Play nicely, Shuttleworth tells feuding foundations

By Marilyn de Villiers
Johannesburg, 02 May 2019
Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu founder and Canonical CEO.
Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu founder and Canonical CEO.

Ubuntu founder and Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth used his keynote address at this week's Open Infrastructure Summit (previously the OpenStack Summit) in Colorado, US, to rap open source foundations over the knuckles.

He also reminded them of the key tenant of the open source movement: to "enable innovation to come from everywhere".

Although he did not name those he intimated could be seen to be empire-building at the expense of the ideals of the open source revolution, several commentators believe he was referring to the recent spats between OpenStack and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation over the telecoms market.

Shuttleworth told summit attendees that in the 15 years since the launch of Ubuntu and 10 years since the first code that became OpenStack was written, open source had moved from a rebellion of mavericks, to become so mainstream that Ubuntu Linux has earned a carrier-grade rating and is utilised by 20 of the world's largest financial institutions to build open infrastructure.

However, it is now time for the open source movement to take stock. "It is time for us to think about our leadership of open source because we are no longer the rebel outsiders. We are, in a sense, becoming the empire...

"How we play matters as much as which of our ideas win. If we want to be different to the leaders of the previous empire, then we have to choose every day to be different," he said.

"It really is important to find and celebrate the best ideas. What's the difference between a vendor that only promotes the ideas that are in its own interests and a foundation that does the same? Or worse, if a foundation will only represent projects that it is paid to represent. Is it really structuring an open agenda, or is it just a fig leaf; and what's behind the fig leaf might be a little ugly."

Shuttleworth emphasised that vendors that are committed to being open had to remember that no single institution or project could have all the best ideas.

"What's really important is for us to offer people the widest possible menu of open source, the widest range of choices regardless of their origin."

He said that having seen the types of disputes bubbling up in the open source world, he is committing Canonical to lead the change he wants to see in the industry.

This would take the form of Canonical becoming totally agnostic when it comes to the various open infrastructure projects by consolidating and unifying the contracts and commitments made for multiple different projects.

"For example, we have always supported OpenStack deployed on Ubuntu in different ways. From today, all of that will be at our lowest price point and all at the same SLAs. Similarly for Kubernetes."

He announced that in addition to continuing its support for Canonical's Charmed Kubernetes and MicroStack, Canonical would support Kubernetes from Google, Azure, Amazon and VMware in future.

"If we want to help people find the right solution, the best solution, we have to be open to all possibilities, including other open source projects and even propriety solutions," he concluded.