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.
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.
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.