Reflections on OSSF London 2021

October 7, 2021

On Tuesday I attended the Open Source Strategy Forum in London, which is a meeting of the Fintech Open Source Foundation (FinOS), part of the Linux Foundation. (There is a New York version coming up in November for those across the pond.)

The morning keynotes included Gabriele Columbro introducing the day, then Russell Green highlighting the progress FinOS has made; Liz Rice of CNCF fame with an inspiring talk about contributing back to upstream; an interesting conversation between Nick Cook and Jane Gavronsky about innovations in financial regulation, and finally a presentation from Andrew Agerbak of BCG about how open source can help banks move to public cloud. (I disagreed with some of Andrew’s presentation; I would weight the regulatory requirements more strongly, but agree with the point that open source can help with cloud portability.)

In the afternoon there were two talks which stood out for me but were very sparsely attended:

Rob Knight from SUSE presented a short session on Rancher, which offers an open source, vendor-neutral way to manage Kubernetes clusters across multiple providers. I disagree with the view that modern Kubernetes demands smaller clusters, perhaps one per workload - to me this reduces utilization unnecessarily as discussed in the original Borg paper. But I’m excited about an approach to multi-cloud Kubernetes that does not rely on a commercial relationship with a single vendor.

Axel Simon from Red Hat gave a short talk about Sigstore, a new approach to open source supply chain security. Essentially this brings together several other tools (tbd, rekor, fulcio) and offers a free-to-use non-profit Lets-Encrypt-but-for-software-signatures CA. This seems quite promising.

To me these talks both cut to the heart of the big strategic challenges facing large financial services organisations today: how do you outsource to the cloud in a portable way, and how do you keep it all secure when you’re working at this scale?

Gabriele’s opening keynote included this quote:

…the financial services industry has pioneered things that later became popular in open source, like efficient messaging protocols, microservices, and event streaming, but the technologies were kept proprietary in banks and only became mainstream when other companies open sourced them. It would be beneficial to contribute more…

CTO, Investment Bank

It feels like there’s a real appetite within financial services to reclaim that spirit of innovation through open source that had been ceded in recent years to big tech. I came away from the day excited about the future of open source in financial services.

(Shout out to James McLeod of FinOS for inviting me along!)

Nifty tech tag lists fromĀ Wouter Beeftink