James Bottomley on Linux, Containers, and the Leading Edge

By August 16, 2018Blog

Open Source Summit is the place to keep up with the leading edge of Linux, says Linux kernel developer James Bottomley.

It’s no secret that Linux is basically the operating system of containers, and containers are the future of the cloud, says James Bottomley, Distinguished Engineer at IBM Research and Linux kernel developer. Bottomley, who can often be seen at open source events in his signature bow tie, is focused these days on security systems like the Trusted Platform Module and the fundamentals of container technology.

James Bottomley

With Open Source Summit happening this month in conjunction with Linux Security Summit — and Open Source Summit Europe coming up fast — we talked with Bottomley about these and other topics.

The Linux Foundation: How are you involved with Open Source Summit?

James Bottomley: I’m on the program committee, so I’m part of the body responsible for judging the technical content.  Our mission is to try to give a balance to the presentations given at the summit to make sure there’s enough of interest on the technical front to attract the hard core engineering community, while still being a welcoming place for people who have other skills and abilities, thus ensuring a diversity of attendees that encourages interesting conversations and outcomes.

The Linux Foundation: What’s the relevance of Linux in the age of cloud and containers?

Bottomley: The cloud nowadays is moving to be all about containers, and containers absolutely wouldn’t exist without Linux.  If you regard containers as being simply operating system virtualization, then there are many contenders for their place in containers history, like BSD jails and mainframe LPARs.  However, if you view containers through the narrow prism of Docker images, then an absolute requirement is the hardness and backwards compatibility of the Linux Syscall interface: the fact that an Ubuntu Xenial image will still run on top of a RHEL kernel.  This facility is because of Linus’s laser-like focus on maintaining the userspace ABI, which is pretty unique in OS history.

The Linux Foundation: You recently wrote a paper around VMs and container security. Will there by any discussion around that at the event?

Bottomley: Not in the formal presentations, although there probably will be in the hallway.  You have to remember that presentations at the conference are based on proposals that had to be submitted at least six months ago, whereas what I’ve been discussing is based on preliminary research that was only recently completed and published.  This is a general problem for all conferences now that the open source methodology means research goes from ideas to discussions around code in a matter of weeks.

The Linux Foundation: We are living in an age where so much innovation is happening in the tech world, especially in the open source space. What hot technologies are you excited about?

Bottomley: I’m mostly interested in some of the fundamentals of containers and security, including methods for securing the substrate, runtime mechanisms for ensuring immutability, like IMA and also what the next type of container will look like (or more accurately, how do we dump all the unnecessary IaaS components from current container images to realise the true potential of pure application containers).

The Linux Foundation: Who should attend Open Source Summit and why?

Bottomley: I think it’s no secret that Linux is basically the OS of containers and containers are the future of the cloud, so anyone who is interested in keeping up to date with what’s going on in the cloud because this would be the only place they can keep up with the leading edge of Linux.

Bottomley will be speaking at Open Source Summit Europe, as part of the Linux Systems track.  Check out the other scheduled sessions and  sign up to receive updates:

Swapnil Bhartiya

Swapnil Bhartiya

Swapnil Bhartiya is a journalist and writer who has been covering Linux and Open Source for more than 10 years.
Swapnil Bhartiya