Close to the {code} with Dell’s Josh Bernstein

Community Matters

Article from Issue 209/2018

Dell’s expansive {code} project is a cornerstone of the company’s open source strategy. Dell Technologies VP Josh Bernstein talks about {code} and the value of open source.

As a vice president of technology at Dell Technologies, Josh Bernstein has many responsibilities, but the project closest to his heart is {code} [1], which Dell inherited by acquiring EMC. {code} is a collection of open source projects maintained or supported by Dell. According to Bernstein, "A lot of times older legacy organizations don't really get open source. They don't understand how to market it. {code} was created to develop a brand for the community, to make Dell relevant to a community that did not interact with them, didn't trust large enterprise brands. The {code} team is a collection of open source engineers and advocates inside Dell Technologies that are working to better support the community and engage Dell Technologies with the community."

Dell is not new to open source. They worked on Dynamic Kernel Module Support (DKMS) and Redfish, and they wrote open source drivers for hardware on the Linux kernel. Some of the big open source projects that came directly from Dell include EdgeX Foundry, which is now a Linux Foundation collaborative project. OpenSwitch is another big project to which Dell contributed. Most Linux users may be familiar with the project Sputnik, which offers high-end Dell systems with fully supported Linux distributions.

"Dell was doing all this open source work, but nobody knew about it," said Bernstein. "EMC was doing a lot of work specifically in the storage data center infrastructure. When the two companies were combined, there was actually a lot of synergy between the two. We naturally found each other and just increased everybody's voice in the whole community."

Open source is as much about technology as it is about people and culture. It's also about legal frameworks. A small mistake may release a company's intellectual property as open source or make them a violator of the GNU GPL. Companies need to create an internal environment that nurtures the open source mentality while offering legal frameworks to developers.

One of the projects within the {code} umbrella is called DevHigh5 [2]. The DevHigh5 project allows any developer in the company to bring their own project to the open source community, offering the internal support and legal guidance needed to establish a successful project.

"We help them with legal guidelines, licensing, infrastructure and make sure that whatever project is released its done with the best interest of the open source community. It has to be transparent and it has to be consumable by the community," said Bernstein.

The {code} team contributes to more than 100 projects in the open source community. The project website provides links to an impressive list of sites hosted by {code}, as well as other important open source projects to which the team is contributing. The {code} team maintains a GitHub page that has 67 repositories [3].

Container Storage Interface

One of the most ambitious projects the {code} team is working on is the Container Storage Interface (CSI) [4]. Although Kubernetes is enjoying an explosive adoption, Bernstein believes that it's not getting adopted in production as heavily as it should.

"There is a lot of dev-tests; there is a lot of internal PoC (proof of concept), but when you want to run it in production, you want to run meaningful and valuable applications that add business value," said Bernstein. "Many of those applications require storage. In an effort to fill a gap in the ecosystem and make it a production ready platform, storage is very important."

CSI is designed to provide storage orchestration between container run times and back-end storage infrastructure so persistent applications can run in containers. Many container storage interfaces exist, but currently there is no standardization.

CSI aims to fix the existing fragmentation. The initial specification for CSI was led by Mesosphere. Later on the Kubernetes community joined the efforts.

"Our contributions have been in implementing CSI inside of Kubernetes and also providing two drivers to the open source community to use CSI with our products," said Bernstein.

At KubeCon Austin, the team released CSI drivers for Dell EMC ScaleIO (csi-scaleio) and vSphere (csi-vsphere). The {code} team also released a generic NFS driver, a generic VFS driver, and a generic block driver.

"We are working very hard so that CSI becomes a Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) project," said Bernstein, "We really think that storage has been left out of the container ecosystem for so long.

Business and Open Source

Selling open source doesn't always come through direct sales or subscriptions; it can also come through becoming a core component of the open source ecosystem. You don't make money from open source; you make money around open source. {code} is a great model for other companies to follow, to build an open source culture within the company and also create actual projects that are useful in real use cases.

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