Category Archives: Blog

Walmart export web code as Open Source

Walmart have set an example to the retail sector with a significant export of Open Source code to supplement the 140 projects already developed by their technical team in the open.

Whilst transferring the Walmart.com retail platform to React and Node.js, Electrode was created to power the e-commerce platform which serves 80 million visitors per month and 15 million items.

Electrode

Electrode was released as an Open Source application with the OSI approved Apache 2.0 licence and can be found in the Walmart Labs Github account. It provides various developer enhancements and tools for the developer including Node.js configuration and feature management.

Header form Medium post on Walmart Labs Elecrode
Electrode from Walmart Labs

Announcement

Alex Grigoryan of Walmart Labs released a statement on Medium.com 3rd October 2016 explaining the the details of the applications and the scale that they operate at Walmart.

Alex writes about some of the challenges experienced by developers working on large projects. These include code re-use, performance and best practice. He says: “The problems we solved at @WalmartLabs, we want to solve for the community. So that’s what Electrode gives you out of the box”

In the first month following the announcement, Alex has engaged with the communities and responded to many questions asked about the software. The Github repository has already gained over 200 Github stars and contributions from the core developers are maintained on a daily basis.

Summary

Although early days for Electrode, this does look like a sincere investment in the Open Source ecosystem. On one hand, it enables other retailers to import the code and build their own competing platforms. On the other, it clearly sets Walmart as a lead innovator in this space and enables them to bring to life from contributions and enhancements submitted by external developers.

It will be interesting to see which forward-thinking retailers follow suit or collaborate in using and improving the software exported by Walmart.

Open for Business 2016

Open for Business 2016 logoOpenUK is the co-host and sponsor with the BCS Open Source Specialist Group of the annual Open for Business conference.  This is our annual festival of open source in the business environment which takes place on Monday 5th September in Hebden Bridge.

This year we are focusing on how to bring open source into your business,  looking at how to make money using open source, how to manage open source procurement and how to handle legal and licensing issues.  But most of our speakers are an international group of senior executives, with huge real work experience of success  with open source in their own business.

Highlights include

  • A keynote from Mike Little, co-founder of WordPress, which now powers 26% of the Web.
  • Maarten Ectors, VP for IoT at Canonical presenting on making money with open source.
  • Matija Suklje, lawyer and FOSS legal specialist who spent 5 years heading up the FSFE Legal Network (global FOSS legal network and Chatham House Rule list, which also publishes the International Free and Open Source Software Law Review journal

and our very own Stuart Mackintosh, Founder of OpusVL and chair of Open UK.

This year, over an extended lunch break, our speakers are offering “surgery” sessions. An opportunity to seek free advice one-to-one with leading practitioners.  In the evening you are invited to join speakers and other attendees for an informal dinner in a local pub.

Open for Business is just one part of the 10-day long Wuthering Bytes festival, a 10-day celebration of open source technology in the heart of the UK’s “Northern Powerhouse”.  There are many more meetings of interest to OpenUK members, from workshops on open source hardware through to open smart cities to the global meetings of the LLVM and GNU Tools Cauldrons.

Full details of Open for Business 2016 are here, with free registration through EventBrite here.  We look forward to seeing you in Hebden Bridge next month.

Review of global Open Source policy across the public sector

The UK has benefited from the 2012 Open Standards policy which was formally reviewed in 2015, and the guidance toward selecting Open Source, as described in the official UK government IT strategy, which states “where appropriate Open Source solutions and Open Standards will be considered”. However this document is becoming outdated, as the development and use of Open Source rises, and policy needs to evolve in order to keep up with action already being taken by many organisations within the public sector.

USA

Compare this to the progressive strategy outlined by the current White House Chief Information Officer Tony Scott, a strong advocate of Open Source, who believes that technological innovation is built through collective knowledge and collaboration.

Scott’s department has released a draft Federal source code policy for public consultation by 18th April 2016 and are encouraging the wider community to provide comment. This draft requires that all custom code purchased by the Federal Government to be made available across Federal Agencies, but for now, only limited obligation to be released as Open Source software to the community.

President Obama seeks technological progress and there is a view that investing in openness will address this. The White House describe the Open Data aspirations, API’s and contributions to Open Source on their developers pages.

A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page is maintained by the US Department of Defence which aims to address the common issues that arise during selection and procurement which is generally also of benefit to non-US administrations.

India

A similar picture is emerging in other countries including India who encourage the use of Open Source over proprietary software.

Europe

Across Europe, many policies and guidance have been issued over recent years.

The French Prime Minister recommended that agencies return between 5% and 10% of savings made from the use of Open Source opposed to proprietary back to the communities as part of it’s Open Source drive.

Basque Country issued a decree in 2012 and was one of the first EU states to issue such a strong statement.

Initial Italian publications in 2012 lead to the development of criteria and guidelines in 2013 promoting importing of Open Source and the re-export of the software to other departments.

Although this is very positive progress, these policy developments focus on the importing of Open Source, with some limited obligation to share amongst other departments.

Bulgaria has lead the way with an all-round Open Source policy. Following the introduction of mandatory evaluation of Open Source solutions for government tenders in 2015, the government proposed a repository of Open Source applications which will be mirrored with Github, therefore enabling developers and other departments to interact, acquire and feed back to the software assets. The policy is currently under review in parliament and is anticipated to successfully pass in the near future.

Poland released their policy in 2016 which describes their aspiration to become an all-round Open Source government and this encompasses Open Data in addition to the software assets.

A review of EU policies and analysis of the response of 10 EU regions can be found in a 2013 document which presents the position of sharing and re-use of digital assets. A full report is available detailing the position of 30 EU nations.

Local government and departments

Such a policy applied to central government does not directly ensure that the public sector as a whole must comply. Local government, states and departments generally require their own policy to enforce such activity. A statement by USA digital working group 18F propose that their policy is extended to states and local government as described here. However the policy is likely to encourage generation of relevant Open Source software within the sector that other departments benefit from so we can expect it to be influential.

What next?

The importation of Open Source into government software projects does not ensure a two-way ecosystem, therefore failing to engage and stimulate the Open Source business, community and the benefits this may otherwise bring. Procurement and supply chain issues still need to be addressed in order to further evolve policies to reflect the needs and challenges of organisations within the public sector

At the time of writing, Open Forum Europe are working with other organisations to research the business use of Open Source across Europe. It is anticipated that this will bring more clarity to the positions of the nations outlined here as well as the first objective study of business impact of Open Source.

There is no argument that a purchaser of software and services would welcome solutions that ensured the freedoms identified by the Free Software Foundation. This has been considered a utopia and unachievable in the course of contemporary business. With the significant progress this decade toward Open Source policy, and leading nations experimenting with the all-round approach, it is now becoming more widely accepted that these freedoms will become a common expectation when acquiring software.

Starting An Open Source Business

Last autumn, the OSC was co-host with the BCS Open Source Specialist Group of Open for Business as part of the Wuthering Bytes festival. This was a one day conference to help those wanting to start their own open source business, or to use open source more widely in their existing business.

We recorded (almost) all the talks, to provide a permanent repository of information that will serve as an invaluable resource to those running, starting up or considering starting, their own open source business.

Tariq Rashid Opening keynote: Digital services video slides
Rob Blake The best of times, the worst of times: The golden age of the modern web, open source and market commoditisation. video slides
Stuart Mackintosh Discovering open source business models (or “hacking the IT industry”) video slides
Stuart Mackintosh The Open Source Consortium: An introduction video slides
Rob Taylor Thoughts from 10 years of open source business video
Scott Wilson University R&D, technology transfer and FOSS video slides
Amanda Brock Open source and commercial agreements slides
Peter Coates Building a self-sustaining ecosystem of clinically led open digital solutions for the care community video slides
Robin Kennedy Support for Innovation video slides
Cornelia Boldyreff The BCS Open Source Specialist Group video slides
Adam Jollans Closing keynote: IBM’s journey with open source video slides

 

The entire video set is also available as a playlist, allowing you to relive the day in its entirety. Amanda Brock gave her talk via Skype, and unfortunately we were unable to capture the audio, but we are able to offer her slides.

The event was very well received by all who attended, and by popular request, we hope to run a follow up event as part of Wuthering Bytes 2016. I’ll be writing more about this later in the year.

Finally, my thanks to our hosts at Hebden Bridge Town Hall, Calderdale Council.

Jeremy Bennett, OSC Treasurer

Open Source GCSE-equivalent qualification attracts DfE 16-19 performance points

On Friday 8th January, the Department for Education (DfE) approved an Open Systems IT Management (OSIM) Level 2 course to be eligible for 16-19 Performance Points counting towards the school’s league table attainment. It is an area of skills shortage identified by the DfE who are responding to an increase in demand for Open Source, Linux and Cloud expertise through UK industry.

This is the first time that a course at GCSE level that focuses on the use of Open systems and Open Source Software has achieved this formal recognition. Attracting performance points at 6th form and college levels, this course is of equal importance to other subjects. Following the DfE guidance in 2013 (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-computing-programmes-of-study) demanding better teaching of computing, and the various coding clubs active at Primary schools, there has been a need to allow pupils developing these skills to engage with qualifications to validate their learning.

To strengthen the case, there are changes in the league tables following the introduction of the Progress 8 measure (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/progress-8-school-performance-measure) in 2016. This encourages schools to provide a broader curriculum and requires schools to meet targets across a range of categories. The OSIM course will count towards the non GCSE category providing schools the option of following on Key Stage 4 IT qualifications at Key Stage 5. Without this course, further work within the IT curriculum would difficult and not provide students with additional challenges and force them to re-learn the same IT work, leading to disengagement and disaffection.

With the further endorsement of the Open standard principles in Autumn 2015 by the Rt Hon Matt Hancock, and the Government Digital Services manual being geared around Open Source technology, the demand for expertise is gaining momentum and this course will go a long way to enabling individuals to develop the necessary skills. Released a year ago by the Prime Minister’s Office, the UK digital economy vision (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-uks-vision-for-the-european-unions-digital-economy/uk-vision-for-the-eus-digital-economy) describes some of the challenges identified, but young people have not had the opportunity to formally learn the relevant skills required to deliver this vision.

The units studied as part of the course are designed around practical needs in modern practical computing. They cover:

  • Understanding global software communities and their products

  • Using an Operating System efficiently

  • Computer hardware systems and networks

  • LOGOCarrying out an IT systems management project

Behind this course is The Learning Machine (TLM), a company based in Tamworth, Staffordshire. TLM took a professionally recognised qualification based on the Linux Essentials programme from the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) and turned in to a level 2 qualification structured in a language that schools and colleges can use.

TLM are the awarding organisation for this course, provide training to the assessors on the certification and moderation systems and schools fund the student for each qualification. TLM offer a range of models to support the varying ways schools fund these qualifications.LPI-Essentials-Logo-300X300-150x150

Paul Taylor, Director of Resource Development at TLM says “in the modern internet age, everything works on Open Source, but there has been no formal recognition of progress or ability within the UK education system. Now that the OSIM course is formally recognised and contributes to school league tables, it is in reach of every student in the UK.”

Working with DfE, Open Source Consortium (OSC), LPI and other organisations, the course has been developed to focus on the skills in demand by the growing technology industry. Stuart Mackintosh, chairman of the Open Source Consortium says “It has been a significant achievement to have this course formally recognised on the performance tables and designed to fit in with teaching and curriculum requirements of schools and colleges across the country. As the Open Source industry association, the OSC supported the development of the qualification and is pleased with this result achieved by TLM

The OSC, with whom TLM are a long-standing member, provide a link to industry expertise across the UK where schools, colleges and any other organisation, can find expert support, and students can access resources, work placements and employment opportunities.

With this model proven, TLM are developing the Level 3 qualification to support further learning. Following this, level 1 and entry level courses will be developed to make the Open Systems more accessible to those younger and less able. TLM aspire to offer a full suite of approved courses through level 4 & 5 for further education and workplace study. Whilst these are being developed, students can use the existing LPI programmes, although these are not currently funded by the DfE.

To access the course, a student can either self-study or ask their school to register. The flexible engagement methods make it feasible for very small numbers of students to take the course whilst economies of scale lower the cost for schools who actively promote the course. Funding is now available from the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) of £941 per student to run the course owing to the DfE approval for performance points.

Full details of the course can be found here: https://theingots.org/community/Open_Systems_Management

About The Learning Machine (TLM)

http://thelearningmachine.co.uk/about-us/

The Learning Machine Ltd (TLM). TLM is an Awarding Organisation Accredited by Ofqual and DAQW, the regulators for qualifications in England and Wales. TLM is responsible for developing and managing a new and innovative family of qualifications. The most popular of these qualifications is the Qualification for IT Users, the ITQ, based on industry standard needs for IT. This is referenced to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) for broader industry acceptance. We produce a range of qualifications in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) based subjects such as ICT, Computing, Design Engineer and Construct or Smart Product Design and Manufacture that provide headline points in the KS4 performance figures which are supported by free on-line guidance and resources.

Address: 4D-4E Gagarin, Lichfield Road, Tamworth, Staffordshire B79 7GN

Email: helpdesk@theingots.org

Open Source Everywhere: ORCONF 2015 at CERN

jor1kI’m in CERN this weekend at the annual meeting of the Free and Open Source silicon design community.  CERN with its open hardware group is a leading player in this area.

This is our fourth meeting, and the size reflects the explosion in interest in open source for hardware.  Our first conference had less than 20 attendees.  This year we have 100.

The number of free and open source processor designs is growing.  The granddaddy is the OpenRISC 1000, but more recently Krste Asanovic and David Patterson (he of RISC-1 fame) created the RISC-V architecture, and groups all over the world are building chips based on this.  With clock rates of up to 2GHz and energy usage of 30GFlops/Watt these are not just free and open source, they are possibly the most efficient general purpose processors in the world.

I can’t even start to touch on all the subjects we have covered – you can see the list on the ORCONF website.  For some great pictures, follow the Twitter tags #orconf and #orconf2015.  But these are engineers who know few limits.  The picture with this blog is Sebastian Macke talking about his jor1k JavaScript simulator for the RISC-V processor.  Run Linux on a simulated chip on his website.

I suspect this is an area, few OSC members know about, but it is a rapidly growing field.  As the trade body, we support open source in all its forms.  Including hardware!

Jeremy Bennett, OSC Treasurer

Creating and Growing Open Source Businesses

Open_Source_BoutiqueTo those familiar with traditional business models, my company, Embecosm, is something of a mystery.  A team of very highly paid engineers using expensive equipment to write immensely complex software, which we then give away for free.  Yet despite this, we are a growing and profitable business.

The answer of course is that we are not paid for the software product we produce.  We are a service business and we are paid to write and modify compiler tool chains, which our customers then give away to enable the use of and help to advertise their wider products.  This business model works for Embecosm, because first of all we have customers with a very strong commercial pressure to provide compilers; and secondly writing compilers is really, really hard.

Our customers are generally processor manufacturing companies, and a good implementation of either GCC or LLVM is a must-have for any successful processor design.  As I have written before, there are probably only between 20 and 50 true experts worldwide in implementing each of the major free and open source compiler tool chains (GCC and LLVM).

This is perhaps the oldest and simplest of open source business models.  But there are many other business models that work, and which may be much more suitable for different commercial sectors.  How do you choose the right one for your business?  Indeed, how do you get started with an open source business at all?  Getting access to open source specific business expertise is a problem for the wider open source community.   To help address this, the Open Source Consortium, in partnership with the BCS Open Source Specialist Group, have put together a one day conference as part of the Wuthering Bytes Festival, bringing together leading authorities in open source business to share their expertise.

Open for Business: Monday 28th SeptemberBCSosc-web

08:30–17:30. Hebden Bridge Town Hall, Saint George’s Street, Hebden Bridge, HX7 7BY

This one day conference aims to help anyone with or working at an open source business, along with those who may be thinking of starting an open source business.

The presentations will provide insights into first-hand experiences at companies ranging from micro to global in scale, together with talks that look at the economics and legal considerations, exploring open source business models and contracts. We will also hear about the role of open source in taking ideas out of University and into commercial deployment. There will be presentations that explore public sector adoption of open source and the opportunities that it presents. Finally, there there will be a talk that looks at the government support available for innovation. Generous breaks for coffee, lunch and tea ensure there will be plenty of opportunity for networking.

To find out more and book your place, look at the agenda and details of the talks and speakers.

Open for Business is hosted by the Open Source Consortium and the BCS Open Source Specialist Group , and is being run as part of the Wuthering Bytes technology festival.

Wuthering Byteswuthering-bytes-logo-dark_720w

One of the reasons for hosting Open for Business as part of the Wuthering Bytes festival, is that it provides the perfect stage within which to explore potential business opportunities. Immediately before Open for Business is the annual conference of the Open Source Hardware User Group, over the weekend of 26th & 27th September. This features 13 talks and 7 hands-on workshops, covering topics including the Internet of Things, open hardware licensing, research into the maker movement, open source processors and wearable computing.

Then immediately following Open for Business, Calderdale Council are hosting three days on the theme of Our Tech Future, exploring topics such as the role of open data in the provision of public services, citizen innovation and much more.

Finally, the festival will draw to a close on Friday 2nd October with a day of talks that are a celebration of technology in everyday life, with inspiring stories and thought provoking insights, covering a diverse range of topics.

I look forward to seeing you all there.

 

Jeremy Bennett

Open Source Consortium Treasurer and CEO of Embecosm

My thanks to Gary Cheski for permission to use his cartoon. An earlier version of this article appeared on the Embecosm blog.

Document Freedom Day 2015 round-up

As the week of activities surrounding Document Freedom Day 2015 draws to a close, it is time to reflect on the lasting effects that have been inspired through this global initiative. With over 50 events around the world promoting openness and vendor-neutrality of documents, many more people will now have an appreciation of why Open Document Formats matter to us all. Here are just a few of the highlights of #DFD2015

Document Freedom Day image

LibreOffice announced the release of LibreOffice Online, a cloud-based installation of LibreOffice available for anyone to use.

Collabora, the UK leader in the provision of commercial support solutions for Libreoffice released further information around the practicalities of implementing the Online version.

Yesterday, we saw the UK Government Digital Service release a blog summarising recent Government activity towards opening up documents. Also on the 27th, further guidance was released, restating the Government policy and providing resources to assist users and procurement with adherence to the policy.

I was proud to be involved with a UK project to produce a toolkit with the objective of promoting the message that change is simple. Within hours, a German translation of the graphic was published and an unofficial Greek version created.
The toolkit is available from the Open Forum Europe here and the Open Forum Press release can be downloaded from here.
OFE ODF Toolkit

DFD Infographic thumbnail

Karsten Gerloff, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE), writes in his blog of how the FSFE celebrated Document Freedom Day with the Green group of the European Parliament. The event focussed on a recent study of the benefit to procurement transparency that can be achieved with Open Documents.
The FSFE promoted their cartoon released for the 2012 Document Freedom day.The cartoon has many European translations and artwork can be downloaded here.

Also making a repeat appearance this year was a graphic created by the French volunteer and member organisation, April. Their 2013 graphic describes how Open Document formats ensure the longevity of documents and can be downloaded here.

Open Source at CloudExpoEurope 2015

CloudExpoEurope took place over a two day period, from the 11th to the 12th of March at ExCel, London. It is the largest cloud event in the world, demonstrating the most current and innovative cloud technology solutions

redhat-cloudexpo-standIt was clear to see how technology, particularly open source technology has evolved, not only in the technology itself but also in the was this is presented. These cloud technology revolutions are not being kept in the dark any longer. Instead they are being openly celebrated.

One of the big names exhibiting at the event was RedHat. A compact stand, RedHat had stripped away all of the unnecessarys that may have detracted from their brand, adding strength to their exhibit through a crisp, bright presentation. In addition to the popular and most well established Linux distributions, RedHat provide cloud infrastructure,  cloudforms,  Openstack platforms and more.

Greatly differing in their exhibit was Suse who used a jungle theme to compliment and enhance their memorable lizard logo. Their presentation successfullsuse-cloudexpo-standy balanced creativity and colour while maintaining a high level of professionalism. In addition to their Linux distribution, their offerings include Openstack private cloud and public cloud solutions as well as consulting services and support.

OW2 were represented at the event. Not only does this organisation deal with infrastructApphub-cloudexpo-bannerure software, but is also actively involved in the open source community, launching AppHub in January 2015, providing a neutral channel and support base for those involved in open source.

Also at CloudExpoEurope was
Edge-core, providers of network solutions. Edge-core also use the SMC brand- one of the industry pioneers with over 40 years of experience.
Cloudweavers, who have introduced their instant cloud, a self managed and private cloud which does not require any installation, is hardware independent and easy to set up.

A recurrent theme throughout the event was the modernisation of the image of open source cloud technology. A vast contrast to many ill-informed stereotypes about technology solutions, the open source exhibits were dynamiedgecore-stand-cloudexpoc, vibrant and current, delivering their information in a clear and approachable manner.

Rising profile of Open Source in retail tech

I visited the RBTE expo at Olympia on 10th March to gain a perspective of the progress of Open Source in retail technology, we were not disappointed with what we found.

RBTE 2015 LogoIt was clear to see the profile of Open Source is emerging within the retail industry. We found most exhibitors embed Open Source at some level within their offerings, this may be through cloud infrastructure, Android or Open Source developments.

Odoo stand at RBTE 2015Odoo, who topped the bill on the e-Commerce bootcamp, demonstrated how their software can enable the rapid implementation of an e-Commerce module within their business management suite of applications. Their stand featured the full end to end business management solution including point of sale, warehouse management and accounting with particular focus on the drag and drop website and e-commerce builder. Currently, the Odoo suite is provided under an Open Source AGPL license and is written in a modular Python framework. A partner channel provides implementation services, Odoo offer direct hosted sales and an enterprise contract guarantee.

Shopware stand at RBTE 2015Shopware made their UK début at the show, prominently and proudly displaying the words “Open Source”. This attracted much attention and conversation as passers by who may have heard of Open Source, and wanted more information, stopped to talk to the exhibitor. Shopware provide an Open Source e-commerce platform ,written in PHP ,which is popular across mainland Europe. The application is often used as a front-end on top of legacy ERP and database systems. They support an extensive set of plugins and an enterprise support option, the software is released under an Open Source license.

Akeneo stand at RBTE 2015Akeneo also made their UK début with their Open Source Product Information Management tools. Also created in PHP, the Akeneo tools enable data to be consolidated from multiple sources and made available to online applications, mobile apps and even printable outputs. The solution includes a powerful import and export function which enables it to connect with many ERP systems, databases and even CSV files. Akeneo provide their application through a BSD-style license and offer enterprise services.

Magento stand at RBTE 2015Last but not least is the Open Source powerhouse of e-commerce, Magento. Also a PHP application, Magento has a large community of integrators and developers to support and develop the Open Core and associated commercial modules. Recently acquired by Ebay Enterprises, Magento had a large presence, sponsoring the lanyards and taking a large stand space, shared with a selection of integrators.

Flapit imageAlthough not Open Source, one stand that also caught our eye was the Flapit cloud-connected departure board which displays real-time statistics taken from social media and other sources in the virtual world bringing them into a tangible form in the physical world. The Flapit display is just over half a meter wide and resembles a 1960s electronic calendar clock.

It was pleasing to see that the Open Source stands drew more than their fair share of visitors, leaving some of the more established names kicking their heels. This was in part due to to the contemporary and clean presentation style of the Open Source companies, and the intuitive and easy to use applications on offer.