Your interviewer is David Mertz: This is David Mertz reporting on OSCON 2011 for IBM developerWorks. In this first podcast I'll do for the conference, I had an opportunity to speak to Edd Dumbill, director of the conference as a whole, and he had many interesting things to say about the program at the conference as well as to technology directions of open source in general.
Dumbill: I think there were two key ways in which the conferences were changed. One is tracking the whole idea of open source and openness as it kind of ripples out from software and affects different spheres of our lives.
So if you track, for instance, over the last three years, we started an open hardware track, which three or four years ago you're thinking, well, okay, this is a bunch of nerds who are interested in soldering and you know, this kind of strange Italian thing called the Arduino.
Fast forward to this year, where, you know, Arduino is a massive success and chosen by Google as the platform for the Android accessories; and, open compute where Facebook, you know, basically releasing specs. This is how you go about go and build a data center, you know, machine and so on. So open hardware has graduated into, you know, a very important area.
And in similar ways, this year we're just starting off in a small way with open science and particularly DIY science. And kind of again the hobbyists and tinkerers and the people on the edge are looking at open source science. And I expect that to grow ... health is a second [INAUDIBLE] with an open source health track, and that's known which open source is able to really change the game.
Mertz: I had an opportunity to speak with Edd as well about the Java™ subtrack.
Dumbill: At first it's less interesting about Java language and a lot more interesting about Java the platform, the JVM. Today with big data and cloud driving the kind of architectures we're looking at in the future, the programmer is, plus the whole devops phenomenon that we cover in Velocity but also in OSCON where your deployment is becoming a much more programmable, automatable thing.
Programmers need to care less and less about the deployment side of things and in encapsulated environments, deploying applications makes a lot of sense, especially when you need to be able to scale and rapidly deploy.
Additionally, today's system architectures are distributed and multithreaded and Java's got a lot of that stuff down. It's a very natural home for encapsulated systems, for multithreaded systems. And it's had enough maturity that the JVM as a platform has got a lot of the bugs banged out of it and the performance is pretty damned good.
Add to that the fact that with JVM languages you can now deploy in Python, Ruby — from an open source developer's point of view, a lot of the favorite platforms are there and working just fine.
JVM is also supporting a large amount of language innovation. For those who are old enough to remember Lex and Yacc, you know, with JVM it's kind of like the Lex and Yacc of today to provide in essence that bootstrapping thing start your language development going.
And there are two particularly exciting languages right now, one of which is Scala, which is really a pragmatic iteration of Java. It's taking into account the fact that people are doing a lot more asynchronous and multithreaded and network-aware applications where a lot of the ... if you've ever seen Java you seem overwhelmed by all the nesting of bits and bobs trying to achieve relatively tasks; well, model languages are collapsing a lot of that and making them easier to do.
And the second language is Clojure which is even more interesting functional ... and really in a sense functional programming has been waiting for a time like this where asynchronicity, conciseness and declarative measure really works to its advantage.
Mertz: Actually another thing that was really big I think was, it seemed like really to dominant I think was two years ago at the conference was open source in government and a bunch of initiatives around that. I see that there's still a handful of sessions about it. But that's something interesting. But that seems to have waned a little as a real hot focus. Do you think there's, just kind of a sense of interest in this stuff or do you think there's a change there?
Dumbill: What I said about open sourcing government is that it's actually quite ... that it's actually quite sort of a specialized world. We very much still interested in and want to talk about they're all open source will play in government.
And I think that our focus is probably more on the grassroots and the city level. So we have a keynote from Dan Melton, Code for America. And I keep thinking about open source activists, you know, what we can actually ... a lot of people who come to OSCON are very practical and want to know what we can do.
And as systems, if we're not engaged in federal, particularly federal level already, it's such a world of special requirements and special knowledge. It's not a place that we can usually get purchase on. But we can at the city level and the state level.
So I think that's where a lot of our focus at OSCON is right now. You obviously have more specialized forums for government than open source discussions. So I would say it's not waned, but our focus is on what's most accessible to our audience.
Mertz: Tell me about cloud initiatives and interesting talks, interesting directions.
Dumbill: I think OpenStack basically is the big story for us. There is now really an open source platform option as far as cloud computing is going. It means developers are going to have to choose, you know, do we play inside Rackspace, Amazon or whatever, which I think is very good for the whole open story and can let us stop having debates.
Last year we had like a special cloud summit day which was treating, talking about a lot of these kind of debates where open source and cloud would relate. I think we're seeing particularly in OpenStack a lot of that sort of resolving itself and at least becoming a platform that other people can build on.
So this year our cloud sort of transmogrified a bit into including an IT leaders day where it's big tutorial and sort of workshop from Simon Wardley [blog; at OSCON 09 | OSCON 10] in the morning in business. And it's very useful to understand how open source can be used as a sort of a strategic tool in the business setting. So anybody who is in business considering using open source or starting an open source business was going to benefit from that. But cloud's definitely this theme that runs throughout.
Mertz: How much traction do you actually think this has gotten in terms of bytes stored and CPU cycles utilized compared to something like Google's app engine or Amazon's EC2 sort of thing? Has it really caught on to the same scale as those things that are being used?
Dumbill: This is, it's emergent. You know, basically it launched last year. And then [for this stage] of rapidly maturing, so I think it's also ... it's the one to watch. Particularly in the next two years. But it is now possible to actually start deploying with it.
Mertz: This is David Mertz reporting on OSCON 2011 for IBM developerWorks.