Oct 21, 2020
The Reproducible Builds project depends on our many projects, supporters and sponsors. We rely on their financial support, but they are also valued ambassadors who spread the word about the Reproducible Builds project and the work that we do.
This is the first installment in a series featuring the projects, companies and individuals who support the Reproducible Builds project. If you are a supporter of the Reproducible Builds project (of whatever size) and would like to be featured here, please let get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
However, we are kicking off this series by featuring Urs Gleim and Yoshi Kobayashi of the Civil Infrastructure Platform (CIP) project.
Chris Lamb: Hi Urs and Yoshi, great to meet you. How might you relate the importance of the Civil Infrastructure Platform to a user who is non-technical?
A: The Civil Infrastructure Platform (CIP) project is focused on establishing an open source ‘base layer’ of industrial-grade software that acts as building blocks in civil infrastructure projects. End-users of this critical code include systems for electric power generation and energy distribution, oil and gas, water and wastewater, healthcare, communications, transportation, and community management. These systems deliver essential services, provide shelter, and support social interactions and economic development. They are society’s lifelines, and CIP aims to contribute to and support these important pillars of modern society.
Chris: We have entered an age where our civilisations have become reliant on technology to keep us alive. Does the CIP believe that the software that underlies our own safety (and the safety of our loved ones) receives enough scrutiny today?
A: For companies developing systems running our infrastructure and keeping our factories working, it is part of their business to ensure the availability, uptime, and security of these very systems. However, software complexity continues to increase, and the efforts spent on those systems is now exploding. What is missing is a common way of achieving this through refining the same tools, and cooperating on the hardening and maintenance of standard components such as the Linux operating system.
Chris: How does the Reproducible Builds effort help the Civil Infrastructure Platform achieve its goals?
A: Reproducibility helps a great deal in software maintenance. We have a number of use-cases that should have long-term support of more than 10 years. During this period, we encounter issues that need to be fixed in the original source code. But before we make changes to the source code, we need to check whether it is actually the original source code or not. If we can reproduce exactly the same binary from the source code even after 10 years, we can start to invest time and energy into making these fixes.
Chris: Can you give us a brief history of the Civil Infrastructure Platform? Are there any specific ‘success stories’ that the CIP is particularly proud of?
A: The CIP Project formed in 2016 as a project hosted by Linux Foundation. It was launched out of necessity to establish an open source framework and the subsequent software foundation delivers services for civil infrastructure and economic development on a global scale. Some key milestones we have achieved as a project include our collaboration with Debian, where we are helping with the Debian Long Term Support (LTS) initiative, which aims to extend the lifetime of all Debian stable releases to at least 5 years. This is critical because most control systems for transportation, power plants, healthcare and telecommunications run on Debian-based embedded systems.
In addition, CIP is focused on IEC 62443, a standards-based approach to counter security vulnerabilities in industrial automation and control systems. Our belief is that this work will help mitigate the risk of cyber attacks, but in order to deal with evolving attacks of this kind, all of the layers that make up these complex systems (such as system services and component functions, in addition to the countless operational layers) must be kept secure. For this reason, the IEC 62443 series is attracting attention as the de facto cyber-security standard.
Chris: The Civil Infrastructure Platform project comprises a number of project members from different industries, with stakeholders across multiple countries and continents. How does working together with a broad group of interests help in your effectiveness and efficiency?
A: Although the members have different products, they share the requirements and issues when developing sustainable products. In the end, we are driven by common goals. For the project members, working internationally is simply daily business. We see this as an advantage over regional or efforts that focus on narrower domains or markets.
Chris: The Civil Infrastructure Platform supports a number of other existing projects and initiatives in the open source world too. How much do you feel being a part of the broader free software community helps you achieve your aims?
A: Collaboration with other projects is an essential part of how CIP operates — we want to enable commonly-used software components. It would not make sense to re-invent solutions that are already established and widely used in product development. To this end, we have an ‘upstream first’ policy which means that, if existing projects need to be modified to our needs or are already working on issues that we also need, we work directly with them.
Chris: Open source software in desktop or user-facing contexts receives a significant amount of publicity in the media. However, how do you see the future of free software from an industrial-oriented context?
A: Open source software has already become an essential part of the industry and civil infrastructure, and the importance of open source software there is still increasing. Without open source software, we cannot achieve, run and maintain future complex systems, such as smart cities and other key pieces of civil infrastructure.
Chris: If someone wanted to know more about the Civil Infrastructure Platform (or even to get involved) where should they go to look?
For more about the Reproducible Builds project, please see our website at reproducible-builds.org. If you are interested in ensuring the ongoing security of the software that underpins our civilisation and wish to sponsor the Reproducible Builds project, please reach out to the project by emailing email@example.com.
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