Open-Source Software Gets Vote of Confidence at OSCON

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-08-03 Print this article Print

Google programmers say they support and use the Linux kernel, while Sun's COO discusses open-source Java.

PORTLAND—The ability of open-source software and the Linux operating system to scale and to meet mission-critical enterprise needs got a resounding endorsement from Jeremy Zawodny, who works for Yahoo Inc.s technical team. In a talk to the several hundred attendees at the annual OSCON (OReilly Open Source Convention) here on Wednesday about whether Linux and open-source software could scale and how Yahoo uses open-source technology, Zawodnys message was that, in short, it "can and does scale." With billions of page views served a day, Yahoo needs very flexible software, and there are several things about open-source software that make it usable in Yahoos environment, he said, touting the many benefits that software brings.
"The flexibility of the tools is very important, and the fact that the source code is there for us to see and modify, which we do quite a bit, is vital. We also use things in ways they maybe werent built to do," he said.
The quality of open-source software is also "second to none" and the majority of the time it just works, while the documentation around this is also surprisingly good, he said, adding that availability on the platforms it runs is also very good. Support is an area in which the open-source community really shines: "Support is everywhere—online, commercially, and the costs are lower with open source for a lot of things we do. The money we would have been paying in license fees we can put into support, be that from a commercial vendor or by employing people in-house," Zawodny said. Click here to read more about how Yahoos service provides related search results within the context of a Web page. Yahoos software stack essentially consists of FreeBSD/Linux—with the amount of Linux use growing because a number of companies Yahoo has acquired are on this platform and because it has some proprietary applications that only run on it, such as Apache, C/C++, PHP and APC, Perl, and mdbm/MySql. There are hundreds of open-source packages used at Yahoo, and each of them has a different software stack behind it, he said, adding that the engineering team at Yahoo is also using open-source and Linux desktops. "We have been doing a lot of work internally on 64-bit and FreeBSD and Linux. The result of all of this adoption and work is a cultural mind-shift at Yahoo. The visible examples of this are the new things we are offering, like the Yahoo Developer Network launched earlier this year," he said. To read more about the release of Yahoos comprehensive developers program, click here. In a separate session, Chris DiBona, the open-source program manager at Google, the search engine powerhouse, said the company was also big fan of the Linux kernel and the company used it extensively. Google is also working on using open source to release tool kits to academics, he said, before addressing the issue of why Google, which could afford to buy any software it wants, used open source. Open-source software brings the flexibility for the company to do whatever it wants with the code, as directed by the license, DiBona said, adding that Google also releases some of its own code back to the community, like tools that allow services to be built. "We want to make the world a little bit better for software developers," he said. Next Page: Depending on engineers.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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