Huawei CSO: Open-source can play a key role in creating a sustainable future

16 Sep 2022

Huawei chief strategy officer Bryan Che. Image: Huawei

Huawei’s Bryan Che spoke to about importance of global collaboration and an open-source approach in areas such as energy efficiency.

Open-source technology can play an important role in tackling the climate emergency by offering greater opportunities for collaboration and shared learning on key issues.

That’s according to Bryan Che, chief strategy officer of Huawei Technologies and one of the keynote speakers at this week’s Open Source Summit Europe event in Dublin.

This event brought together members of the open-source community to share information and work to solve problems to ensure a sustainable open-source ecosystem.

At the summit, Che spoke about the importance of improving technology to help the environment, including the ways open source can be a benefit when it comes to improving energy efficiency and protecting the wild.

Speaking to, Che said open-source research can be used to help bring “real change” to certain areas such as cloud, edge and devices.

“We need the creativity and applications of open-source technology to solve big issues many people don’t even realise are issues,” Che said.

Open-source and sustainability

Che said that in general, technology is already “crucial” for dealing with the climate crisis, but noted some key advantages that an open-source approach offers, particularly in terms of collaboration.

“We need to be open not just in our collaboration but also in our learnings and results,” Che added. “We need to understand what doesn’t work just as much as what works.

“Having an open-source collaboration around all these efforts is a great way to make progress together.”

Huawei has been contributing to open-source projects since around 2010, with the level of contributions rising in recent years. The company was the 10th largest contributor to GitHub in 2020, which was a leap from 27th place the year before. Huawei also contributes to Gitee, China’s largest open-source software repository.

Che said Huawei is involved in a number of open-source projects that are focused on sustainability – such as KubeEdge, a framework for edge computing that aims to help smart buildings become 19pc more energy efficient.

The company is also involved in a number of open-source communities around the world, including the Linux Foundation, the Apache Foundation and the OpenInfra Foundation.

“To develop sustainably, we need to come together and reduce humanity’s collective footprint,” Che said. “We need to take less and give more.”

Bridging the global gap

Che said there are challenges with bringing people around the world together for open-source collaboration, however.

“Different developers may be in different time zones and speak different native languages,” he noted. “They may serve different markets with substantially different requirements. And they may develop their local ecosystems completely differently.”

In order to deal with this challenge, Che said Huawei has taken steps to bring open-source foundations together on certain projects.

For example, Huawei contributed the OpenHarmony project to China’s OpenAtom Foundation, donating the code of the open-source operating system. The tech giant also became a founding member of Oniro, which is an OpenHarmony-compatible project of the Eclipse Foundation.

“To have two open-source foundations come together to collaborate jointly in the development and ecosystem-building of an open-source project is unprecedented,” Che said.

Open-source in Huawei’s portfolio

Speaking about Huawei’s portfolio of products and services, Che said there “isn’t an area that would not benefit” from sustainability-focused open-source projects.

Huawei has a number of climate goals it has set for itself, such as reducing its carbon emissions per unit of sales by 16pc by 2025 and increasing the energy efficiency of its main products by 2.7 times compared to 2019.

“Open-source is a key to all this because much of our product portfolio will have some utilisation of open-source in its bill of materials,” Che said.

He highlighted the role that open-source tech can play in making data centres more energy efficient. One example is OpenEuler, a community-driven Linux distribution that Huawei supports. Che said this is designed to work with different microchip architectures such as Arm servers to reduce energy use by up to 50pc.

“We can bring significant energy efficiency to cloud data centres by taking advantage of specialised energy-efficient hardware and also increasing utilisation of existing hardware – essentially it is optimising software to increase the efficiency of hardware,” Che explained.

Huawei highlighted the benefits of making data centres more sustainable and efficient at the Mobile World Congress earlier this year. It is one of many companies focusing on this area, as data centres have grown into a contentious topic due to the amount of energy they consume.

For example, IBM showcased its new LinuxONE servers at the Open Source Summit this week. The company claimed this server can reduce the energy consumption of data centres by 75pc while supporting multiple workloads.

According to Central Statistics Office figures, data centres consumed 14pc of Ireland’s electricity last year, which is more than rural dwellings.

Open-source security

Despite the benefits open-source technology can offer, the concern around security threats in the supply chain has grown in recent years.

This is due to key vulnerabilities that have been detected such as the Log4j flaw, which is expected to remain an issue in systems for a decade or longer. At the beginning of this year, major US tech companies including Google and GitHub came together at a White House summit to discuss ways to make the open-source software space more secure.

Despite concerns, Che said that open-source software is “inherently more secure” than traditional software due to the global community of programmers that consistently use, analyse and modify it.

Huawei participates in a number of collaborative projects to improve open-source security, Che added. It is a member of the Open Source Security Foundation, which aims to advance security practices across the open-source community.

“Another significant advantage is that [open-source software] is constantly being fixed when vulnerabilities are found; there’s no need to wait indefinitely for a fix from a slow-moving software giant.”

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic