[Apc-foss] Sri Lanka Builds Software and Organizations at ApacheCon Asia

Frederick "FN" Noronha fredericknoronha at gmail.com
Tue Aug 22 18:47:51 BST 2006

Sri Lanka Builds Software and Organizations at ApacheCon Asia
The Apache Software Foundation works on the principle that a good
community will make good software. Open source organizations are
taking root in Sri Lanka, a hotbed of Apache coding.

By Frederick Noronha, LinuxWorld.com, 08/22/06

It's a small scenic and tropical island strategically located along
major sea trade routes in the Indian Ocean. But to get there, global
hackers had to battle London's bomb plots, encounter geckos that "make
alarming noises at night", and more blasts in Sri Lanka itself. Yet,
against the odds, Asia held its first ApacheCon ever and tiny Sri
Lanka played proud host.

Related links
Apache And Asia, Bridging the Gap on IndicThreads

The outcome? "ApacheCon Asia 2006 totally rocked," blogged IBM's Ken
Coar, best known for his association with The Apache Software
Foundation and the ApacheCon series of user conferences.

Buoyed by the event, voices from India's southern neighbour of 20
million people turned optimstic. Some announced a 2012 target for
turning into a "competent center for free and open source software".

Sri Lanka's unlikely history with the free software/open source web
server makes Colombo feel that it could well surf its way into the
major programming league. Organisers noted mid-August's was the first
time Asia was hosting an event of this kind. And Sri Lanka isn't
shooting in the dark; it certainly knows where it wants to go.

In an Asia which still finds it difficult to get enough of its
contributors putting back into global free and open source software
(FOSS) projects, Sri Lanka already draws some envy. This tiny island
nation has built up, in a short time, more than 50 Sri Lankan
developers who became active Apache committers. An Apache committer is
an individual who can directly modify code in Apache's version control

Apache is credited with a key role in the growth of the World Wide
Web, and remains the most popular web server in use. Apache Software
Foundation's projects are managed by a self-selected team of technical
experts who are active contributors to the project. The ASF is a
meritocracy, with foundation membership granted only to volunteers who
have actively contributed to Apache projects.

Dr Sanjiva Weerawarana, Ph. D told LinuxWorld.com: "We're trying to
get the larger message of FOSS out to the people. Overall we targeted
touching more than 1000 people during this week ... not bad for our
size and for an all volunteer group!"

Weerawarana, who spent an eight year stint in IBM Research where he
was one of the founders of the Web services platform, returned back
home to found the Lanka Software Foundation.

This non-profit foundation aims to promote "open source development,
not usage, by Sri Lankan developers". He is currently LSF's Executive
Director. Their success is more creditable considering the little
funding they operate on.

ApacheCon Asia's goal was to "create a unique platform for the open
source community in Asia to come together and gain an insight into
techniques and methodologies critical to the advancement of open
source technologies". This, say organisers, is now growing into a
force to reckon with in the international IT industry.

August 14 saw a hackathon with teams from projects in the Java and web
services space. On the next day, Ken Coar's keynote on the Apache
Software Foundation and its licenses was followed by sessions on
Apache MyFaces, ESB, Object Relational Mapping Tools and Ajax, a
technique for creating web applications where JavaScript updates parts
of a page from a server without reloading the whole page.

Birds-of-a-feather sessions looked at the Simple Object Access
Protocol (SOAP) stack, Apache Axis 2 and the J2EE application server
Geronimo, fields which are popular among developers in Colombo itself.
Danese Cooper of Intel conducted the five-minute lightning talks,
which many thought were fun.

Taking economic-political ideas to the world of computing, Sri Lanka's
own returned expat Sanjiva Weerawarana spoke on 'The World Is Flat At
Apache'. He shared his experiences as a contributor in a no-bosses

Other sessions focussed on Axis2, Geronimo, BSF4Rexx, Velocity and
Single Sign On. Another panel discussion turned to Apache And Asia,
Bridging the Gap.

Like other South Asian countries—including neighbouring India,
Pakistan and Bangladesh—Sri Lanka too would like to have a growing
share of the promising IT pie.

Dr Weerawarana, himself a member of the Apache Software Foundation,
said: "The Apache Software Foundation is the home of many market
leading open source products, starting with the Apache Web server. It
is an honor for Sri Lanka to host the first ever Asian gathering of
this prestigious group."

For instance, ASF projects are characterized by a collaborative,
consensus-based development process, an "open and pragmatic" software
licence, and a desire to create high quality software that leads the
way in its field. Apache, as the organisers of this event note,
considers itself not simply as a group of projects sharing a server,
but rather a community of developers and users.
Here's another lesson for this part of the world, which needs
organising structures for FOSS: Apache believe that if one builds a
good community then that community will make great software.

"ApacheCon is one of the most comprehensive technical conferences for
the open source community. My experience in several ApacheCons
including Europe and US, both as a speaker and a participant is that
it is a very useful conference to learn the Apache technologies." says
Ajith Ranabahu, a Senior Software Engineer at WSO2 and a frequent
participant at international ApacheCon Conferences.

"There was a car bombing in Colombo but that doesn't seem to have had
any impact on the enthusiasm of the participants. However the security
situation has perhaps led to this being a primarily Sri Lankan event
with low participation from rest of Asia," complained Harshad Oak, a
techie from Pune in central India.

This conference was locally organized by the Lanka Software
Foundation, the Lanka Linux Users' Group and The Linux Center, all of
which are non-profit organizations promoting the Sri Lankan FOSS

Sri Lanka, overcoming its smallness and leveraging its expat community
and global focus, has been working on some innovative projects. These
include FOSS-School, a unique event catering to students, which paves
the way for the introduction and use of FOSS at the grassroots level.

On another front, the prominent internet search engine Google recently
donated US $25,000 to the Lanka Software Foundation in recognition of
their open source software development efforts. LSF said the funding
would reduce cash-constraint restraints, and announced plans to use
Google's donation to seed a series of new R&D projects -- starting
with an effort around Apache Geronimo and also the popular open source
database MySQL.

Sri Lanka lies off the southeast coast of the Indian subcontinent,
about 31 kilometres (18.5 mi) south of India. A British crown colony
for over a century, Sri Lanka (known until 1972 as Ceylon) gained
independence in 1948.
Frederick Noronha http://fn.goa-india.org  9822122436 +91-832-240-9490
http://fredericknoronha.wordpress.com fredericknoronha at gmail.com

Frederick Noronha http://fn.goa-india.org  9822122436 +91-832-240-9490
http://fredericknoronha.wordpress.com fredericknoronha at gmail.com

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