Building a sustainable open source community: training and certifications

Training and professional certifications are an important part of how open source technologies establish themselves as industry-leading solutions and adopted in commercial ecosystems

Introduction

In an earlier piece, we discussed how, over the last 20 years, the Linux Foundation has grown from a single project, the Linux kernel, to an organization that has helped to convene and host hundreds of the world’s most important open source communities. 

The Linux Foundation’s support programs add value for our communities as they enable our projects to engage and grow a technology ecosystem worldwide.  

The Linux Foundation has over 1,600 member companies, representing 100% of the Fortune 100 tech and telecommunication firms, small businesses and startups, hundreds of end-user companies, and everything in between. It also has over 25,000 software developers contributing code, a shared investment that we estimate to be valued at $15.7B – and growing. Our hosted projects enable advancements in many technology areas and across many vertical industries, from security to networking, edge computing, cloud, automotive, blockchain, embedded systems, and web applications.

With the increased demand and adoption of open source technologies comes the desire for professionals with the skill sets to deploy, manage, and operate systems and support end-users. According to the Linux Foundation’s most recent Jobs Report, some key findings were revealed about open source employment opportunities:

Source: Linux Foundation 2018 Jobs Report

  • Hiring open source talent is a priority for 83% of hiring managers, a 7% increase from 76% in 2017. 
  • Hiring managers cited cloud (66%) as the technology most affecting their hiring decisions. Containers placed second at 57%, followed by security (49%) and networking (47%).
  • Finding the right mix of experience and skills is difficult for 87% of hiring managers. That included the 44% who rated it very difficult, a percentage that leaped from 34% in 2017.
  • Thirty percent of respondents working in open source technologies improved their ability to work on exciting projects, collaborate with a global community (19%), and work on the most cutting-edge technology challenges (16%). 

This report will be updated this autumn, and early indications show that these trends are accelerating given current market conditions.

The Linux Foundation provides a complete portfolio of support programs for training and certification, which align with the technologies that its communities develop. The support programs currently focus on eight primary domain areas:

  • Linux Internals
  • Open Source Developer Compliance
  • Systems Administration
  • Security 
  • Networking/Edge Computing
  • Cloud
  • Web Development
  • Blockchain

These programs are co-developed with the communities, and we add programs all the time as communities request support. 

Why training and certification are critical for open source communities

The Linux Foundation’s communities request support for training and certification because it creates a cadre of professionals that can implement solutions using their collaboratively developed technologies, with demonstrated expertise. Additionally, without trained and certified professionals, these technologies will face challenges achieving or scaling both industry adoption and commercial ecosystems supporting them. Having end-users adopt the technology, and commercial solution and support providers also provide a pipeline of future contributors back to the project’s codebase. As the open source technology is deployed, it gets tested, bugs are found, new features are requested, and all that feedback cycles its way into the upstream project, sustaining and making the project better for everyone dependent on its continued success.

For many open source projects, to gain adoption and generate a commercial support ecosystem, they will ultimately need to have training and certification programs. While this may sound similar to how other professional communities have matured and have become validated for developer and engineering certifications for commercial clouds and proprietary software systems, there are some important distinctions as to why a commitment to developing training and certification for open source technologies is critical to their long-term success.

The open source community works more organically and cyclically, which necessitates that a cadre of expertise is built for it not just to be deployed (as the commercial training and ecosystem have worked historically over the past 40 years) but also as part of its continuing development and for it and all of its participants to thrive. 

An open source software community develops software, and it gets deployed by professionals. Those professionals often eventually move on to different organizations and implement the same software. Those organizations will ultimately need more people to support deployments and write applications to extend and customize the software. These organizations also need system administration professionals and cloud providers to support solutions based on these open source software systems.

Why should communities create training and certification programs with the Linux Foundation? 

Straight from the source, and integrated into how communities are built and run. As the home of Linux and other major open source technologies, nobody is closer to these projects than The Linux Foundation itself — its training programs are uniquely integrated with our communities and projects. We understand how to align instruction with a community development model. Training is one of the support pillars that also enable the developers and engineers to focus on the open source project’s development and leave educating users and implementers of the code to the Linux Foundation’s training team. 

Accelerating community growth through free training. Thanks to our members’ support of the Linux Foundation and its projects, we are often able to provide free training courses from our communities. Free training is one of the fastest ways to bring more people into our open source communities as they learn, test, deploy and support solutions based on the open source technology, as they usually come back to offer suggestions, feedback, and fixes.

Vendor-neutral courseware. The Linux Foundation is a nonprofit organization and does not promote any particular commercial product, solution, or service.

Excess funds received go back to the project community. Although the Linux Foundation keeps pricing affordable and frequently offers further discounts, the overall program does generate a surplus. Since we are a nonprofit, the surplus is invested back into the open source community in a variety of ways: we provide scholarships to deserving individuals to become trained and certified at no cost, and the Foundation supports projects that are important to the world but do not receive individual or corporate financial support. Surplus funding is also used for linux.com as well as other digital assets and key initiatives such as CommunityBridge. 

Up-to-date Curriculum. Linux Foundation courses are current with the most recent version of the software or technology. As the host of many of the most critical open source projects that are continually changing, the Linux Foundation is in an excellent position to find experts and ensure the materials are maintained and updated alongside the project’s evolution. Additionally, enrolled students receive access to the latest course versions at no additional cost.

Current and cutting-edge technologies. The Linux Foundation hosts the fastest-growing and most influential open source projects and is the first to release courses about them. 

Expert instruction. The Linux Foundation’s courses are created and taught by some of the top developers and practitioners in open source, with decades of collective open source experience behind their belts and a deep familiarity with our open source communities.

Relevant material. The Linux Foundation’s courses are created using feedback from its massive community of open source practitioners and companies. Students can be confident that the topics they are learning are applicable in today’s business environment. Companies and organizations can integrate certifications in their hiring search and evaluations to find professionals with qualified skills.

Conclusion

With the most popular open source projects receiving upwards of 90% of their code from commercial companies, they are continually seeking trained people with the skills to deploy, support, and operate the open source technology. With Linux Foundation training, in most cases being free to access, our communities can efficiently train a vast ecosystem of people with skills companies are seeking to employ. The online delivery of our courses also makes our training accessible to people from low-income regions around the world, where access to training can provide a considerable boost to their career prospects.

Enterprises especially value certifications as evidence that employees are qualified and have demonstrated their expertise in a particular technology. Enterprises also want to train their existing employees on new technologies in an organized, efficient manner, which professional training courses can provide.

Offering training and certification is one of the best ways to scale any growing open source project community. For a project to continue growing and get more contributors involved, the community will need individuals to be able to gain an understanding of the project in a relatively quick and straightforward way. Our organized training curriculum was designed to fill this expertise gap.

The Linux Foundation’s training and certification offerings, combined with its community-organized events, provides a well rounded and neutral path to build skills and enable people to contribute back to its projects, sustaining their efforts into the future. 

The Linux Foundation
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