Q&A: How open source is shaking up the IT landscape
Open source advocate Arturo Suarez discusses open source technology and changes in the industry
Open source software has become a critical player in the IT world, where 96 percent of commercial applications now include some kind of open source component. Open source technology gives users unprecedented freedom to tailor source code to specific needs and share new versions with other users. The results of this dynamic, open collaboration can be found everywhere, from operating systems and programming languages to IT infrastructure and architectural design.
Arturo Suarez built the first commercial distribution of OpenStack, a free and open source software platform for cloud computing, and pioneered a build-operate-transfer model that helps companies worldwide consume open infrastructure. Who better to ask about open source — where it started, challenges that have emerged and where it’s headed next.
You call yourself an open source advocate. What does that mean?
Arturo: I like to see software enabling innovation rather than restricting it. Using open source sparks innovation and freedom of choice; it values collaboration in solving common problems, all at a much faster speed than commercial, proprietary software. Advances in research fields, communications, enterprise competitiveness, artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictability tools all benefit from rapid innovation.
How would you describe your experiences with OpenStack and with Kubernetes?
Arturo: OpenStack has gone from a very niche project to the open cloud infrastructure for many different industries. At scale, OpenStack makes economic sense for virtualized workloads.
Kubernetes, on the other hand, is winning the container orchestration race. As with OpenStack, I got involved in Kubernetes from the very beginning. Kubernetes evolves even faster than OpenStack, with releases every three months, and has a better governance model and adoption curve. But Kubernetes is not a great fit for everything, nor does everything fit in Kubernetes. That’s where open infrastructure comes into play.
Can you talk a little more about open infrastructure?
Arturo: Open infrastructure redefines the traditional hybrid cloud, where you would combine private and public infrastructure for your workloads. Open infrastructure integrates different substrates (containers, serverless, virtualization, bare metal) defined by software that enables companies to find the best fit in terms of networking, compute and storage capabilities for each of their applications. As with software paving the way for (rather than restricting) innovation, open infrastructure does the same thing for the application layer.
What are some of the biggest challenges you see clients facing with open technologies? Has that changed significantly over the past five years?
Arturo: Even in the most traditional industries, companies are moving away from using monolithic products to gain better insights, competitiveness, flexibility and cost efficiencies. Open source software provides a range of options to choose from, but that comes with the continuous effort of navigating all the options and changing the internal mindset to get granular.
There seems to be a better understanding now of open source software as a toolkit to build products rather than a product itself. I’m seeing more and more companies pioneering their own projects and creating open source practices within their development teams.
There’s also the challenge of limited and fragmented support, especially if the organization is relying on the open source community for answers rather than supplementing with designated support resources. When designing products using open source software, you should always have the goal of maintainability and day-two operations. When you are combining different projects with different release cycles, different security vulnerabilities and different upgrade paths, automation and support are key. That’s what open source support is about — consultative support that gives customers peace of mind about the pieces of software they run their businesses on.
Any thoughts on the biggest disruptors in open technology?
Arturo: We are in the process of adopting containers at scale, moving from early adopters to the early majority at a great speed. That fast adoption is also supported by the implementation of DevOps, which allows applications to be changed faster and more often. Over the next few years, I think the biggest disruption technologies will be artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain — all built mainly on open source technology.