Linuxfest Northwest 2014
The Real Heart of Open Source
Xen Project Evangelist
About the Old, Fat Geek up front...
● Linux user since 1995; became a Linux advocate immediately
● Delivered many early talks on Open Source Advocacy
● Former Open Source columnist for Infoworld, Processor magazines
● Former weekly panelist on “The Linux Show”
● Wrote one of the first books on Open Source: Embracing Insanity:
Open Source Software Development
● 30 years in the industry; 20+ years in software services consulting
● Currently Evangelist for the Xen Project (employed by Citrix)
● Over 50 FOSS talks delivered; over 150 FOSS pieces published
Open Source: Success... or Failure?
● Open Source drives the world!
– The Internet breathes Open Source air
● Web servers, mail servers, app servers, etc.
● Silent benefactor of the Y2K insanity
– So many companies tapped out budgets with
Y2K, yet needed Web technologies
– Sysadmins improvised with low cost, high quality
FOSS solutions which often ran on scrap
– But it wasn't always this way...
1990s: The Fight for Legitimacy
● In the 1990s, everyone wanted legitimacy
– Constantly ignored by analysts, trade media, C-level
– Open Source was dismissed as “hacker's toys”
– Software “written by teenagers in their garages”
– Movement was almost 100% volunteer hackers
– Passion ran high, code was moving fast, but Free
Software / Open Source was not held in high regard at
Today: Open Source has Legitimacy!
● We are active throughout the IT industry
– Trade Media regularly report on Open Source news
– C-level Management is acquainted with, if not
embracing, the presence of Open Source in the
– Analysts even pay attention
– Huge numbers of people are employed creating, using,
and supporting Open Source solutions
– Open Source is seen as a type of collaborative software
It's All Good! Or Is It?
● WE WON!!!
– We've earned legitimacy
– We've gotten jobs
– We've gotten respect
– We've gotten everything we wanted...
Or Did We?
But Are We Forgetting the Heart of FOSS?
● I suggest the Heart of Open Source was never the code
itself, but the people
– It wasn't primarily a revolution in methodology
(although it was that as well), it was a revolution of
– It was not as much about reinventing software as it
was about reinventing US!
– Open Source changed the way Geeks saw
themselves, and the way the world saw them
● But this lesson is slowly being erased from FOSS...
A Brief History of Geekdom
● Geeks Prior to the FOSS revolution:
– We were corporate power tools
● Highly talented, highly skilled
● But others did the deciding about what to do and
● Executed the plans of Product Management
● “Suggest anything you want... but just do what
● Little respect, little self-worth, little bargaining power
Dawn of Geek Fervor and Passion
● The arrival of FOSS brings about a change in the Geek Mind
● My observations from the 1997 Atlanta Linux Showcase
– ~500 geeks (mostly of the fat, white, male variety) on a weekend
– Cheap hotel, with all the sugar, fat, and caffeine you could stand
– Fire in the eyes and the bellies; true passion and enthusiasm
● It wasn't about “a new model of commercial software
● It wasn't even about the “Four Freedoms” (sorry RMS)
● It wasn't about employment (just the opposite)
● It was about self-realization and empowerment
Early FOSS: Geeks Unleashed!
● There was no one in the room to say, “No”
– Huge step forward in the development of geek power
– No longer simply power tools of organizations
● The old corporate restrictions on thoughts and actions were
totally gone (e.g., “Mordac the Preventer” from Dilbert)
● Suddenly, Geeks were decision makers
● We did what we thought was right – and the ecosystem would
judge if we were right or wrong
● Geeks developed their voice, figuratively and literally
– e.g., Miguel de Icaza at Linux Expo in the late 1990s
– And me too!
Early FOSS: People Centerstage
● The Code: Incredibly important
– It is the output of the work
● The Four Freedoms: Highly important
– They enabled the movement
● But the People: We were the story!
– We learned to think for ourselves
– We learned to speak out for ourselves
– We learned to write for ourselves
– We became empowered in ways that few Geeks before us ever were
– This eventually resulted in economic power as well
Dreams of “The Brass Ring”
● In the 1990s, few folks had a job working with Open Source
– Neither as developers, nor as users
– People developed code nights and weekends, on their own time
– Getting a job working with Open Source was “the brass ring”
● A dream more than a goal
● People who were paid to work with Open Source were held
in awe; they almost had an “aura” around them
– But even their positions were tenuous
– There were no truly stable Linux vendors
Today: The “Brass Ring” Achieved!
● Most Open Source conferences I've attended in the past
year have been populated by people paid to create, use,
or support Open Source
● Open Source has legitimacy in the marketplace
– Few are the scoffers compared to the old days
– Even Barad-dûr in Redmond is less ominous than it
“Brass Ring” or “Brass Handcuffs?”
● But have the jobs left the most important part behind?
– Have we sacrificed empowerment for jobs?
– Does your job allow you to make Open Source
– Does your job allow you to contribute as you see fit?
– Does your job force you to be a corporate voice in
Open Source at the cost of your own voice?
– Are you once again a Corporate Power Tool, even
while working on Open Source?
The Rise of “Fake Open Source”
● There's something new in the world: software which has
an Open Source license, but NOT an Open Source
– Frequently created the old, closed source way and
then thrown over the wall to consumers
– No organic community formed
– No empowered geeks
– Open Source is “just a job” like any other traditional
closed source software job
Fearful Questions Arise
● Is Success Killing Open Source?
– Do the new people understand the history of the movement?
– Do they have the passion of their predecessors?
– Do they understand what it is to do FOSS as individuals?
– Is FOSS “just a job” to the new folks?
● If they lost their job today, would they do FOSS tomorrow?
● When they participate, are they using their own thoughts,
or merely parroting the positions of their employers?
What I Have Witnessed Recently
● I have been to about a dozen Open Source conferences in the past
● My cohorts from 10+ years ago are noticeably absent
– Open Source today is driven by a new crowd
– Many are identified by the corporations they represent
● Enthusiasm seems solid, even if the people are relatively new and
most have FOSS-related jobs
● Unfortunately, most seem to only have a sketchy knowledge of
● Not sure if they know what it is to work on their own time
● If these people represent “the cream of the crop,” what of the rest?
What of the Rest Indeed?
● I've asked people at conferences if they would continue working
with FOSS if their job went away, and most have said “Yes”
– But a few have said “No”
– And people who attend conferences frequently can be far more
driven than those who do not attend
● What if these others are just “doing a job?” If their opinion belongs
to those paying their paycheck? If they don't really care about Open
● Can these transform Open Source into just another commercial
software development model?
We Must Teach Empowerment!
● We who care must take it upon ourselves to teach those in our
locus of influence
● It's not about lecturing, brow-beating, or criticizing others
– It's about informing them about the history, the passion, the
– It's about lighting the fire under people; getting them to discover
the personal freedom and self-realization of Open Source for
– It's about the people; software of the people, by the people, for
– Start by telling YOUR STORY of Open Source!
Your Assignment: Let Others Know
● If the spirit of Open Source is to survive and thrive it takes YOU to get
involved and teach what you know
– In the world today, the truth is rare – and powerful; speak it!
● It's not academic; it's about letting passion flow out of you
– Passion trumps Powerpoint any day!
● If you have a heart for Open Source, share it
● In Open Source, participation is key
– Can be developer, user, writer, thinker, noise-maker...
– It is about people working with people for the good of people
– Stand up!
I appreciate your time and attention!
Do me a favor and visit:
And please remember my Xen Project Security talk tomorrow!
My Story: How We Got Here
● Observations from my personal perspective
One Geek's Open Source Journey
● 1995: Linux meets a simple need for me – and changes everything!
● 1997: My first conference – 1997 Atlanta Linux Showcase
● 1999: Big time at LinuxWorld Conference and Expo
● -2002: The suits take over the party
● 2004: Working for a start-up which was a Open Source consumer
● 2009: Purgatory
● 2013: Redemption: The Xen Project
– The key question arises: In an era when many people are paid to
work with Open Source, has the heart of the movement been
The Beginning: A Unix-like OS
● 1995: Linux was the answer to my need for Unix training
– I was a Linux advocate before I ever used the software (somewhat
– Using it to solve problems brought about my epiphany
● Everyone knew PCs sucked
– They could do one thing at a time, and do it badly
● But then I used Linux and it made the PC behave like a “real”
● Epiphany: PCs suck only because the software sucks!
● 1997: Open Source became my passion
– See the Atlanta Linux Showcase slide
Transition: Legitimacy ...and Suits
● 1999: The first IT Analysts see FOSS in the datacenter's future
– Until this, FOSS was seen as “fringe” with no Enterprise future
– A huge breakthrough in the struggle for legitimacy
– FOSS shows sprout everywhere; LinuxWorld Conference and
Expo becomes the mindshare leader
● ~2002: Suits begin to take center stage
– It's all about business, “booth babes”, and swag
– Suddenly, we are guests at our own party... and we don't know
And Then The Darkness...
● Like many in the movement, I signed on to a startup company
working with Open Source
– But it didn't produce Open Source (despite efforts to the
– My participation in the community eventually dried up
● After the 2008 banking crisis, the company's runway shrank from
11.5 months to 3 weeks
– Assets, including “human-compatible liveware,” (to borrow a
phrase from Dilbert) sold to an old-school software company
● A place where FOSS was feared and loathed
The Light Once Again Dawns...
● 2013: Xen Project Evangelist
– The job I had been searching for over a decade
– Citrix pays the bills, but my goals are all Xen Project
– Xen Project is the premier FOSS hypervisor
● Used by Amazon, Rackspace (public cloud), Verizon, ...
● 10th anniversary last year
● One year ago, Xen Project became a Linux Foundation
But FOSS World Has Changed!
● Attending the event where Xen Project officially became a Linux
Foundation Collaborative Project in April 2013:
– The majority of attendees had the “brass ring”: their day jobs
involved Open Source
– People were often identified by the company they worked for
– Much fewer were working nights and weekends on Open Source
– Many of my cohorts from 10-15 years ago were noticeably
● There's a new crowd taking center stage
● And there's a need to educate them by telling our own Open