CHICAGO - Jim Zemlin, the executive director of the Linux Foundation, talks about Linux a lot. During his keynote at the LinuxCon USA event here, Zemlin noted that it's often difficult for him to come up with new material for talking about the state of Linux at this point.
Every year at LinuxCon, Zemlin delivers his State of Linux address, but this time he took a different approach. Zemlin detailed what he actually does and how the Linux Foundation works to advance the state of Linux.
Fundamentally it's all about enabling the open source collaboration model for software development.
"We are seeing a shift now where the majority of code in any product or service is going to be open source," Zemlin said.
Zemlin added that open source is the new Pareto Principle for software development, where 80 percent of software code is open source. The nature of collaborative development itself has changed in recent years. For years the software collaboration was achieved mostly through standards organizations.
"Today open source is becoming the dominant form of collaboration in the industry and often open source projects lead standards efforts," Zemlin said "Open source is becoming the new way to enable the tech industry to provide 80 percent of the code that goes into the things that are part of our life."
Zemlin said that he used to always introduce himself as Linus Torvalds' boss, but that's not really what he does. Really what Zemlin and the Linux Foundation does is keep things clean so development can work.
"I'm just Linus Torvalds' janitor," Zemlin said.
What the Linux Foundation provides is a structure that helps industry at large understand open source. Zemlin said that the Foundation teaches open source basics and enables open source development in business processes. The Foundation also works to develop relationships between industry and community and demonstrates business value in community support.
The Foundation also provides shared development infrastructure, including code review processes, shared testing infrastructure and release management capabilities. Zemlin said that Linux has moved from an adhoc society to a professionally organized group.
The Foundation is also able to step in and help address market failures, such at the one that occurred early this year with the OpenSSL heartbleed security flaw. In the wake of Heartbleed, the Linux Foundation launched the Core Infrastructure Initiative and raised millions to help provide additional resources to open-source projects like OpenSSL.
Another key part of the Linux Foundation's activities is bringing in more developers as well as marketing. Zemlin stressed that marketing matters even in open source.
The Foundation also allows for shared intellectual property management and legal defense.
"It's about keeping the halls clean," Zemlin said. "Let the coding happen by teaching lawyers how to enable engineers instead of restricting them."
Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Datamation and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist