This week’s Open Source Convention (OSCON) in Portland, Ore., is an immersive exploration and celebration of the ever-expanding world of open source software. As usual, New Relic played a key role, including multiple speakers, a bustling booth, sponsored breaks, a book signing, and much more (as well as co-sponsoring the co-located Cultivate conference addressing leadership and culture issues for a new era).
Amidst the thousands of open source faithful attending hundreds of sessions and a wide variety of networking events, there’s far more to OSCON that could ever be captured in a single blog post. But here are nine things that seemed to stand out, including memorable quotes from the keynotes (a good place to start because they’re pretty much the only times most of the throngs are gathered in one place), unmistakable themes, overheard conversations, and more.
4 Key trends
Open source—and to a certain extent, OSCON—has gone mainstream. As OSCON program chair Matthew McCullough from GitHub noted in introducing a keynoter, “The biggest names in computing are committing to open source in a big way.” That was obvious to all attendees: in addition to the usual Web native companies, major sponsors, keynoters, and exhibitors this year included giant traditional tech companies like IBM and HP and financial institutions like Capital One—not to mention the British and U.S. governments! Keynoter Allison Randal, president of the Open Source Initiative and a Distinguished Technologist at Hewlett-Packard, added that 78% of companies now use open source solutions, and 64% participate in open source projects. “It’s table stakes to get in the game,” Randal said. “If you’re not doing it, you’re just going to get left behind.” Watch Randal’s presentation here.
- “Scale” is scaling. Perhaps inevitably given the big-name companies in attendance, much discussion and many presentations focused on how to quickly scale open source projects to tackle even the biggest problems. The words “scale” or “scaling” appeared more than 50 times in the conference schedule—we may never be able to count the number of times it was mentioned by presenters.
- Docker is hot, hot, hot! Talks on Docker in Production by Bridget Kromhout from DramaFever and Microservices, Microservices everywhere! with Docker’s Jérôme Petazzoni drew overflow crowds to the largest session room. In fact, Kromhout’s session was so popular it had to be repeated the next day to accommodate the intense interest. Meanwhile, casual conversations around the venue either began with discussions of Docker, containers, and microservices, or seemed to drift inexorably in that direction.
Containers need standards—but multiple players could make things complicated. “Just like actual shipping containers, standardization that enables portability is the key to maximizing the technology’s impact,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation whose Wednesday keynote addressed the role of the new Open Container Initiative (formerly the Open Container Project). But it’s not that simple. “There is a lot of work to do here and a lot of innovation to come because the cranes and the trucks and boats and all of the surrounding technology that’s going to move us to this promised land of container technology still have a lot of innovation going on,” Zemlin said. On Tuesday, the new Cloud Native Foundation announced version 1.0 of Google’s Kubernetes open source container orchestration system, which garnered much attention at OSCON. And on Thursday, keynoter Sam Ramji, CEO of the Cloud Foundry Foundation, asked what may have been on many people’s minds: “What’s with all these new foundations?” For more background, Fortune’s Barb Darrow takes a look at what might be going on.
Key keynote quotes
“Why do open source? It’s just good for the company,” claimed Facebook’s James Pearce. “If we know a project is going to be open source from the start, we just build it better” because everyone knows it will be reused. And he should know, since Facebook creates “production grade open source” twice a week, with 275 repos in GitHub, with 39,000 forks, 79,000 commits, and 242,000 followers. Said Pearce, “We connect more than 1 billion people a day … we can only do this because of open source.” Watch Pearce’s presentation here.
- “The stakes could not be higher,” said the awesome Mikey Dickerson of the U.S. Digital Service, about the upcoming revisions to the Federal Government’s technology procurement policies. He’s looking for a few big changes: First, every time the government pays by the hour for a contractor to build code, “we should own that code.” Second, everything the government owns should be released open source to the community. Third, there should be a requirement that, when purchasing software for the government, the buyers must explain “why they did or did not choose the closest open source solution.” And fourth, “Imagine if we had a bug bounty program,” said Dickerson, or paid for audits of top open source projects. “Imagine how much good it could do,” he said, if we spent just $1 billion of the Fed’s $84 billion IT budget on improving key open source technologies. (Be sure to read Mikey Dickerson’s 10 Tips for Dealing with Bureaucracy.)
- “Make things open—it makes things better,” advised Hadley Beeman of the U.K. Government Digital Service. She also noted the obvious but often ignored truth that “Tech moves faster than government does, we need to be free to catch up.” Still, the GDS seems to taking a revolutionary approach for a government agency by being “dedicated to building services so good people prefer to use them.” Watch Beeman’s presentation here.
Software architecture = “the important stuff, whatever that is,” said ThoughtWorks chief scientist and self-described “loudmouth pundit” Martin Fowler, who claimed to hate the term “software architect” because it sounds like it comes out of the mouth of some senior executive who hasn’t written a line of code in years. In his keynote on Making Architecture Matter, Fowler explained that more than the “shared understanding” of the people who work on the project, “the decisions you wish you could get right early,” or even “the decisions that are hard to change,” the key to software architecture is figuring out what is important. Critically, the rise of continuous delivery and continuous deployment make figuring that out more important than ever, because the right architecture is essential to fast upgrades and feature additions.
- “The future will be awesome, but only if we engineer it,” promised (warned?) Paul Fenwick, managing director of Perl Training Australia. Putting open source software in a larger perspective, “The future arrives very, very quickly,” Fenwick said, and could bring societal, technological, and ethical problems unless we start having conversations about those issues today. Watch Fenwick’s keynote here.
Finally, this 17th OSCON will be the last one held in Portland, at least for a while. Next year, OSCON moves to Austin, Texas, in May, and many attendees seem to think things will be very different. A number of Northwest locals told me they aren’t likely to make the trek, but the new venue may attract more people from other areas. Who knows if or how the move will change the event’s legendary sense of community.