As a global services company operating in fiercely competitive environments, Infosys has set up a well-established open source practice. Gautam Khanna, VP & head – modernization practice, Infosys, shares with Rahul Chopra, editorial director, EFY Group, how the company keeps its employees up-to-date with open source, motivates and helps them to contribute to the open source ecosystem, and more.
Q. What are your thoughts about the pace at which open source software (OSS) is being adopted amongst global enterprises (Top 2000 or 5000)? Is it accelerating?
A. Open source adoption in enterprises is growing more rapidly than ever. A recent global survey of IT leaders revealed that nearly 90 per cent see open source as necessary to their enterprises. Open source usage is increasingly seen in categories like cloud management, security, analytics and storage, which have historically been more associated with proprietary products. Over two-thirds of the participants in the survey have increased their open source adoption in the last 12 months, and nearly 60 per cent expect to improve adoption levels over the next year as well.
These numbers reinforce what we have observed among our clients across industry verticals – they are using open source more than ever in their modernization journeys. This is driven by the trifecta of unmatched innovation, quality, and value that open source delivers. However, what we have also observed is that there are differing levels of adoption across verticals. The retail and communication verticals are strategically and consistently adopting open source while financial institutions are a bit more cautious in doing so.
Q. Are there any specific countries or geographic regions that are leading this trend?
A. We see the growth as pervasive across geographies. India, for example, has some amazing stories of open source adoption in government, in initiatives like Aadhaar.
Q. Are you seeing an increase in the number of deals that require systems integrators (SIs) like Infosys to have expertise on various open source stacks?
A. As clients look to reduce their dependence on proprietary software, manage costs, and introduce increased agility and innovation, most application modernization deals today have open source as an integral component. We see this trend only getting stronger, so building open source competencies at scale is a must for every global SI.
Q. In the earlier days, there were a lot of myths about open source. Some proprietary brands were deliberately spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) too. Today, what are the common myths or other inhibiting factors that prevent firms from adopting open source?
A. While the awareness and acceptability of open source has certainly increased a lot over the years, we still notice the prevalence of some myths. Most of them are related to open source support, security, enterprise scalability and reliability.
Clients also face challenges in adopting open source at the enterprise scale – including identifying the best-fit solutions from a plethora of technologies, navigating a complex vendor ecosystem and making their open source journeys cost-neutral. In all our client conversations, we focus on debunking any myths and helping our clients make informed and optimal decisions in their open source journeys.
Q. How is Infosys gearing up to become a leading SI in the open source space? What new initiatives has the company taken in the last few years?
A. Open source is a strong focus area for Infosys. We have established an open source practice that works with all our services lines to execute client engagements, drive internal innovation, open source contribution and talent enablement. We have a comprehensive set of service offerings – spanning open source advisory services, architecture consulting, implementation, migration and support – to help our clients accelerate open source adoption.
Our architects bring both depth and breadth across the stack to deliver end-to-end solutions. We have built a suite of in-house tools and accelerators to further speed up open source based modernization and migration initiatives.
We have a strong ecosystem of more than 25 partners, which helps us offer end-to-end services and a single commercial interface to our clients by bundling product subscription and support along with our application services.
We have a razor-sharp focus on talent enablement at scale – we have over 330 open source courses, which our employees can access via our ‘learn anywhere’ platforms, and to date, over 65,000 people have been trained on open source.
Q. Are there any major open source case studies that you’d like to share with our audience, particularly a case study from India?
A. There are several exciting case studies, none more impressive than from our own backyard – the GSTN project and the platform behind the most extensive indirect tax reforms in Indian history. This is also one of the largest and most complex in the world.
Infosys had the privilege of designing and building this ‘population-scale’ platform using an entirely open source stack, based on fundamental principles like openness, no vendor lock-in, security, reliability, availability and scalability. The system is capable of handling some astonishing volumes – around 50,000 invoices per second and 1.2 billion invoices on the last day of filing, with extremely high availability and performance. The system has been tested to handle up to 135,000 concurrent user filings and 2,000,000 tax returns on a single day. It also collects US$ 3.7 billion of tax revenues on the peak day across 800,000 transactions.
Case studies like GSTN showcase the power of open source in every aspect and should convince any sceptics about its suitability at the enterprise scale.
Q. How does your team empower or enable other teams at Infosys, when it comes to open source?
A. Enablement of architects and developers across the company is one of the key responsibilities of our open source practice. There are three pillars of enablement – internal learning systems, partners and hackathons. We have dedicated open source technology trainers within the education, training and assessment team to enable employees at scale. Our partner and open source practice SMEs offer webinars on the latest topics related to their products, every week. Partner training courses and certifications are integrated with our anytime, anywhere, learning system LEX. We have a well-structured refactoring program for employees who may have adjacent skills to follow a defined learning path by getting themselves trained in at least one open source technology followed by certification. It is only after this that we deploy employees on an open source project, and post gaining hands-on experience, we tag them as open source professionals. We also run open source hackathons at the organization level. In these hackathons, that we run for multiple weeks, we do a mass enablement of our employees, post which they work on solving various industry problems using open source technologies.
Q. How do you ensure that your team keeps pace with the rapid changes in the open source space, and is ready to offer solutions based on the latest technology stacks?
A. We have a strong team of SMEs and full-stack architects in our open source practice. A portion of our architects’ time is dedicated to learning and certifying themselves on new technologies. They are also encouraged to contribute to open source community projects. Open source SMEs participate in various forums and partner summits to share our experiences as well as learn from others experiences. They also monitor the latest trends in the industry.
We have a strong ecosystem of partners that we work closely with in order to understand the latest enhancements in their products and how to take these forward with clients. In the hackathons that we conduct, we encourage hackers to unleash their imagination, innovate and build new solutions leveraging latest features.
We believe in building joint solutions with our partners and in solving our clients’ business problems. We have a dedicated engineering team to explore and develop new tools and accelerators to solve client problems by embracing the latest open source technologies. For example, we have built a solution using the offline capability of Couchbase in collaboration with the Couchbase team.
Q. Do members of your team contribute back to the open source ecosystem too? Can you share some details?
A. Yes, we do. Infosys has a structured contribution process and has created an OS Contribution Portal internally. A contributor builds a contribution and submits it for review and IP checking. Post the IP check, the contribution can be published. Infosys has contributed homegrown products like the Infosys DevOps Platform and tools like Infosys Data Rapid, NIADataRConnector, High Availability Hadoop, HBase to Hive, etc. to the open source ecosystem.
Infosys has executed a Corporate Contributor License Agreement (CCLA) with the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) and is actively participating in the Kubernetes project. We have made over 50 contributions in Kubernetes in the form of bug fixes, blogs and query responses. Apart from Kubernetes, Infosys has also contributed to PostgreSQL, Elastic, Couchbase, Apache Beam and Neo4J communities. Infosys has also collaborated with the Microsoft product engineering team to enable PostgreSQL and MariaDB in Azure Data Services. This is one focus area of our open source practice. There are many more contributions in the pipeline.
Q. Does Infosys motivate its employees to contribute back to the open source ecosystem or is it their individual decision?
A. It’s both. Infosys motivates employees to contribute to the open source ecosystem. We conduct internal and external events. Kubernetes Day was organized at Infosys Bengaluru this March, where thousands of people participated. We invited some industry-level open source contributors to share their open source journey and experiences. These talks were webcast to all Infoscions across locations. We have a reward and recognition process to acknowledge and appreciate open source contributors.
Q. Is there a shortage of skilled professionals? Are there any specific skillsets that are badly needed, even in countries like India?
A. The average age of an S&P 500 company is under 20 years, down from 60 years in the 1950s, according to Credit Suisse. This trend is accelerating and the leading reason for this is the disruptive nature of new technologies.
As per a 2018 Gartner survey, talent shortage ranks third among the Top 5 business risks. Digital transformation initiatives have increased this pressure and companies are finding that retaining and hiring talent with niche skills is a key challenge.
Today, just 20 per cent of the current workforce has the skills required for 60 per cent of the future jobs – those that will be available in the next five to ten years. The unprecedented scale at which new technologies are getting adopted into the mainstream due to the competitive edge they provide makes it almost impossible to find talent at scale on these technologies.
Catering to the skills diversity needed in an organization and hiring/retaining people are key challenges. In this new harsh reality, hiring talent that is passionate about learning becomes more important than finding talent with the right skills.
At Infosys, we are trying to address this challenge through a combination of hiring and reskilling.
Q. What would be your advice to tech professionals who want to benefit from these opportunities but don’t know where to start?
A. My advice to tech professionals is straightforward; we are living in exciting times with limitless opportunities. Never before in the history of humanity have we seen such democratization of knowledge and technology, as today. There is no defined starting line, but what is most important is to learn and apply the knowledge in real business problems continuously. Knowledge begets knowledge, if shared with a broader community. So we should also look at sharing knowledge through contributions, participation at various forums and collaboration. At Infosys, we have always believed and invested heavily in learning, and we have enabled our employees to learn anytime, anywhere, through our mobile learning platform, LEX, which has over 40K resources and 600+ courses. Employees are also encouraged to and recognised for sharing their knowledge, both externally and internally. We are collaborating with our strategic partners to contribute to open source communities jointly. As we speak, we are working with one of our partners to launch an open source academy.
Q. Has there been an increase in the number of open source related professionals being hired at Infosys?
A. We are seeing a huge demand for open source technologies and most of our Top 200 clients are increasingly moving their legacy systems to open source technologies. We use a combination of refactoring our existing talent pool and hiring to meet the demand.
The author is the Editor-in-Chief of Open Source For You magazine.