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The LF to build open-source platform for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

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October 13, 2014

The Linux Foundation is targeting second generation drones through a new initiative that will build a dependable open-source software platform for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

Dubbed 'The Dronecode Project' the new initiative is due to be announced today at the Embedded Linux Conference in Dusseldorf, Germany.

The Dronecode Project is founded on the APM UAV software and code that had been hosted by project co-founding member 3D Robotics, until now that is.

Other founding members include Box, DroneDeploy and jDrones. The Linux Foundation said that the Dronecode project would help advance several technologies in data analysis, storage and display for drones and accelerate adoption of more affordable and reliable open-source software for UAVs.

Drones are enjoying a mainstream renaissance in acceptance and application thanks to unending automated war in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

However, building drone systems often sees drone makers building their own software systems. This can mean greater cost and potential problems in the code while throwing up a hurdle to those building drone hardware and apps, not to mention the costly delays to the final product.

All this is a real problem not just for drone makers but also for customers looking for affordable and reliable flying machines.

The Linux Foundation is normally associated with its work on extending the presence of the Linux kernel and in more Earth-bound locations, so this is a big project that has several ramifications and in more directions than in the recent past.

Dronecode becomes a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project, same as the merged Mego and Tiezen efforts for Linux in devices, the Xen hypervisor, and Open Daylight for software-defined networking (SDN).

The Linux Foundation apparently believes that it can bring the same process, order and buy-in to drone software that it has on other projects.

To be sure, Dronecode will be governed by a Linux Foundation Technical Steering Committee, which will become the primary decision-making group.

Falling under the Linux Foundation means that Dronecode can scale and be developed in a vendor-neutral environment.

The project will be headed by Rsync author and Samba co-lead Andrew Tridgell – also lead maintainer in the development of APM.

Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation, said in a statement the Dronecode community would now “receive the support required of a massive project right at its moment of breakthrough.”

“The result will be even greater innovation and a common platform for drone and robotics open source projects,” he added.

In other Linux Foundation News

The Linux Foundation has added another element to its various offerings, with the launch of its OPNFV initiative, a project for an open-source network function virtualization (NFV) platform.

The project comes with a roster of high-profile vendors backing it-- AT&T, Brocade, Cisco, China Mobile, Huawei, IBM, Juniper and a few others.

The goal is to create a reference architecture for carrier-grade NFV, the abstraction of operations that usually reside on custom silicon into software objects built to run on VMs on standard, but usually Intel-based servers.

Rather than developing its own standards, OPNFV will be working with the ETSI group that's formulating the new NFV standards.

As the group explains in its launch announcement-- “Service provider applications have different demands than most IT applications, so an open platform integrating multiple open source components and ensuring continuous testing for carrier-grade service performance is essential to this transition.”

The project says it will draw from existing NVF building blocks that exist, pulling them into a framework under which it'll “coordinate continuous integration and testing”.

Its own code efforts will focus on filling various gaps in the architecture rather than re-creating functions that already exist.

New components will ship under the Apache License Version 2.0. Board officers include Verizon and HP veteran Prodip Sen as chairman, AT&T's Margaret Chiosi, Dell's Wenjing Chu, and China Mobile's Hui Deng.

In other Linux and open source news

Not quite satisfied of running the IT industry's largest enterprise Linux vendor, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst says he wants to make the company the industry's leading enterprise cloud vendor and he plans to win that big market before someone else does.

"Right now, we're in the middle of a major shift from client-server to cloud-mobile. It's a once-every-twenty-years industry kind of a change," Whitehurst wrote in a blog post yesterday.

"As history has clearly demonstrated, in the early days of those changes, winners emerge that set the standards for that era-– think Wintel in the client-server arena," he added.

However, Red Hat certainly isn't alone in eyeballing the cloud for its next big score. 451 Research has estimated the market for OpenStack alone at $3.3 billion by 2018, and companies ranging from Linux vendors like Canonical to entrenched IT companies like HP, Oracle, and VMware are all vying to come out on top of it.

And then of course there's Microsoft, which has outlined its own vision of a "cloud OS" – naturally, powered 100 percent by its own, proprietary Windows software.

"Make no mistake-- the competition is very strong, and enterprises will have several choices for their cloud needs," Whitehurst admitted. "But the prize is the chance to establish open source as the default choice of this next new era, and to position Red Hat as the provider of choice for enterprises' entire cloud infrastructure."

Whitehurst said that Shadowman will stake its cloud efforts on a combination of OpenStack, its OpenShift PaaS offering, and its CloudForms management platform.

But it will also push its storage solutions and JBoss middleware, he said, to deliver as much of the enterprise infrastructure stack as it can.

This shift in strategy toward the cloud doesn't mean that Red Hat will reduce its focus on Linux either, Whitehurst added.

It's just that these days, the engineering challenge is a lot bigger and much more complex that it was a decade ago.

"The original vision for Red Hat Enterprise Linux was simple – to create the best enterprise-class server operating system," Whitehurst said. "But the community has taken Linux further than any of us could ever have imagined. It now serves as a foundation for the next-generation datacenter."

Going forward, he said, Red Hat, which has seen revenue growth in the double digits, is putting all of its efforts into helping enterprise customers build out those next-gen data centers.

"We want to be the undisputed leader in enterprise cloud solutions, and that's why Red Hat is going to continue to push," Whitehurst wrote in his blog post.

In other Linux and open source news

Ubuntu Linux vendor Canonical and AMD have announced this morning a new hardware partnership that will see the two firms prepare an OpenStack-in-a-rack solution that will compete directly with Red Hat.

To be sure, Canonical is quite excited on the news, having revealed earlier this year the 'Orange Box' portable cluster.

That small unit packs ten micro-servers into a portable luggable unit intended to offer a cluster of Ubuntu-powered Hadoop, OpenStack or CloudFoundry system.

The new system is based on AMD's SeaMicro SM-15000 server, a product that uses either AMD's Opteron, Ivy Bridge or Haswell Xeon processors, then packs them into a 10U package with up to 512 cores, 5 PB of storage and 160 gigabits of total I/O capability.

Overall, buyers will also get version Ubuntu LTS 14.04 (LTS: long term support) and OpenStack, assembled to provide the following:

  • 3 Cloud Controllers
  • 57 Nova nodes
  • 3 Cinder nodes
  • 64 TB Object Storage
  • 128 GbE NICs (Max. 512)
  • Integrated Layer 2 Switching
  • 80 Gbps I/O
  • On the software side, users will find Ubuntu LTS 14.04, Ubuntu Server, OpenStack, MAAS and Juju ready to start working together as a complete system.

    There's also a graphical user interface to dynamically deploy new services on demand.

    That inclusion means that this effort can probably be filed under “hyperconverged infrastructure,” a segment in which AMD and Canonical will find vivid competition.

    VMware is already there, plus a few partners and new ones that have just arrived and the likes of Simplivity are making waves.

    Scale Computing has a couple of years' success to point to, while newbie NIMBOXX last week told us that it is struggling to meet demand from U.S. clients and hopes to ramp up to offshore sales real soon now.

    Then, throw in the fact that Gartner recently included hyperconverged elements on its list of things that might give the data centre market a run for its money and it's pretty clear that there's probably room for even more players.

    We've yet to see a Hyper-V based entrant but Microsoft is seeking a patent for a server design. If it joins in, things will become even a bit more complicated.

    In other Linux and open source news

    You'll be happy to know that Linux and open-source project group The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) is now funding its projects with Bitcoins. The US-based non-profit organization says it’s received so far 5.35915909 in Bitcoins, or just over $2,600, in just 48 hours after saying it would accept the virtual currency.

    The ASF says it decided to accept the eCurrency in response to an email request on August 26.

    “Accepting Bitcoins allows donors to the Apache Software Foundation the benefit of digital currency exchange no matter where they reside,” ASF said in a statement.

    Founded in 1999, Apache is home to the very popular HTTP Apache Server. Since then, its empire has expanded dramatically to encompass more than 200 other open-source projects and initiatives for the Unix and Linux community.

    ASF is a registered U.S. non-profit organization that relies on voluntary donations and sponsorships to keep running.

    Sponsors include Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Hewlett-Packard, Huawei, IBM and several others.

    The ASF accepts cash, checks, electronic funds transfer, PayPal, vehicle donations and - now - Bitcoin.

    ASF is coming a bit late to the much-hyped currency. Bitcoin was pretty much last year’s bubble, a hit with coffee-shop hipsters who believed they could change national monetary systems.

    The high point in 2013 was speculation as to whether Bitcoins could become a viable currency along side the dollar, followed by the crushing collapse of the MtGox exchange.

    With so many headlines, it was inevitable that many organizations would hope to win some free ink by announcing that they too were now accepting Bitcoin.

    Naturally, this isn't the case with Apache, they are simply responding to requests. Since then, the suits have started getting involved: banks are considering whether to accept Bitcoin, eBay is reported to be considering its use while Dell in July started a pilot program letting customers pay for their gear using the cryptocurrency.

    In other Linux and open source community news

    A co-founder of the widely-used IMAP email server Dovecot has outlined his three rules for open source success, and that's something that the open source community can certainly relate to in a big way.

    “The first rule is don't sell your company to Oracle if you want to keep your product alive,” he told World Hosting Day in Singapore yesterday.

    “The second rule is again, don't sell your company to Oracle.” Linnanmaki's remarks were, of course, made in reference to Oracle's acquisition of MySQL, a transaction he feels was a “fiasco” but has turned out “not that bad because the only one suffering is Oracle.”

    To say that Linnanmaki doesn't like Oracle is an understatement. Which brings us to his third law, namely that the open source community routes around obstacles and re-groups on the other side.

    “Most of the main MySQL developers are doing MariaDB based on the open source version of MySQL,” he observed. “The community is moving to MariaDB. They are back on the good side.”

    Linnanmäki wasn't just taking a swipe at Oracle or extolling the virtues of open source. Dovecot is open source, a large number of telcos and hosting operators are among its many users.

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    He says it runs on about 2.7 million servers and operates hundreds of millions of mailboxes. The MySQL situation is therefore of interest to its users.

    Linnanmäki said users need not worry that Dovecot will befall the same fate as MySQL. For one thing, it's not for sale. Author Timo Sirainen is also just 32, has plenty of plans for the tool and the company's management team have no plans to head for the beach.

    And even if they do, or the software became a bit boring, Linnanmäki is confident the open source community would build on Dovecot.

    Meanwhile, the Dovecot program is keen to build on Google's recently-announced decision to permit access to data within Gmail inboxes without needing to have IMAP present in client software.

    Linnanmäki said he feels this approach “makes sense” and that Dovecot has dabbled with similar approaches in the past.

    The team will therefore tweak its servers to allow Google's new APIs to work. “We will be supporting this evolution of access to email”, Linnanmäki said.

    The co-founder also had some unkind words – and a familiar dose of bad news – for conventional array vendors. Dovecot can run natively inside AWS or Azure, or use those services' cloud storage facilities, a feature he feels is critical for service providers.

    Linnanmäki cited the case of a Dutch Dovecot service provider who wished to greatly increase the size of the mailboxes it offered to users. During the scoping process, the service provider found that the cost of maintenance alone for new NetApp arrays more than covered the cost of migrating away from old arrays to a cloudy replacement, and the operations of the new system.

    “If you do storage with NFS and appliances, your email services will not be very profitable,” Linnanmäki said.

    In other open source and Linux news

    The Linux Foundation said earlier this morning that it has introduced two new certification programs aimed at connecting companies and prospective recruiters with qualified Linux system administrators and engineers.

    "The supply of labor in the Linux community has been far outpaced by the overall demand for the Linux operating system," said Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin, addressing the audience at the annual LinuxCon event in Chicago.

    "In the past three years, Linux has grown faster than any other computer or server operating system in the history of the IT industry and the supply of labor just isn't keeping up with it."

    Zemlin pointed out to a recent study commissioned by the Linux Foundation in which 93 percent of IT managers said they were looking for Linux talent, yet 90 percent said it was very difficult to find the qualified candidates.

    The Linux Foundation already provides Linux training in various forms, including white papers, online courses and other similar programs.

    Zemlin said one introductory online Linux course the Foundation co-created with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has enrolled 250,000 students so far. But a lot more is needed, he added.

    With the launch of the Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS) and Linux Foundation Certified Engineer (LFCE) programs, the group will now offer employers a way to verify that prospective hires have the proper skills they need.

    Source: The Linux Foundation.

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