An Inside Look at Open Source Culture at Intel




Intel’s Open Ecosystem Team is relatively new, but the company’s stalwart commitment to open source is not.

That’s the crux of the message Arun Gupta, vice president and GM of open ecosystems at Intel, wants people to remember.

In a recent episode of the FLOSS Weekly podcast, Gupta highlights the numbers: “We have 19,000 plus software engineers at Intel. People think of us as a silicon company, but no: We have almost 20,000 software engineers. We were founding members of the Linux Foundation* over 20 years ago, we’re part of 700-plus open source foundations, standards bodies and in leadership positions.”

This isn’t about a participation ribbon, though. If you think about cloud service providers —  Amazon*, Microsoft*, Google*, Tencent*, Alibaba*, Baidu* —  the majority of their fleet is on Intel platforms, he says. “So what’s in it for Intel? Customers don't download open source projects, they download the distribution of an open source project so that they can buy support…”

He outlines some of Intel’s many open source contributions to projects ranging from OpenJDK*, Kubernetes*, the Linux* kernel, LLVM*, GCC*,  to PyTorch* and TensorFlow*…”The list goes on and on we contribute to these projects in an upstream manner to ensure that these projects are fully optimized for the Intel platform.”

Co-host Simon Phipps asked Gupta what he thinks about the bigger picture of semiconductor companies in open source, noting that some of Intel's peers take a very different strategy towards by focusing on monetizing patent royalties. How does Intel cope with the tension between the need to monetize and the need to engage fully in communities?

Acknowledging that it’s a “delicate question,” Gupta refers to the 2021 announcement when CEO Pat Gelsinger introduced “IDM 2.0,” a new model that includes significant manufacturing expansions, plans for Intel to become a major provider of foundry capacity in the U.S. and Europe to serve customers globally, and expansion of Intel’s use of external foundries for some of its products.

“We always think of this as a very deliberate discussion: ‘What is the opportunity cost here, what is the monetization element?’”

He adds that  “At Intel it’s very important that we are doing the right thing…that we are taking a high road…if this is the right thing to do for open source, we go that route. We make it happen and then we make it successful.”

Host Doc Searls wanted to know more about Intel’s take on the vast number of projects now in the Cloud Native Computing Foundation* (CNCF) landscape. The foundation has a list of projects that you can toggle to see which are open source and which are proprietary.

“There always comes a tipping point where companies who are sitting on the fringe wonder, ‘Hey should I be getting involved in open source or not and what is the monetization opportunity for me?’” Gupta says, adding: “Because at the end of the day, you can't just run a company truly only based on open source. You've got to have some sort of a monetization angle in order for that business to be sustainable.”

In terms of fostering more open source projects, he notes that the CNCF provided the fence sitters with a platform and an ecosystem with a  “pie so big that everybody has an opportunity to actually, truly build an open source business model.”

Catch the full hour-long episode of FLOSS Weekly - where the trio also discuss 5G, generative artificial intelligence and the history of open sourcing Java* -  here. You can hear also more about open source at Intel from Arup Gupta in his upcoming keynote at Southern California Linux Expo 2023 (SCALE 20x).