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VMworld US 2016 Buzz: Open Source as a Critical Ingredient in Enterprise Computing – CTO9606-S

September 14th, 2016

Adding some more colour to the highlights from my VMworld US 2016 coverage:

IMG_4502_thumb2I was interested in this session to get a take on how VMware’s new Chief Open Source Officer, Dirk Hohndel, sees the role of open source in Enterprises where I’m seeing more and more adoption. Interestingly there were only 30 people in a large room, does this indicate not much interest in open source software (OSS) or just a time that was during lunch?

Drives the Internet

Dirk started by saying open source software drives the internet, the more you head towards the infrastructure, the more you find open source.

Amazon, Google, Facebook etc. use open source as the base of their business, Yahoo runs on FreeBSD.

The major companies that use the internet are also therefore the developers of the infrastructure of the internet. By infrastructure, Dirk includes web servers such as Nginx or Apache.

For these web companies, their number one concern is how quickly can they scale out and how quickly can they get the response back to the user.

As Facebook and Google were founded by engineering minded people, they found they would be better able to control the user experience if they could write the software and have control all the way down to the network stack to optimise it. A group of knowledge has built up to do this which has been shared leading to the massive rise in open source.

To the Enterprise

Dirk then took the conversation to the enterprise data centre. 20 years ago all internal mail was Notes / Exchange and external mail was SendMail. Enterprises even 20 years ago were already running open source. DNS/BIND are open source software packages that enterprises have been using forever, standards such as SMTP, FTP & DNS were developed as open source and used by all enterprises.

The use of Unix and then the switch to Linux created a body of tools that were common and open.

Investment banks were also one of the first users of Linux and open source. it wasn’t about lowering costs but rather having complete control of the stack where milliseconds shaved off a transaction could mean millions of dollars. Being able to understand each network packet and which CPU core it sits on and where it then flowed through the stack were critical to trade quicker.

Some of the start of open source in the enterprise was led by financial companies, the same companies which are traditionally thought of as being super conservative. Other companies started to look at OSS more driven by cost, many were rather disappointed, they thought getting enterprise software for free would be great but there’s a lot involved from a cost point of view than just the initial software cost.


In the tech bubble, lots of open source companies were started, automation also drove open source with multiple scripting languages.

Not only the tools they use have become open source but what they do with them has become open source, such as cook books or Travis CI. People were able to look at lots of different projects and pick the best parts and then reassemble them. This led to best practices for running a DC, make it reliable, predictable.

Enterprises no longer have questions about whether OSS should be allowed but rather which company are they getting it from from a trust perspective.

4 out of 30 people in this enterprise open source session say they do DevOps, rather interesting as usually we think DevOps is very OSS focused.


OSS allows you to audit code & hunt bugs down without paying for it although in reality this hasn’t always happened, such as highlighted by the recent issues with OpenSSL/Heartbleed. There is a push from the OSS community called the “Core Infrastructure Initiative” to invest time and money to improve OSS.

Back to enterprise use and software that builds on open source. Most OSS projects follow the 80/20 rule, OSS devs do 80% of the innovative work of the stuff that is fun, new etc. The last 20% is the hard graft to get it working for all customers in all scenarios, this 20% by vendors is what making OSS stuff ready for production.

A lot of people don’t realise the amount of open source software running in their data centres already (or mission critical workloads running under their desks!).

Every developer also becomes your last line of security defence, it is their responsibility to create safe code.

Role of Enterprise Software Companies

Companies like VMware can help with creating OSS, they have lots of experience in how to deploy and run software in the enterprise, bringing the innovation, speed & agility of OSS into products that can safely be deployed and managed. Examples such as vSphere Integrated Containers (VIC) and vSphere Integrated OpenStack (VIO). I heard from someone else that VMware can afford to do VIC and VIO as OSS because you need to have vSphere underneath so there is a revenue model.

All OSS is done for profit at some point, even with large projects. It’s vested interest by contributors at companies being payed for their time which drive a lot of OSS as they hope it will influence the users of the OSS code benefitting the larger ecosystem.

VMware doesn’t have plans to open source other existing products. VMware is one of the top 10 contributors to OpenStack and other things like Open vSwitch.

Dirk wrapped up saying the OSS movement brings three groups of people together, the OSS community, customers and enterprise software companies.

It was an interesting wide ranging walk through OSS, I was surprised it wasn’t well attended.

VMworld2016 has made the recording of many sessions publicly available but not this one it seems.

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