JIM ZEMLIN is excited. We've caught up with him backstage at LinuxCon in Dusseldorf where, as executive director of The Linux Foundation, he has just given a keynote. But it's not that which is exciting him right now. It's the fact that he's in the home of Kraftwerk.
"The other people with me in the room hadn't heard of this band, but did you know that Kraftwerk are from Dusseldorf? One of the original German electronica bands! I told you guys!" he beams.
It's this kind of passion and enthusiasm that Zemlin brings to his job. After talking him down from his Krautrock high, we start by asking him what it is about Linux that makes people so positively evangelical about it.
"One of the things about Linux that's so interesting is that it's an opportunity to do things that fundamentally make people happy - the act of sharing, the act of creating, being a part of a community. It really sucks you in with an infectious enthusiasm that everyone who is touched by Linux catches," he said.
"You can talk more broadly and say that's true of any kind of open source project - you start to get passionate about the work that's being done. One of the nice things where Linux is concerned today is that it really is changing the world and it really is on the right side of history in terms of really creating interesting new technology and then sharing that with the world - and that's a big deal."
Zemlin is more than humble about his role in all this. He doesn't see himself as a leader or a catalyst, but part of an organic community.
"That's what really drives everything. Not any particular individual, just the community itself is incredibly enticing and a fun thing to be a part of. It's almost an ideology as well as a technical development," he explained.
The ideology of Linux differs significantly from the "cult" of Apple, according to Zemlin.
"I think that it's one thing to say: 'Hey, I'm a computer programmer and I work on technology,' and completely another to say: 'Hey, I wrote some of the source code that is in virtually every aspect of our daily lives.' People are writing the code that runs virtually every stock market in the world, it runs air traffic control systems, health records," he said.
In fact the Linux ideology is already playing its small but front and centre part in the fight against Ebola.
"Take somewhere like West Africa or Pakistan, these are countries where they had no health record system. In the end, a paediatrician from Indiana started a project to build a free medical records system modelled after the development method that Linux uses and it has really changed people's lives as a result and has hopefully enabled better health outcomes in that country," he said.
"And that's just one example. Look at Wikipedia, Mozilla, there are hundreds and hundreds of examples of where this kind of collaborative development is really changing the world."
One of the announcements at the conference is Dronecode, a common, open source standard for drone technology.
Zemlin explains: "Unfortunately when most people think of drones they think of military use, but drones are being used in a variety of cool, exciting ways - agriculture, search and rescue, real-time mapping, construction.
"Folks who design the software that powers these drones have the same problems as the people who create cloud computing servers. There's a lot of software inside a drone. Creating the software stack by yourself seems a little bit crazy! The Linux Foundation is a place where we can grow these type of software communities."
But don't fear a raft of hackable drones. "It actually makes it harder for them to be hacked, because if you have visibility to the source code itself you can audit it for security vulnerabilities, have peer reviews ... and yes, you've been watching too much 24." he mocks.
Another aspect of the Foundation's work is the Core Infrastructure Initiative (CII), a group funded by some of the heavyweights of the tech industry in the wake of the SSL Heartbleed bug.
Its biggest role to date has been an ongoing review of the SSL source code to try to ensure that there can never be another Heartbleed. It's worth pointing out that this is a work in progress and the recent discovery of Poodle is no reflection on the Initiative's work.
Zemlin explained the role of the Initiative at a time when it is currently seeking pitches for new projects that it can provide funding for.
"There are a set of open source projects that have become really important to the security and stability of the internet over a long period of time, and for whatever reason many of those projects that are the fibre of the technology that we use every single day have gone without resources or have been largely ignored," he said.
"What happens if you do that is similar to what happens if nobody is tending to the structure of a national roadway. Pretty soon a bridge will collapse and everybody says 'Wasn't anybody checking to make sure that bridge was made well and paved and secure?'.
"So, what we want to do with the CII is to find those ageing bridges that nobody is paying attention to which are important because lots of people travel over them every day, and provide the resources for the people working on those projects to improve them, whether it's through third-party audit - one of the things we're doing with SSL is having that organisation audit the codebase - or fellowships for developers who work on that code, or infrastructure for the developers working on that code, or resources, secure coding practices and so forth, so that we can make the internet a safer and more secure place.
"I think the easiest way to think about the CII is to think about how the security industry works, and the world of cyber security is an important one and there are a ton of brilliant people working in it, and they serve a really important function similar to that of an ER physician or a surgeon and you find something wrong or some problem happens, and you go to the doctor and pretty soon you're in surgery, right? Hugely important, right? Those are critical things to have."
There are a lot of aspects to the ageing corners of the internet that are in need of surgery but, as Zemlin explains, security is good place to start.
"In the security industry we do important research in discovering zero-day vulnerabilities and critical flaws et cetera. The CII is different to that. Rather than being a surgeon, it's more like a personal trainer. It's about improving the projects that are important to all of us ahead of time, providing for resources and secure coding practices and infrastructure ahead of time so that we're all healthy and maybe that wasn't happening because ... well, people just don't like to eat their darned vegetables, and hopefully CII will put some bearnaise sauce on the green beans in the form of resources. Alright, maybe the analogy is starting to fall apart here ..." he trails off trying to suppress laughter.
"I think what we want to do is provide best practice on secure coding, for example, but good ways, or positive ways, to run an open source project, for example peer code review. Even healthy projects can be better with testing, and automated tools for that can be provided.
"So right now we're focusing on security, because we think that's important, but also one of the most overlooked aspects of many of the projects we've identified, but in the longer term we'd like to make a for a healthy open source ecosystem so the software that runs most of the world can be better than it already is and certainly that's an ambitious goal, but it's one that we feel we can achieve."
Away from the CII, Linux is already proving fundamental to the evolution of the cloud. Zemlin thinks that there is a green field opportunity for open source to dominate one of the last frontiers of technology.
"Obviously, Linux is already powering all the public clouds out there aside from Microsoft Azure, but I think some of the big opportunities in cloud infrastructure are in the networking layer," he explained.
"If you think about server virtualisation in compute, a lot of that is already very mature and powering a lot of the public and private cloud infrastructure that's out there. The last mile of cloud computing that has not yet been abstracted into software is the network itself, so things like software defined networking, things like network function virtualisation.
"I think this is an area where open source is going to have a big impact as routers and switches and firewalls and load balancers all become software appliances that are delivered virtually over a virtual network and that software itself will be largely open source.
"We have two projects today, one called Open Daylight, which is a software defined networking controller effort, and another called OPNFV which is a network function virtualisation platform which I think will change the networking industry and affect what is a multi-billion dollar industry largely driven by proprietary hardware.
"So I think that's an area where open source will be impactful and we have two really interesting projects which are, albeit early stage, going to have a big impact in the future."
Jim Zemlin's keynote speech was entitled The State of Linux. Having so much good news to report, and with so many exciting projects on the horizon, it is hardly surprising that our chat with him had so much energy, gusto and enthusiasm. Linux seems to be, as Zemlin puts it, "on the right side of history". µ
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