“IBM will con­tinue to in­vest in open source tech­nol­ogy projects”

IBM is one of those com­pa­nies that banks big on open source tech­nol­ogy. Those at the helm know this is where the fu­ture of tech­nol­ogy lies. Dik­sha P Gupta from Open Source For You spoke to Di­pankar Sarma, dis­tin­guished en­gi­neer, Sys­tems & Tech­nol­ogy Labs,

OpenSource For You - - FOR U & ME -

Q: What is the Linux Tech­nol­ogy Cen­tre at IBM all about and what are its key roles? I work with the Linux Tech­nol­ogy Cen­tre, which is pri­mar­ily a Linux and open source de­vel­op­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion. What we do in this cen­tre with Linux per­vades across IBM prod­ucts and we have a num­ber of engi­neers who work in var­i­ous ge­ogra­phies. It is a world­wide team based in many dif­fer­ent labs across dif­fer­ent coun­tries.

We, in In­dia, work on some of the key open source projects that are im­por­tant from IBM’s per­spec­tive. Linux and the Linux ker­nel are some of the ar­eas in which we have con­trib­uted in the past. I have been a con­trib­u­tor to the Linux ker­nel my­self. A lot of peo­ple at IBM in In­dia as well as in other parts of the world make a good amount of con­tri­bu­tions to the Linux ker­nel. Ac­cord­ing to the Linux Foun­da­tion’s statis­tics, IBM is one of the top con­trib­u­tors to the Linux ker­nel. Other than Linux, we have con­trib­uted to Eclipse, Apache as well as other open source projects, Samba be­ing one of them. In re­cent times, OpenS­tack has be­come a very im­por­tant pro­ject from our per­spec­tive. All of th­ese projects are looked af­ter by the par­ent or­gan­i­sa­tion, Linux Tech­nol­ogy Cen­tre.

We work very closely with the open source com­mu­nity to push some of those tech­nolo­gies in a di­rec­tion that is good for the com­mu­nity as well as for a lot of us who ac­tu­ally make use of those prod­ucts.

"In fact, when we started, there weren’t many open source con­trib­u­tors from In­dia, es­pe­cially not in the Linux ker­nel do­main. My team was prob­a­bly one of the ear­li­est to start con­tribut­ing to the Linux ker­nel from In­dia."

Q: Can you ex­plain the func­tion of the Linux De­vel­op­ment Cen­tre in the In­dian and global con­text? The Linux Tech­nol­ogy Cen­tre, as I men­tioned, is a core tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion, which is a part of IBM's Sys­tems & Tech­nol­ogy Group. Our main func­tion is to look at some of th­ese key open source projects and make them run on our plat­forms. We work on the Linux ker­nel pre­dom­i­nantly and we team up with our dis­tri­bu­tion part­ners like Red Hat and SUSE to make Linux bet­ter, so that those dis­tros run much bet­ter on our plat­forms. We con­trib­ute the newer tech­nolo­gies that we de­velop to the open source com­mu­nity and we ben­e­fit from the fact that due to our ef­forts and con­tri­bu­tions, Linux as a dis­tri­bu­tion works con­sid­er­ably bet­ter on our plat­forms.

Even though Linux is the dom­i­nant pro­ject in the world of open source tech­nol­ogy, it is not the only pro­ject that we con­trib­ute to. Ker­nel-based Vir­tual Ma­chine (KVM), which is about vir­tu­al­i­sa­tion us­ing the Linux sys­tem, is an­other pro­ject that we con­trib­ute to very sig­nif­i­cantly. It is used on IBM’s plat­forms ex­ten­sively. A lot of our cus­tomers make use of KVM as well. Samba is also a pro­ject to which IBM has made a lot of con­tri­bu­tions. In re­cent times, it is OpenS­tack that has be­come a very im­por­tant pro­ject from our per­spec­tive, and there are a num­ber of peo­ple within IBM who are con­tribut­ing to it.

We have a strong team of engi­neers at this IBM cen­tre in In­dia. We have a his­tory of about 12 years. The cen­tre was started in 2000 and from then on­wards, we have made sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to the Linux ker­nel from In­dia it­self. In fact, when we started, there weren’t many open source con­trib­u­tors from In­dia, es­pe­cially not in the Linux ker­nel do­main. My team was prob­a­bly one of the ear­li­est to start con­tribut­ing to the Linux ker­nel from In­dia. Over the years, that team has grown sig­nif­i­cantly and the con­tri­bu­tions that we have made have also grown very sig­nif­i­cantly. There are a num­ber of key con­trib­u­tors to the Linux ker­nel who are based in our lab in In­dia and they are fairly well known in the Linux ker­nel com­mu­nity. If you look at our track record, it is rea­son­ably easy to find out where th­ese peo­ple are based. You can see that a fairly large num­ber of con­tri­bu­tions like Read­Copy Up­date lock­ing, Group-aware sched­uler, Cgroups, CPU hot­plug, Power-aware sched­uler, etc, are done by the LTC In­dia team based out of our labs. Q: At IBM, do you get enough open source tal­ent? In­dia has a very good his­tory of us­ing and con­tribut­ing to open source tech­nol­ogy. It may have started about 10-12 years ago but, over the years, it has picked up ex­tremely well. There is a study done by the United Na­tions Univer­sity in 2006, which showed In­dia as a dom­i­nant con­trib­u­tor to the open source projects. PC and com­puter pen­e­tra­tion have a sig­nif­i­cant role in open source con­tri­bu­tion. When you look at the con­tri­bu­tions from In­dia by per capita in­come of the coun­try, you will find that In­dia is a dom­i­nant con­trib­u­tor. Also, there is a lot of fo­cus on em­bed­ded sys­tems and mo­bile phone tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ment in In­dia, re­sult­ing in the de­vel­op­ment of a lot of lo­cal tal­ent.

As far as the in­dus­try ecosys­tem is con­cerned, and within academia as well, I think we have seen a sig­nif­i­cant shift to­wards us­ing open source tech­nol­ogy in dif­fer­ent ways. There are a num­ber of col­leges where we have seen work on open in­fra­struc­tures. We have seen col­leges adopt­ing OpenS­tack as their in­ter­nal cloud im­ple­men­ta­tion, to be used for re­search as well as for con­ve­nience within their or­gan­i­sa­tions. We are also see­ing Linux be­ing in­creas­ingly used in the class­room. Many of the top in­sti­tutes like the IITs and NITs use Linux for re­search work as well as for class as­sign­ments. They in­clude Linux for the ba­sic C pro­gram­ming classes as well as for com­plex aca­demic cour­ses, in­clud­ing op­er­at­ing sys­tems and com­puter ar­chi­tec­tures. We see a lot of that hap­pen­ing in var­i­ous uni­ver­si­ties in In­dia and, hence, we have been able to get peo­ple who come to us al­ready trained in many skills in the area of Linux and open source. We’ve seen th­ese re­ally pos­i­tive signs in the In­dian open source ecosys­tem.

Di­pankar Sarma, dis­tin­guished en­gi­neer, Sys­tems & Tech­nol­ogy Labs, IBM In­dia

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