IBM, who has partnered with AAIS on the development of the openIDL data-management platform on blockchain, has long been a strong proponent of open-source software development. Chris Ferris, an IBM Fellow and CTO for Open Technology at IBM, spoke to AAIS’s Joan Zerkovich on the importance of the open-source concept and the powerful outcomes IBM has seen from building technology in an open environment.
IBM has been practicing open-source development for more than 40 years, building on the belief that a strong, dedicated, and diverse community of developers will ultimately provide a better, more extensible outcome than a proprietary software team would be able to create. Where appropriate, they also help by creating stewardship models to build governance around open-source communities as projects take shape and ensure the new technology is evolving based on the needs of the greater community, not the desires of one organization. From their investment in the Linux and Apache Software Foundations to their contributions to industry enhancements in XML, HTML5, big-data analytics and, most recently, quantum computing, IBM’s commitment to open source has led to some of the biggest breakthroughs the software industry has seen.
What’s the secret to success with open source? Mr. Ferris said the varied experiences, mindsets and knowledge an open-source community brings result in a stronger product. He referenced the work being done on the Hyperledger Project under the Linux Foundation, saying that today, more than 200 companies are contributing to 16 distributed ledger projects under the Hyperledger umbrella, including Hyperledger Fabric. The Hyperledger Fabric is now being used by 10 of the largest cloud providers…setting a standard for the industry and building a new path towards standard use.
Mr. Ferris sees the power of open-source development at work as blockchain technology grows more prominent. He said he’s starting to see real movement in several industries, including insurance, logistics and supply chain. More major industry players are getting involved, causing blockchains to be developed at a faster pace with greater open-source innovation. This adds a unique challenge to the development process – so many see the potential for blockchain but know they must create a solid technological foundation before extending the capabilities. He said IBM is seeing more and more blockchain experimentation as developers try new approaches and build new use cases for the technology, and the excitement, energy and passion around the project will lead to real change in many different industries…as long as the commitment to an open-source community continues.
Technology is moving quickly, and Mr. Ferris advised companies to prepare for changes before they become the norm. He said forward-looking organizations must employ resources to stay abreast of new trends and technologies, and to think now about how they could be applied to their specific industry needs. By doing so, he said, companies will be able to more quickly adapt once new technologies like blockchain are widely introduced. He encouraged more developers to get involved in open-source consortia in technologies their industries touch, saying that by being involved now, they’ll be able to impact the technologies that will become a part of daily life in the future.
To see the full interview with Mr. Ferris and Ms. Zerkovich, please visit the VME Library.