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'Only open source can bridge the digital divide'

Last updated on: July 31, 2009 15:08 IST

Shankar Iyer, director, services, Red Hat, India, talks about career and growth opportunities in the open source domain -- Linux operating system based on open source is the most prevalent after Microsoft's Windows -- and how fast Indian companies and government institutions are adopting open source software to build scalable, flexible, secure and cost-effective infrastructure.

How would open source be as a career option for beginners in the current economic situation?

IT is a driver for growth. With proprietary licensing model, IT budgets are unable to meet the ever-increasing demand. With vendor lock-in and application dependencies, enterprises hardly were given choice and hence losing flexibility and freedom. So, Linux, gave them the required performance, flexibility, scalability and security at a lower cost, and soon gained considerable popularity across the globe. With organisations such as Red Hat inventing the subscription model and offering end-to-end solutions by creating a strong partner ecosystem, certification of hardware and software, ISV relations, consulting and training that the enterprises have widely accepted, have begun migrating and deploying Linux wherever possible.

Open source developers are in high demand in the enterprises. These developers are highly passionate about open source technologies and equally skilled. Enterprises consider their skills and experience towards open source contribution as most relevant.

Through the Red Hat Academy model for colleges, Red Hat encourages the students to develop their skills on Linux and contribute to the open source projects, which is highly relevant towards their final year academic projects and at the same time gives them an equivalent on-the-job experience. Red Hat Annual encourages more contribution towards open source technologies through contests such as 'Lord of the Code' contests and its 'Ekalavya' student scholarship project.

What are the career and growth opportunities in the open source domain? Which are the most sought after jobs?

As open source technologies are gaining maturity, there is a paradigm shift from it being just a technology fad to today being a mainstream business reality. Increased adoption of open source by governments and enterprises will open a wide array of avenues for careers as open source developers. The technical workforce requirement for Linux has increased many fold in the last few years, which is just the tip of the iceberg. While the trained and certified technical workforce meets only one-third of the Linux job market at present, the future is bright for open source enthusiasts.

Shankar IyerLinux is the second most prevalent operating system after Microsoft Windows and it is growing at a steady pace. And its popularity is only growing daily. So it is a very pertinent certification to have on your CV.

As we see around today, industry has adopted Linux in a big way and hence the requirement of professionals with infrastructure building and maintaining skills. In any normal IT infrastructure set up, System Administrators are the most sought after, apart from Network Administrators and Security Administrators.

What are the essential skills and qualifications required for a person to get into the open source domain?

Basic criteria for getting started with the RH033 in basic track are user-level experience with any computer system, including: use of mouse, use of menus and use of any graphical user interface. The certification courses that a beginner could undertake are:

  • Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) is a performance-based test that measures actual competency on live systems. Called the 'crown jewel of Linux certifications', RHCE proves an individual's ability to configure networking services and security on servers running a Red Hat OS. RHCE was recently named the hottest certification in all of IT by CertCities.com
  • Red Hat Certified Technician (RHCT): Now in its fifth year, Red Hat Certified Technician is the fastest-growing credential in all of Linux. RHCT is the best first step in establishing Linux credentials and is an ideal initial certification for those transitioning from non-UNIX┬«/ Linux environments

These courses can be easily undertaken at any of the 300 training centers in India who have partnered with Red Hat. The instructors at these centers are also trained and certified by Red Hat. 50 per cent of the people who take up this course are students pursuing graduation (engineering or other courses) and they undertake these certification programmes simultaneously. Remaining 50 per cent constitute working professionals seeking to enhance their profile or specialise in Linux related courses.

Red Hat has seen over 1.5 lakh enrollments from students all over India in the year April 2008-March 2009.

Can the skills acquired through training and certification prove to be of help if a professional wants to become a consultant in the field of open source technology and doesn't want to follow a regular IT career path?

Red Hat training and certification equips the person to familiarise with the technology. To become a consultant in the field of open source or any other technology would require work experience and exposure in the industry to a certain extent. However, with substantial industry experience, one gets skilled on Linux through training and certification, do stand a good chance to apply their skills in consulting.

What training programmes are currently available for students (new entrants) as well as IT professionals who would want to build a career in open source technologies? How does one go about becoming a Red Hat expert?

Red Hat, in association with over 110 partners and 300+ training centres across India offers several training and certification programmes.

The Red Hat Academy builds the following categories of Linux professionals:

  • System administrators: Those able to manage an existing corporate network and carry out basic troubleshooting activities
  • Network administrators: Those able install and configure Linux; understand limitations of hardware; configure networking and file systems; configure the X Window System; configure security, set up common network (IP) services, carry out diagnostics and troubleshooting, and perform essential Red Hat Enterprise Linux system administration
  • Security administrators: Those who manage enterprise security: Network services, manage firewalls and write and administer policies for better security on networks
  • Data center specialist: Those who manage clusters, optimise storage, performance tuning and systems monitoring and carry out enterprise systems deployment
  • Kernel and Device driver developers
  • Migration specialists
  • Porting applications
  • Web development & programming etc

A strong understanding on Linux Operating Systems is essential for any of the functions mentioned above. Beyond that, system level programming, PHP, etc., would help them seek career as developers, application porting and migration specialists. However, to seek career as security administrators or data centre specialist, they should start as system administrators with strong understanding of the Operating System and subsequently grow by acquiring work experience and additional skills.

Red Hat training and certification equips the person to familiarise with the technology. To become a consultant in the field of open source or any other technology would require work experience and exposure in the industry to a certain extent. However, with substantial industry experience, one gets skilled on Linux through training and certification, do stand a good chance to apply their skills in consulting.

What is the future of open source in India?

The government in India has always shown tremendous support for the growth of open source development in India. This has been re-instilled by the fact that two of the political parties have open source implementation as one of the agenda in their manifestos. With the continued support through public policy, India will host a large number of huge greenfield IT projects that will create many job opportunities for the vast talent pool of India.

Also, for a country like India with diverse geographies, languages and socio-economic classes, open source is the only way to bridge the digital divide and enabling the masses with affordable computing. This can be extended to aid them in education, health care and other basic amenities. Red Hat Enterprise Linux is available in 11 local Indian languages and has been used as a platform for several government and enterprise projects. Few examples would be LIC, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation, IT School project in Kerala, Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation, several banks like AXIS Bank, Deutsche Bank among others.

India always had been an active consumer of open source products. Increasingly India is becoming one of the most active communities that contribute to open source projects worldwide. India is the second largest contributor to the Fedora Project that is sponsored by Red Hat. Fedora is a free open source-based operating system that can be downloaded and used by anyone.

In addition to this, the talent pool in India is massive. India has the highest number of Red Hat certified engineers in the world. Also, India is one of the most aware countries in terms of the spirit of open source. Adoption of open source software has been higher in India than many developed countries in the world.

Prasanna D Zore