IT managers urged to dip toes into community-based support

For traditional businesses, navigating the world of open source software development is very different from working with a vendor. Just ask Ed Reaves, the platform product line manager for Toronto-based Nortel Networks, which uses Linux to run the switches that handle mobile telephone call routing.

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Typically, Linux kernels are updated every two to three months by the kernel maintainers. That can be a challenge for companies like Nortel that want to keep up with the latest kernel, but it's also where getting involved in the process pays off, Bottomley said.

Getting started

The way to start, Bottomley said, is to have your developers post to the kernel community mailing lists and monitor them for the issues you are experiencing. "Start posting and getting involved in the discussions," he said. "It's a community, sharing development. They're negotiating to get the best implementation that suits them all."

Some of the key kernel mailing lists are:

    • marc.info , the kernel mailing list archive.
    • kernel.org , the place to start and to find the proper mailing lists for the communities and subcommunities where your developers want to get involved.
    • kernelnewbies.org , for resources about the kernel, the processes and the communities.
    • The Linux Foundation , for more helpful information and collaboration-building resources.

Once your developers are involved, he said, they can stay involved after your changes are included so you can watch over the kernel and keep your changes updated.

Daniel Frye, manager of IBM's Linux Technology Center and another conference participant, said he's seen plenty of business users that have similar issues to what Nortel faces with its switches. For those companies, he said, having to learn the open source community's way of doing things is "counterintuitive."

"They don't how it works," Frye said. "Some of them have cultural barriers, some of them have misconceptions."

The Linux Foundation is working on ways to teach businesses how to get what they need from the open source community and how to communicate better with open source developers, Frye said.

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