CTOs say big companies need to support and be supported by the open source community

9 January 2015 by Steve Blum
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If there’s going to be 50 billion connected devices by 2020 – which is the goal set by Ericsson – then interoperability and interconnection standards will be necessary, according to Ulf Ewaldsson, the company’s CTO. He was speaking at a CES panel session on corporate research and development. Those standards aren’t there yet, but the likeliest path will be through open source collaboration, rather than propriety technology.

“Open source creates both standards and it creates a more rapid development process than before”, he said. “Open source is a very rapid way to increase the pace of software development”.

“Increasingly, gone are the days when a company can make a proprietary standard and make it successful”, said Todd Rytting, CTO for Panasonic North America. Particularly, killer apps “don’t often come from predictable sources”.

Both emphasised that corporate involvement in open source efforts has to active and wide ranging, if it’s to be effective. “There isn’t one open source consortium that rules them all, there’s a need for many different flavors” Rytting, said. “You have to participate. Participate isn’t just taking it in and using it, it’s about contributing”.

One role corporations can play in open source projects is to help turn the results into something that’s easily deployable. Ewaldsson pointed out that open source technology does not usually come in a “ready to go” condition, but companies like Ericsson are good at packaging software – open source and otherwise – and making it accessible to less technically capable users.

But being big isn’t a particular advantage, particularly when it comes to recruiting the kind of engineering talent needed to develop cutting edge software. “It’s interesting to try to compete against the start ups when you’re a big giant company”, Rytting said.