Interview: Andy Karandikar on Red Hat's plans and careers in open source

By Jait Dixit | Updated 19 Jul 2012
Interview: Andy Karandikar on Red Hat's plans and careers in open source

In a freewheeling conversation, Digit spoke to Andy Karandikar, Pre-sales & Services Head, Red Hat India, about everything from what Red Hat thinks about open source, specific career paths in this industry to the biggest problems that open source software is facing right now.


Red Hat's Andy Karandikar shared valuable insights on how the open source industry functions and industry outlook as a whole regarding open source software. He also talks about the necessary skills required to excel in this field, how prospective employees can develop these skills and the scope of establishing a career in this in this ever burgeoning sector of the IT industry.

How important is open source technology in the industry today?

There is definitely growth in demands for open source technology. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2013, open source technology will be included in 85% of all modern, commercial software solutions. ("What Every IT Practitioner Need to Know About OSS", Oct 2010)


Additionally, IDC also noted that customers will face confusing choices in terms of virtualization, cloud system software, and infrastructure automation software convergence. ("Worldwide System Infrastructure Software 2012“ Top 10 Predictions", Dec 2011)

Customers are looking for reliable, high-performing and agile technologies that can address their complex IT challenges, while allowing them to plan ahead for the future. This is where open source technology can help to meet these demands.


How does one start developing open source applications? Are there any prerequisites that one must satisfy before one can start doing the same?

It is hard to run an open source project following a traditional software development method although open source software is used developing similar tools which are used to develop closed source software. However, the basic development model is different. One needs to use tools which are more adaptable to developing and collaborating, some set of prerequisites are adherence to open standards, open source and no use of copyrighted or patented source, technology and approaches.

The open source model is collaborative to the core, which means anyone is free to participate. Open source developers should be able to build prototypes quickly and share them broadly. Release early and release often. This gives other people the chance to contribute. Though it's defined by 'freedom', open source collaboration is not a free-for-all. It is a group effort for group benefit, governed by a competitive meritocracy. Red Hat engineers also participate directly in many open source communities and share the best technology and ideas from those communities with our enterprise customers. Because Red Hat is a catalyst in development communities, we are uniquely qualified to curate, harden, test, and certify the open source technologies today's enterprises need.


Are there any certifications that help aspirants enhance their core technical skills? Does Red Hat provide certifications for the same?

With more than 30 Linux, cloud, virtualization, and middleware courses, Red Hat delivers one of the most comprehensive curricula offered in today's marketplace. Unlike most vendors, Red Hat orients our training and certifications around real world job roles and tasks. Red Hat trained and certified professionals ensure that customers get the most from their deployments of Red Hat solutions.

For example, Red Hat System Administration (RH124) is designed for IT professionals who are new to Linux and require core Red Hat Enterprise Linux  skills. This course focuses on essential administrative tasks that are encountered in the workplace, including installing the operating system, establishing network connectivity, managing physical storage, and performing basic security administration. GUI-based tools are featured to build upon the students' existing technical knowledge.


Curriculum of most of the schools and colleges in India doesn't provide students the ideal level of exposure in open source software. Do you think this should change?

Curriculum in schools and colleges should be altered to include open source education. A recent report from the India Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, seeking to quantify the economic impact of open source Java in India, estimates that the value of the Java economy in India is approximately 2.1% of the Indian GDP. Open source technology drives new job opportunities, particularly for India's software developers and technology entrepreneurs. Similarly, Singapore has a big market for fresh graduates from universities and polytechnic who are seeking jobs in open source. However, for these candidates to stand out, they need to come ready with impressive work experience track records and be ready to dazzle during interview sessions.

Can you share some insight on what enterprises and big companies think of open source software?

CIOs face the dilemma of how to drive growth on a budget. Open source solutions, such as Red Hat's, expands capabilities, and delivers value through every application, workload and business requirement. Every year, since 2006, Red Hat is ranked among the elite in the CIO Insight Vendor Value survey. We give CIOs a choice and opportunity to build an architecture that fits their vision. And that's why, when asked if they had a choice, 91% of them said they would continue to do business with Red Hat. The world is changing, and both individuals and organization who recognize the need to work together will realize the greatest success. We are the connective hub in the global network of enterprises, partners and open source communities, and by bringing these parties together, we enable the creation of more relevant technologies and innovations than any one of us could have created alone.

What skill set does an aspirant require to succeed in companies that work with open source software?

The key skill set is to be able to collaborate well and have sound knowledge of the subject of their interest. One needs to have the aptitude to judge the best concepts/technology and implement them in the project. The aspirant needs a mindset to challenge and accept challenge from peers and ability to collaborate with peers and other peer groups. This is also enhances the quality of open source software.

What qualities in general do companies which develop open source software look for in prospective applicants?

One of the underlying requirements of open source software is that you will be questioned in a collaborative environment. They look for people who are willing to work in open formats and are willing to give as well as receive feedback. The developers should be able to face challenges and contribute in developing quality software, since OSS has meritocracy inherent in its model thus subject knowledge and eagerness to learn is a must.

Does the work environment and method of working on open source software, greatly differ from working on proprietary software?

Yes it differs, Open Source's collaborative environment gives you access to the peer users and also the core engineers of the technology that you are planning to use, this gives you a unique experience in exploring options based on your real needs, knowing the challenges before hand and making informed decisions. Secondly the work methods, though similar to proprietary software from a user's perspective, will inherently guide you on using open standards and avoiding the non-portable technology choices. The environment and method depends on whether the development work is being done on proprietary software or it is being done in work resource. In open source software one can just develop their own applications using free software without investing in proprietary library or proprietary software. From a development perspective the open source model has several advantages. Whether the person is a lead, architect, contributor, or a tester one is expected to push the threshold in a collaborative manner. The codes are open to others for feedback and this provides a platform for next level innovation.

Does working on open source software and closed source/proprietary software development pay the same?

Linux professionals garner more full-time positions and better salaries, bonuses and perks. While the pay increase for tech professionals averaged just two per cent in 2011, Linux professionals have seen a five per cent increase in salaries year-over-year and a 15 per cent jump in bonus payouts. Flexible work schedules (37%) additional training and certification programs (30%) and salary increases above the company norm (28%).

What salary levels should freshers expect when working in open source technologies? What kind of increment levels with experience does the industry offer?

We can assume that there will be growth from the career perspective for people who work on open source, JBoss, Linux, relevant open source projects. Employers are seeking mostly Linux developers “ 67 per cent “ and systems administrators “ 55 per cent “ with varying levels of experience; though, mid-level professionals appear to be the most highly sought.

Is it possible for programmers/developers who have never worked in the field of open source software before, change gears and start developing open source software?

The beauty of the open source model is that it is open. One can switch in and out of open source software or leverage open source software at any time. One does not have to buy expensive resources to get an access to the software. However, one has to adopt the collaborative model of open source and be mentally prepared that the source will be up for review by peers. Anyone can open up the source and see how it works and what it does under the hood to achieve the functionality it offers, further the open source work methods will force the use of open standards and block any use of proprietary technologies, copyrighted source or patented approaches as oppose to when one uses proprietary or enterprise software. This is one of the basic differences between open source and closed source.

Do companies or enterprises which don't work on or use open source software consider the experience of working or contributing to open source software as important?

Most companies do find it valuable to contribute towards open source and don't resist adopting open source unless they have a strict policy that they don't want to participate in the open source initiative.

Could you share some success stories where open source software has created truly rewarding career options?

This is a great career path for open source developers. 80% of enterprise software runs on open source, hence career prospects in this space are very good. Most companies which are traditionally closed source have adopted open source in the recent times and paved way for some fantastic careers. They are now driving or changing the industry in lot of ways. Open Source mobile platforms have triggered a paradigm shift in the market and has offered multiple career options in the consumer and enterprise mobility application space, open source is also driving the open cloud initiative which is uncovering more roles and career options, not only for today but for many year to come.

Look at future trends in the enterprise space - cloud computing is an exciting area of growth. Most (more than 80%) of the workloads in the cloud are on open source technologies. Provides clear indicators for exciting career paths.

What according to you is the biggest problem that the open source software industry is facing right now?
Lack of awareness about the advantages is the biggest hindrance around the development of the open source model. It is important to realize that every piece of open source software is not great. The important criterion is to have a viable, long-term and reliable vendor that backs up that software for it to be successful.

Jait Dixit

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