Linux Foundation’s Collaboration Summit

Today was the first day of the inaugural Linux Foundation's Collaboration Summit. In case you don’t remember the Linux Foundation was formed as merger of the Open Source Development Labs and the Free Standards Group. The Collaboration Summit represents the first face-to-face meeting of the members of this new consortium. For many members that were previously very active in the OSDL there has been a lot of anticipation and anxiety about how the new organization will represent all the Linux community – those of us in the Device Software market as well as the mainstream Enterprise market.

I have to say this first day has been a very pleasant surprise. There have been some really good panel and keynote presentations. In particular the first panel included the prominent kernel maintainers and kernel developers including Andrew Morton, James Bottomley, Chris Wright, Ted Tso and Greg KH. Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu Linux, gave the keynote discussion.

Other panels included a vendor panel and a panel discussing some of the legal and business issues around Open Source and GPL.

One of the common threads I noticed throughout the day was an open
discussion about just how “Commercial Ready” the Linux kernel is
today. It was particularly interesting to hear Andrew describe the
current kernel.org (2.6.21) model of development as “creating a
technology which others will then productize.” The kernel panel went
on to state that the rapid rate of change created an environment where
they “need the vendors to tell us how good the product is.” One of
the developers mentioned that there could be as many as 2000 lines of
code per day that are changed or added. How can any single commercial
company keep up with that and still focus on developing their
revenue-generating applications. This is precisely the value that a commercial Linux
distributor such as Wind River provides to our customers. In fact it is
even more important and relevant for Wind River as we productize Linux
for other architectures besides just the x86-based architectures.

Mark Shuttleworth further expanded on this thread by mentioning that
while the Linux community has good tools and significant maturity in
collaborating within a given project, that it is less mature in
collaboration between multiple projects. Again this is precisely the
reason that companies developing applications should rely on commercial
quality Linux so they can be certain that all the different components
of a Linux distribution; tools, kernel, drivers, file systems,
middleware, etc all work together, dependencies have been resolved and
everything is well integrated. Another key thread of the various
discussions was the need for stability and how important it was not to
fork the kernel. Nearly every one of the developers stated how
important it was that distributions adopt a strategy of not including
patches into their distributions unless they are relatively certain
those patches are on a trajectory to be included in the mainline kernel
downstream (in a future version of Linux). Now of course there is never
any guarantee that any given patch will be accepted, but there is
usually a pretty good consensus in the community whether a particular
technology or project will be targeted for mainstream. This policy of
only adopting mainstream patches has always been a cornerstone of Wind
River’s Linux strategy. The last thing we want to do is leave our
customers stranded on a patch or a piece of technology that no one in
the community wants to adopt or support.

The last panel of the day was end-users discussing why they moved to
Linux. Now these customers were primarily Enterprise and IT based
customers, but their discussions could easily apply to any organization
developing Linux solutions. When asked why they choose Linux for their
organizations, each answer was different, yet they are consistent with
my experiences over the last several years talking companies making the
Linux decision. One speaker representing a large search-engine company
indicated their reason for choosing Linux was choice and control of
their destiny. A reason I hear quite often. Another, representing a
residential security company, indicated they needed to standardize
across all their systems. Essentially it was about standards. He went
on to indicate that his company had not really seen a lot of cost
savings, that implementing Linux, in the end, was probably the same as
implementing a proprietary solution. But the benefit of having
standards interfaces, standard applications was a key benefit. Finally
one panelist did suggest that his company was seeing cost savings with
Linux.

One of the key take-aways from this day was that Linux has certainly
come of age; nearly every organization is using it in some capacity.
But perhaps most important is that most companies are not going it
alone. There is tremendous value in using a commercial distribution
vendor to provide a consistent roadmap; support, quality and validation
and distribution vendors provide a key service in the ecosystem and the
community.