Do They Speak Open Source in Japan?

For those of you who have been to Japan, you know how beautiful the country is, how welcoming the culture is, and how dedicated the workforce is.  For those of you who have not yet had the opportunity to visit, I highly recommend putting this trip on your “bucket list." 

I have had the good fortune to do business in Japan over the last 12 years, and recently had the privilege to speak at two excellent open source events in Tokyo sponsored by the Linux Foundation. 

The two events, the Open Compliance Summit and the End User Summit, provided me a glimpse of two different perspectives on how open source is used and viewed by the technology community in Japan.

The first perspective was clearly on display at the Open Compliance Summit.  There is an active interest and desire to define “compliance,” and to understand “how to comply."  There were multiple presentations on the compliance topic from large traditional companies like Oracle, as well as hot start-ups like Twitter.    The questions and conversations that followed illustrate the point that the answer to the compliance question really does depend on the unique attributes of your business. 

Clearly, Oracle and Twitter are two very different companies and approach open source compliance very differently, yet they are in pursuit of the common goal of being “compliant."

My take-away was to first, understand your business, then apply the compliance model to your business.  What do I mean by "understand your business"?

  • Understand the nature of applications where open source is used.
  • Understand whether distribution is involved.
  • Understand the risk profile in the culture of your business.
  • Understand the maturity of the development process.

In short, try to gain an understanding of why open source is valuable to the goals of your business. 

This understanding will guide you in determining what “compliant” means for your organization.   Think of compliance from multiple perspectives.  Certainly, there are terms of an open source policy and of open source licenses that are factual, and I am not advocating that anyone attempt circumvention of these.  However, a gathering of the facts does not always tell the entire story.   There is an interpretation of what the facts mean within the context of your business.  That is the key step to becoming compliant.

The second perspective came from the End User Summit.  This event focused on how people are really using open source and why it has value.

There was a similar theme of “different strokes for different folks” in the presentations, and once again, I was struck by the desire to understand and learn from other companies.  In the true spirit of open source, I was also struck by the willingness and openness of companies to share their stories, both good and bad, with others in the room.  This event was about sharing best practices, wins, and losses with others.

While this event was very different from a compliance-focused event, my take-away was very similar.  The key to getting the most out of open source, in any geographical setting, is to first understand what your business is trying to accomplish, and then apply the best open source tools, knowledge, and experience you can find to help solve the problem.

The list of examples provided at these events was long and rich.  Stories focused on:

  • pure computing horsepower and using open source to push those limits 
  • quickly moving capabilities to mobile devices
  • ultra large data sets, and trying to sort through them in meaningful ways 

And, of course, no event would be complete without some discussion of how to move some level of compute capabilities to the cloud. 

Open source is indeed spoken in Japan.  It is alive and well; it is taking hold and thriving.  Regardless of geography, culture, or language I found the openness, the transparency and the power of open source and the open source collaborative culture very much alive in Japan.

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