collaborative development project in the history of computing, and everyone involved is highly invested in it.


Linux is used in everything from embedded devices to large electronic trading systems. How do you ensure that features added for one use case don’t negatively impact another? For example, performance issues that may affect our industry?

Features added to benefit one use case almost always benefit another use case. Power management is a great example. Improvements to energy management made for large data centers significantly help device makers who also care deeply about battery life. The great thing about Linux is you can change it, customize it for your needs and share your changes with the community. If those changes don’t suit you, you don’t have to implement them.


How much choice is there practically speaking for a large enterprise in terms of supported Linux distribution? It seems that there are only a very small number of dominant players.

Linux hands down offers more choice than any other operating system. Today there are a handful of large enterprise Linux distros from which to choose but with the innovation that is taking place in the community with distributions like Linux Mint and CentOS and so many more, choice will only continue to increase. More large Linux distributions will emerge. And, savvy Linux users can create their own, custom versions of Linux with support from the Linux kernel community. That’s a lot of choice.


Are IT careers in Linux still in high demand? And what has changed about today’s open source worker from a few years ago?

The demand just keeps going up. We as a community and an industry are having a difficult time meeting the demand frankly. This year’s Linux Jobs Report showed that 93 percent of hiring managers would be looking for Linux professionals in 2013 but that 90 percent believed it would be hard to find qualified candidates. This is an amazing opportunity for Linux developers and sysadmins.

The Linux Foundation offers a variety of training opportunities to help professionals learn more about Linux. We also host events where people can network, attend training onsite and learn more about open source projects to which they can contribute or in which they can get involved.  There is no better way to get started in a Linux/oss career than to start working on a project today.

I think what has changed about today’s open source worker compared to a few years ago is their increasingly high profile within their organizations. Both executive leadership and peers look to their colleagues who know open source for information and knowledge not just about development but about business strategy. If you know open source and contributed to open source projects, you’re going to be visible within your organization and your knowledge is going to be highly valued.


The foundation recently released a report on the open cloud. As open source projects emerge to support the cloud what surprised you the most from the report’s results?


The report is titled “Understanding the Open Cloud” and is really a directory of open cloud projects that companies might be evaluating and in which they are considering contributing or investing. We hope it can helpful. What we think is significant about this space is how the cloud is being built from the ground up with open source software and how these projects are leading innovation. It’s a far cry from how software was built to meet new complexities in the enterprise a decade ago when a proprietary solution would hit the market and an open source alternative would pop up to offer the same benefits. Today, open source leads.


So what is the foundation looking at and what’s next for open source?

Linux is more ubiquitous than ever and so the services we provide industry and community to advance, protect and promote Linux remain very important to our members. Linux powers eight out of 10 financial trades; it runs the world’s supercomputers, public transportation systems, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and Google. Linux powers the software that runs our lives.

What’s next for open source software is being out front every time. It is allowing companies to innovate at higher levels of the software stack where they can differentiate and deliver new products, services, applications and experiences for consumers and customers. Open source is no longer the “alternative; it’s the first choice every time. This will lead to more and more collaborative development among groups of companies from distinctly different industries that need to accelerate technology and address complex technical challenges to transform a market.

Vinod Kutty is senior director and tech specialist for enterprise server platforms at CME Group.

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