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Interview: Brooks Davis

Brooks Davis will give a talk about promoting open source methods at a large company at FOSDEM 2010.

Could you briefly introduce yourself?

I'm a on the Core Team of the FreeBSD project an an occasional contributor to the Ganglia and Sun Grid Engine projects. At work I'm a combination system architect and system admin for our Technical Computing Services subdivision which encompasses a range of functions from high performance computing (HPC) to web based applications. My open source contributions cover bits of networking, HPC application, and system configuration.

Outside of computing my main interests are food and brewing.

What will your talk be about, exactly?

I'll be talking the political and technical issues behind our efforts to introduce internal developers to open source tools and methods.

What do you hope to accomplish by giving this talk ? What do you expect?

I would like to share our ideas for promoting open source methods within our company and to meet other open source developers who are trying to do similar things. I hope we can share ideas about ways to improve corporate software culture from the inside out.

How did your promotion of open source methods inside The Aerospace Corporation evolve? Did you get the reactions that you expected?

We've had a decent, linear or somewhat better than linear growth in curve in terms of number of projects. I might have hoped for more, but we're happy with the >200 projects we have today.

What are the most common objections to open source methods you encountered inside The Aerospace Corporation or other companies?

We largely ran into the same obstacles generally reported when groups try to open source existing software, but we also ran into some strange ones like fear of contributions.

Which new open source methods are you planning to introduce inside your company in the coming years?

One thing that's in the pipeline will be introducing distributed version control. We'll need to manage that carefully since centralization is a key feature of our current system, but the tools are too valuable to ignore.

You'll talk about how a large company can benefit from using open source methods, but how about the other way? What can the free and open source community learn from large companies?

An interesting question and not one I've thought about much. One area I'd say open source projects could learn from large companies is in making time/money trade offs. The most valuable thing most projects have is developer time and attention. I'd argue that too many projects run their infrastructure on needy hand-me-down hardware at the expense of wasted developer time and that they would be better off scraping together the money for newer equipment so volunteers could work on more interesting things.

Have you enjoyed previous FOSDEM editions?

2010 will be the first edition of FOSDEM I've been able to attend. I'm looking forward to it and to spending some time in Belgium.

Creative Commons License
This interview is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Belgium License.