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Nithya Ruff on Open Source Contributions Beyond Code

Nithya Ruff talks with Swapnil Bhartiya about Comcast’s contributions to open source and more.

Sometimes when we think about open source, we focus on the code and forget that there are other equally important ways to contribute. Nithya Ruff, Senior Director, Open Source Practice at Comcast, knows that contributions can come in many forms. “Contribution can come in the form of code or in the form of a financial support for projects. It also comes in the form of evangelizing open source; It comes in form of sharing good practices with others,” she said.

Comcast, however, does contribute code. When I sat down with Ruff at Open Source Summit to learn more, she made it clear that Comcast isn’t just a consumer; it contributes a great deal to open source. “One way we contribute is that when we consume a project and a fix or enhancement is needed, we fix it and contribute back.” The company has made roughly 150 such contributions this year alone.

Comcast also releases its own software as open source. “We have created things internally to solve our own problems, but we realized they could solve someone else’s problem, too. So, we released such internal projects as open source,” said Ruff.

Two notable projects that Comcast recently open sourced are Trickster and VinylDNS. At the moment, Comcast is maintaining these projects, but the company is also open to nurturing such projects to a stage where they can become part of bigger open source bodies like The Linux Foundation or Apache Software Foundation.

“These are the two projects that we’re actually maintaining. We are inviting contributors from all parts of the world to contribute to it and there is a great deal of diversity around these projects,” said Ruff. “At the same time, we also have Traffic Control, our CDN project, which is hosted at the Apache Foundation.”

Traffic Control is a good example of a Comcast project that became mature enough to graduate as a top tier project at the Apache Foundation. Comcast is also the force behind the RDK Management, an open source consortium to manage the Reference Design Kit (RDK). It’s an open source software platform for the connected home that standardizes core functions used in broadband devices, set-top boxes, and IoT.

Beyond Code

Ruff also serves on The Linux Foundation Board of Directors, where she represents the larger open source community. “As part of the board, one of the big lenses that I like to bring to the board is diversity and inclusion,” she said. She works closely with The Linux Foundation teams to make their projects and events more diverse and inclusive.

“We have a great opportunity as a foundation to set some guidelines for the 150-plus projects that are at the Foundation itself, but also to create best practices for the community to follow,” Ruff said.

“The whole world is getting digitized. As we are recreating this world, we need to create it with people of all types,” she continued. “Otherwise, we will have a very monotonous world. We will have a black-and-white world created by a few people with their biases that are embedded in that world. And we cannot afford to do that.”

Watch the video below to hear more:

Swapnil Bhartiya