A.K.A. When I Learned That Open Source Rules the World.

I returned from the All Things Open annual conference feeling fully energised; I could finally sympathise with the boundless enthusiasm and determination of a Jack Russell.

I was slightly less excited than a Jack Russell searching for a ball in the snow.  Slightly.

I had finally completed my maiden voyage to this pinnacle open-source conference. As a supporter of open source technologies since 1996, when I first compiled a Debian Linux kernel on the cleansed hard drive of my Gateway PC, I was so happy to attend and volunteer that I sprained my thumb on my cellphone trying to update my stagnating Twitter feed. I found out how darn tricky it is to take good mobile video for my husband, who couldn't make the trip. I actually contemplated the need for a selfie stick to create a crude periscope in some breakout sessions.
These learning periods were packed! Deploy the feline-scopes!

Most importantly, I gained empirical evidence that not only had open source technologies grown up, they'd done a Pinky-and-the-Brain on the entire IT industry. Microsoft and Red Hat evangelists danced hand-in-hand through the conference centre showing off .Net tricks and Node.js apps. There was a dedicated learning track for business executives, covering everything from licensing to loving freeloader communities. Developers openly agreed to hug designers (and even marketers)!

Amazing what disruptive technological progress based on openly discussed and documented standards can do in 20 years. And that's separate from the upcoming revolution of the Internet of Things; Bitcoin and Blockchain; Open Government and Civic Engagement, or the Worldwide Web as the Worldwide Operating System.

I wish more of my fellow Caribbean-based IT professionals and consultants were present at the conference to gain first-hand knowledge and broaden our networks; however, I'm perfectly capable of sharing some of what I learned here, far from the maddening crowd...with some help from IBM!

I sincerely hope the IBM video and my findings below encourage others from the Caribbean to attend this conference next year, Oct. 22 - 24, 2017 in lovely Raleigh, North Carolina.

My Observations

  • The new-old paradigm of cloud computing and containerization, with mobile devices and PCs acting as intelligent terminals to a massive, distributed pool of computing resources that can be dynamically assembled to serve any application, is completely based on open source technology and standards. Incredible software such as Linux, OpenStack, Docker, DC/OS and half of the software under the Apache Foundation underpin both private and massive public clouds like Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS.

  • Design and marketing are finally getting the same respect in open source communities as software/hardware development. As web-based, mobile apps have become the cornerstones of our technological enslaved enhanced lives, ease of use, customer service and market responsiveness are three key factors to keeping your app relevant. Also, if you don't work for and with the communities surrounding your open source solutions, you can easily miss out on market share, dedicated developers and product advocates. Worse still, you may turn them into your enemies and competitors!

  • Software is the One Ring to rule hardware now. Hardware, having quietly trotted down the road to full interchangeability via open standards, is now defined more by the software chosen to run on it. Networks that once formed the backbone of the Internet are slowly converting from expensive Cisco routers and Juniper switches to Arista or Mellanox hardware devices that allow software-defined networking via solutions such as Cumulus Networks and in-depth QoS and monitoring with software such as OpenNMS; all while maintaining network ops skills, network performance and reducing costs. Ends to the PC vs Mac and mobile phone wars are still, sadly, in the distant future.

  • We've been letting our STEM education and soft skill development lag far behind real-world needs. The future will have us talking more to computers and devices than humans, as mechanical creations already outstrip human procreation. With the Internet of Things, Financial Cryptography, Big Data Analytics, Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence and Cloud Computing threatening everything we currently know, future generations will need to be far more mentally adaptable. Critical thinking, solid numeracy, an excellent ability to communicate, artisanal prowess and fervent curiosity will be necessary so future generations are better equipped to manage and merge both human idiosyncrasies and machine manipulations.
    N.B. - Sorry, you can't hide from public speaking in IT anymore. Join a local Toastmasters club to further develop this mandatory skill.

  • Open source software is often very inexpensive to outright free for small businesses, educational institutions and non-profit organisations. When catering to larger businesses or more proficient users, open source solutions are still reasonably priced compared to competing technologies and licensing regimes, or the vendors provide additional services that customise software to your needs and lessen the pain of conversion. There are few excuses not to implement open source solutions; indeed, if your company has started using Software as a Service (SaaS) from companies like Basecamp, RaveTree and ProcessMaker, or if you manage your code projects with Github, you've most likely already gone to open source.

There's a ton more that I learned, such as why stickers and figurines beat pens as convention gifts and the sheer deliciousness of pumpkin milkshakes. But it's always better to experience a little of the wonder yourself. Maybe next year, right?