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About Huawei Open Source

Huawei has long used open source software throughout its product lines. In recent years, the company has emerged as one of the world's top contributors to open source projects.

Open source embodies Huawei's business philosophy that success doesn't happen by working alone. The greatest achievements are the result of collaboration with others. Huawei's developers actively contribute to the work and operations of all the world's major open source software foundations.

As China's most active player in open source, Huawei has recently taken up the role of mentor to other Chinese companies that aspire to themselves become effective contributors.

What is open source software

Open source software refers to software that is developed collaboratively, primarily by freely sharing codes, and released under an open source license. This is typically done on dedicated sharing platforms.

Anyone can inspect, modify, or improve open source software because the source codes-the parts of the software that determines how it operates-are publicly available. With access to the source codes, programmers can improve a program or add features to it.

In open source's early days, the vast majority of contributors were in the U.S. This has changed. Chinese developers, collectively, have become the second largest group of contributors to GitHub, the world's largest repository of open source software. Huawei and Intel were the top 2 contributors to the Linux Kernel 5.10 (the core of the Linux open source operating system) when it was released in December 2020.

Open source software is found everywhere. 90% of large companies use open source software extensively in their operations, according to the latest annual survey performed by Red Hat, a company that offers software support. Open source software powers Android, the world's most widely used smartphone operating system. Open source is used in video games and in car software. Most cloud servers also run with open source software.

Advantages of open source

Here are some of the most important benefits of open source software

  • Better security

    Open source code can be openly reviewed by the global community of developers. This makes it harder to hide backdoors. Vulnerabilities are spotted and communicated sooner.
  • Transparency

    Everyone has access to the codes. Closed source software by contrast may contain bugs that no one saw, and other surprises.
  • Reliability

    Similarly to the cybersecurity aspect, more hands and more eyes make for better reliability. Open source code development often happens in communities led by experts.
  • Active support

    Open source software is developed by communities that can be very active. Members of the communities aim to constantly improve the software. They are eager to inform other members when flaws in the software are discovered and to share solutions.
  • Free access to top talent

    While companies may be primarily motivated by profitability, members of open source communities just want to create good software (and earn the recognition that it provides). The use of open source provides companies access to some of the world's top talent, but without having them on the payroll.
  • Faster product development

    A vast amount of open source software code is already freely available for download and more is constantly produced. Companies can harness this output to create new products and technologies faster.
  • Lower costs

    Projects based on open source software may involve the use of commercial cloud services or suppliers of open source managed services. But licensing fees don't exist in open source software. Overall, software made from open source components tends to cost less.

Huawei contributions to open source

Huawei began to contribute to open source software communities around 2010. In 2020, Huawei's was the 10th largest contributor to GitHub1 . This was a huge jump from 2019 when Huawei was in 27th place.

Huawei's contributions as recorded by GitHub don't tell the whole story. Huawei also contributes extensively to other repositories, such as Gitee, China's largest open source software repository.

GitHub Open Source contributor Index in 2020
Company Rank in 2020 Rank in 2019 Number of contributors
Google 1 2 5709
Microsoft 2 1 5051
Red Hat 3 3 3127
IBM 4 4 2382
Intel 5 5 2233
Amazon 6 5 1231
Facebook 7 6 1203
GitHub 8 10 987
SAP 9 9 901
Huawei 10 27 699
Source: Open Source contributor Index2
  1. GitHub is the world's largest open source software development platform and repository. Microsoft owns it.
  2. https://opensourceindex.io/

Social contributions

Nurturing open source in China

Although China recently emerged as one of the top contributors to open source software, the level of familiarity among developers and companies is still extremely uneven. In particular, many Chinese users of open source code neither understand the value of contributing nor how to do it. Huawei has been propagating knowledge of open source software in China by targeting students in universities and in high schools.

In collaboration with China’s ministry of education, Huawei has worked with universities and technical schools, 72 so far (late 2021), to expand the curriculum on open source software. By late 2021, a total of 45 universities and technical colleges had begun to offer mini-course on open source software.

Advancing molecular research

Shenzhen Bay Laboratory teamed up with Huawei and Peking University to design MindSpore Sponge, a molecular dynamic library.

Molecular dynamics is a simulation tool for observing on a computer the behavior and evolution of molecules. During simulations, molecules and atoms interact for a fixed period of time, providing a dynamic view of the evolution of the system. Molecular dynamics is used in chemical physics, materials science, and biophysics. It is also used by pharmaceutical researchers to predict how specific drug molecules would interact with protein targets.

Because they are highly complex, molecular dynamic simulations can use up enormous amounts of computing power. MindSpore Sponge was designed in a highly modular way. This modularity enables it to shorten the calculation time required by simulations, which means that scientists can increase the complexity of their computational experiments.

Supporting a European cloud

The EU is promoting the development of an open source-based European data infrastructure called GAIA-X. When operational, GAIA-X will enhance Europe’s digital sovereignty. It will maintain the privacy of European data while allowing users to work simultaneously with multiple clouds. Huawei is an active member and supporter of Gaia-X. We contribute open source projects to the organization so that Gaia-X is both extremely open and extremely secure.