Interview: Open Source allows startups to “stand on the shoulders of giants”1
We have expanded our storage team: Lenz Grimmer will support us as a Senior Product Manager in the infrastructure department. Lenz has worked for SuSE, MySQL and Oracle. As Product Manager for our open source storage solution openATTIC, Lenz returns to the open source ecosystem.
Hi Lenz, who are you and what is your background?
My name is Lenz Grimmer, and I live in Hamburg, Germany, which is located in the north of Germany, right between the North and Baltic Sea. By joining it-novum, I’m actually returning to the open source ecosystem, where I have been spending most of my previous professional life. I’m coming to it-novum from TeamDrive Systems in Hamburg, where I was responsible for the backend technology that manages the TeamDrive Clients and stores the users’ encrypted data.The server components of this file sync and share solution are based on the LAMP stack, so I have been able to brush up and gather a lot of practical experience with using Linux and Open Source technologies “in the cloud” and for storing large amounts of data efficiently, including object stores like Amazon S3, OpenStack Swift or Ceph.
I’ve been working with Linux and FOSS since I first stumbled over it around 1995 during my computer science studies in Mannheim, Germany. I have been involved in working with and contributing to Open Source in various capacities since then, as an engineer for the SuSE Linux distribution, as an engineer and later community relations manager for the MySQL database, and as a Senior Product Manager for the Oracle Linux distribution at Oracle.
I’m particularly interested in storage and infrastructure and how Linux and open source software have become the foundation of what we today call “the Internet”. It has been an exciting ride so far, and I’m proud to have contributed my share to this.
In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my two kids, tendering our garden or dabbling with computers and electronics. I’ve recently become quite interested in the topic of e-mobility (e.g. electric cars). Another of my side projects is building and flying multicopters and electric RC planes, which are controlled by embedded controllers based on the Arduino platform. So Open Source plays a role outside of my professional life as well!
What does Open Source mean to you?
Many things, actually. As a user, it provides me with an endless pool of useful applications and tools to get any job done, at no cost. I’ve been using Linux and FOSS as my primary desktop operating system for the past 20 years and I have no issues on getting any job done without having to resort to proprietary software anymore.
FOSS also helped me to grow professionally and personally. It made it possible for me to learn about new technologies and to hone my skills. It also brought me in contact with a large pool of like-minded people, of which many have turned into long-time acquaintances and even friends. The people involved in Open Source are usually very open-minded, helpful and fun to be around with.
While most professional users initially consider FOSS primarily because of the cost factor, they quickly come to realize that it provides much more than that, especially a new level of freedom and flexibility. All the sudden, they are no longer dependent on a single vendor to get a software problem fixed or getting a required feature implemented. They can either hire someone, or get the task done by themselves, if they have the expertise in house. And if it’s a change that’s generally useful, they have the option of contributing their changes “upstream”, which relieves them from the burden of having to maintain these modifications by themselves. The success of countless startup companies would not have been possible without Open Source. It allows them to “stand on the shoulders of giants”, where they can focus on solving their actual problems at hand, without having to worry about building the foundation by themselves first.
What is your role at it-novum?
I will support it-novum’s own Open Source product openATTIC, by helping to foster and grow the international community of users and developers around the product and project. I think that openATTIC has a lot of potential and I look forward to working with the community on improving it and spreading the word about it via various channels.
I’m excited to be back in the Open Source ecosystem and being able to convince new users and customers that this technology is mature, easy to use and a viable alternative to proprietary storage offerings.
In your opinion, how will the Open Source World change?
It will definitely continue to grow – Open Source Software is taking over more and more areas that used to be dominated by proprietary vendors. Take storage, for example: even the established players in this market start to realize that they need to have an Open Source story and have to become actively involved in emerging projects like OpenStack in order to remain relevant. While I think it’s unlikely that FOSS will be used to replace existing deployments, customers are more likely to choose free alternatives for new projects. The low entrance barrier for adopting OSS causes a “grass roots effect”, in which FOSS technologies are being introduced and later become crucial core components that the entire business depends on.
Open Source will also help to create and establish new and open standards, which provide a level playing field for other vendors and developers to join and participate. More companies will learn that it’s better to collaborate on the software side and focus on other aspects of their offering to differentiate themselves. I call this model “coopetition”: while companies compete for customers, they cooperate on the software side. This is a tremendous benefit for users and customers: the software is not developed or maintained by a single vendor, so it’s less likely to go away and become unmaintained or obsolete. And it provides more choice, as customers can purchase support and services from more than one vendor.
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