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What’s in the SOSS? Podcast #8 – Intel’s Arun Gupta and Giving Back to Security Communities

By July 2, 2024Podcast


Arun Gupta is vice president and general manager of Open Ecosystem Initiatives at Intel Corporation and the OpenSSF Governing Board Chair. Arun has been an open source strategist, advocate, and practitioner for nearly two decades. He has taken companies such as Apple, Amazon, and Sun Microsystems through systemic changes to embrace open source principles, contribute, and collaborate effectively.

On July 9-10, the OpenSSF will attend the 2024 OSPOs for Good symposium hosted by the UN. Arun and What’s in the SOSS? co-host Omkhar Arasaratnam will lead a session called “Engaging the Open Source Community.”

Following the symposium on July 11, attendees are invited to come to a secondary event, What’s Next for Open Source? It will feature a collection of curated workshops to discover how to build and gather the skills you need to move forward with open source. Omkhar is coordinating the security track and presenting opening remarks. Arun will offer closing remarks. 

Conversation Highlights

  • 02:13 – Arun’s general outlook on security and life
  • 03:39 – Arun shares his personal background and illustrious career history
  • 09:04 – Comparing the OpenSSF and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF)
  • 13:30 – Arun details his work with the United Nations
  • 16:42 – Areas that a lot of security professionals are getting wrong
  • 18:20 – Arun answers Omkhar’s rapid-fire questions
  • 19:08 – Advice Arun would give to aspiring security professionals
  • 20:40 – Arun’s call to action for listeners


Announcer (00:01)
A quick programming note: On July 9th and 10th, the OpenSSF will attend the 2024 OSPOs for Good symposium hosted by the UN. What’s in the SOSS? co-host Omkhar Arasaratnam and today’s guest Arun Gupta of Intel will lead a session called “Engaging the Open Source Community.”

Following the symposium on July 11th, attendees are invited to attend a secondary event, What’s Next for Open Source? It will feature a collection of curated workshops to discover how to build and gather the skills you need to move forward with Open Source. Omkhar is coordinating the security track and presenting opening remarks. Arun will offer closing remarks. 

For more information, check out the links in this podcast’s episode description.

Arun Gupta soundbite (00:45)
Sometimes security folks focus too much on the technology. Take a step back. Have that empathy for the customer. Does the customer understand that language? Are you talking in their language? Is the intent of your dialog landing the impact on the customer who’s listening to that discussion? 

Omkhar Arasaratnam (01:03)
Welcome to What’s in the SOSS? I am your host and the general manager of the OpenSSF Omkhar Arsaratnam. And with us today, we have Arun Gupta. Arun, tell us what you do.

Arun Gupta (01:18)
Omkhar, thank you for having me here. I’m really happy and excited to be here. I am the Vice President and General Manager for Open Ecosystem Team at Intel. And that’s my day job. As part of that, I coordinate open source strategy across the entire company, whether it’s software, hardware, all through the stack, why we contribute, how we contribute, how do we bring alignment across different business units.

So that’s quite an exciting venture actually. In addition, because of Intel’s legacy, it allows me to do a lot of chop wood, carry water kind of work in the community. So I’m really fortunate and very grateful to be the chair of the OpenSSF governing board, in addition to the chair of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation governing board as well.

Omkhar Arasaratnam (02:07)
Holy cow, where do you find time to sleep? And you run as well, you’re a runner, is that right?

Arun Gupta (02:13)
I like to run. I think the running is what gives me… I was listening to a podcast this morning and it talks about self-compassion. And I think that’s something that I’m really big on. So it’s very important to be compassionate to yourself. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself so that you can do all of these other things. 

I must say I’m really blessed and fortunate in that sense that people like the way I think, like the way I operate, like the way I treat them, going back to Maya Angelou’s quote, really. So, and I think that’s what has helped me get into the leadership position. There are a lot of wonderful people in this world, but you know, making sure you are listening to people, engaging with people, taking care of them, being empathetic to them. Those are some of the traits that you really need to be in this leadership position. But it really, gives me a satisfactory feeling at the end of the day, being the governing chair of the two of the largest Linux Foundation foundations essentially, and drive them forward.

Omkhar Arasaratnam (03:15)
Your contributions to the community have been numerous and this certainly isn’t your first first day in open source. And I think your numerous contributions to the community is part of the reason why you’ve been elected to such prestigious positions within these two foundations. Can you talk to us a little bit about your history in open source? How long have you been doing it? How’d you get your start?

Arun Gupta (03:39)
Yeah, I grew up in India. I moved to the United States. I moved to the United States back in ‘98. And I was very fortunate to literally go to and apply for a job. And I was one of the original JDK team members. And gosh, over two decades ago, we started changing the culture at Sun Microsystems at that point of time. It was a very close source company, Solaris, Netscape application server, all that. 

And then that’s when we started changing the culture at Sun. How do we take this closed source application server and make it an open source application server? And we realized it’s not just about putting the source code over the firewall, but it’s really bringing that people process, culture change, essentially, all of that kind of coming together, essentially. And that sort of…so over 20 years ago is when that bug got into me and I found it very exciting. It’s like, wow, you know, this is core competency of the company and you’re putting that out in the open, but yet that allows you to collaborate with your partner and be able to compete with them as well. That was quite exciting. So back in 2003, 2004 timeframe is when I started getting into that movement and it was still new at that point of time. 

But then, over the last 20 years, that’s the only way I’ve lived and operated exclusively. From Sun, I went to Red Hat, where you will see on their walls of their offices, “First they laugh at you, then they fight with you, and then you win.” And that kind of mantra kind of gets into your blood because that’s the open source philosophy, right? Then I was at CouchBase, then I was at Amazon, part of the open source strategy team, where I was on loan to multiple service teams crafting their open source strategy. 

I remember launching Amazon EKS, Amazon’s managed Kubernetes service back in 2017, and educating the service team that, hey, how do you participate in the open source community? What does it mean? There’s a concept of social dynamics, social engineering that you need to understand. You can’t just submit a pull request and expected to be accepted. So I think that’s the norm that I taught. And then I was on loan to multiple service teams. 

After Amazon, I spent a couple of years at Apple and I was fortunate enough to craft their first open source program office. So I built their first open source program office, went all the way up to the multiple executives, building that case, why Apple should contribute to open source, and a lot of fun over there.

But over the last couple of years, Greg Lavender, our CTO reached out and he says, “Arun, we would like to build open ecosystem culture back at Intel.” And so I’m very fortunate enough here. After a very long time, I feel very happy and excited that all through my management chain to Pat Gelsinger, I don’t have to explain what open ecosystem is. They are the ones that are really pushing the boundary and the entire company is built on…we believe walled gardens prohibit innovation. We believe open ecosystem creates an equitable playground for multiple players to collaborate and also increase the total addressable market so that you can do more fun things on top of that. So I think in that sense, very fortunate to be working at Intel and very fortunate and blessed to be working in this open source movement for the last couple of decades.

Omkhar Arasaratnam (07:07)
What an inspirational story. And it’s, I will second that Intel is definitely one of the examples of an organization that really gets open source. As an old kernel guy, it always used to make me smile to see that the new bits for whatever the new processor was would hit the kernel well ahead of the Silicon being released to the street. And there was a big focus on upstream as well as maintaining the ecosystem that we all enjoy. So thank you Intel and thank you for the work that you do there Arun. 

Arun Gupta (07:41)
It keeps it sustainable. The reason we contribute is because, as you said, Intel has been the largest corporate contributor to Linux kernel for 15 plus years. We contribute there because our customers, when they buy a laptop from Fry’s or Best Buy or an online retail store, they expect when they download Ubuntu or whatever operating system of their choice, it would work out of the box and be able to leverage the latest processors.

And that’s the reason, honestly, we contribute to 300 plus open source projects, whether it’s Linux kernel, PyTorch, TensorFlow, Kubernetes, OpenJDK, and a wide range of projects, because it’s a customer obsession that truly gets us there. And that’s what makes open source sustainable as well.

Omkhar Arasaratnam (08:24)
See, I know you’ve been doing this a long time because you mentioned Fry’s and they’ve been defunct for three years.

Arun Gupta (08:30)
(Laughter) I still love that place. It’s funny because in our neighborhood, Fry’s have been converted into a pickleball court now here.

Omkhar Arasaratnam (08:38)
(Laughter) No kidding. We’ll have to play pickleball the next time I see you. 

Arun Gupta (08:42)
That’s right, yeah!

Omkhar Arasaratnam (08:43)
Switching gears slightly, let’s talk a little bit about the work that you do within Linux Foundation as the board chair for both CNCF as well as the OpenSSF. These are big tasks. I’d love to understand what similarities you see between the security community at the OpenSSF and the cloud native community at CNCF.

Arun Gupta (09:04)
A lot of commonality. They are both, as at Intel we call as, BHAG. Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Both these foundations have those BHAGs essentially. I mean, if you think about CNCF is about how do we make cloud native computing ubiquitous, no matter where you are? And similarly, OSSF, Open Source Security Foundation, talks about how do we secure open source software for the greater public good? 

But there is definitely a lot of similarity between the two foundations. They’re both Linux foundation sub-foundations. They both have a governing board. There are 28 members in CNCF and 23 in OpenSSF per my count this morning. They both have a technical body like CNCF has the technical oversight committee, and OpenSSF has technical advisory council. So both have that element. Now, CNCF also has a technical advisory group, which is about security, where they dig into the details of how do you secure cloud native infrastructure? Security is the most boring thing, right? I mean, it works until it doesn’t work and then everything breaks. So I think that’s a super important element. So you could…

Omkhar Arasaratnam (10:13)
When it’s done well, it’s very boring.

Arun Gupta (10:15)
(Laughter) Right exactly. (Laughter) So I think it’s very important that security is job number one, even in cloud native computing. You can make it ubiquitous, but if it’s not secure, it’s absolutely useless in that sense. So I think that’s the way they think about it. There is a tag security where there is deep focus on how do we make sure that we are making this secure? But so far, that focus has been only on the cloud native computing. And I think that’s exactly where OpenSSF shines up. 

OpenSSF is fulfilling a gap. which is looking at a bigger, broader landscape to identify how do we secure the broader open source software? That’s where tools like OpenSSF Scorecard, Salsa, Sigstore, these are the tools. There is no need for CNCF or any other foundation to create those. That’s where OpenSSF is bringing out these tools that will plug in right there the gaps that CNCF is feeling and any other foundation is feeling.

Within OpenSSF and CNCF, of course, there is a lot of collaboration, but the tools that OpenSSF are creating are available for the broader open source community. So whether you are Apache or Eclipse or in any other community for that sake, those tools are widely available. And let’s be deliberate, let’s be conscious about what kind of interactions can be done to make the cloud native computing more secure so that it fulfills both of our joint agendas and win -win situation. 

And honestly, the way OpenSSF looks at it is as we are creating tools, we can create the tools in silo, but if those tools are not implemented or agreed upon by other communities, again, they’re going to be meaningless. So really making sure that as we are creating this OpenSSF scorecard, how they could be adopted across a wide range of CNCF projects, whatever specifications we come up with, we created secure software development guiding principles. Like, how do you make sure that your software is built using a secure covenant? Now we could come up with a covenant, but really working with CNCF saying that, okay folks, as you are building your project, here are these guiding principles that you should be following. 

So I think in that sense, there’s a very strong cohesion between, the stuff that is being done by OpenSSF and then implemented by CNCF. And again, the idea is if there are gaps identified, there is a clear communication channel, which is more important so that they can give feedback to us. There is of course a public channel, but there is a strong backend channel as well, which enables that high bandwidth communication for the leaders to communicate and share details.

Omkhar Arasaratnam (12:54)
Absolutely, and we have definitely benefited from that back channel and I think the community has definitely benefited from the cohesion, as you put it, that’s been brought together. One of the reasons that many of us get involved with open source and a lot of us are passionate about open source is due to the fact that it’s a public good. I know you’ve done a lot of work with the UN as well and would love to hear your thoughts on the intersection of open source as a public good and what the UN envisages how open source can help the globe.

Arun Gupta (13:30)
Yeah, when the United Nations created these Millennium Development Goals — what they used to call as MDGs at the turn of the millennium, smack at the beginning of the century — those goals were, again, BHAGs, you know, big hairy audacious goals. No poverty, no hunger, no crime, racial, you know, minimize racial injustice, gender equality, beautiful climate policies, you know, policies and all of really wonderful audacious goals. 

And as I’ve been involved with the UN for the last year or so, it’s been really exciting and very humbling experience, because it’s very clear, you have these goals, but the way to solve these goals, of course, is a human element. But a large part of it is a technology element. So last year, I was involved with TED AI, which is a brand new conference, which is again a section of TED, a type of a TED conference that was started in San Francisco last year. 

So last year we worked with TED and the UN to run a hackathon. And the hackathon basically had about 130 participants from all over the country, which basically took a shot at how can we solve this UN sustainable development goals using open source technologies, leveraging AI and cloud native technologies, essentially? vSo that was pretty exciting. 

A couple of months ago, we had KubeCon Paris, and that’s where we had again a very tight collaboration with the United Nations and the Office of Technology within the UN. Really, really good discussion. There were folks from the United Nations who came to the cloud native hacks, which is basically the hackathon that we did at KubeCon, where they talked about the importance and the relevance of the Sustainable Development Goals. These were started at Millennium Development Goals, but 2015 they realized it’s not just about the Millennium, it’s about the sustainability of the humankind. So the name was changed from MDGs to SDGs. 

A very beautiful, a very humbling effort. And I’m very excited to continue that partnership with the UN going forward. Looking forward, we are going to KubeCon Salt Lake City. So we’re going to have a cloud native hacks over there. Highly, highly encourage to bring more and more such places where we can bring that UN hackathon to different events and make an impact to the SDG, essentially making the world a bit more sustainable.

Omkhar Arasaratnam (15:55)
Those are definitely some big, hairy, audacious goals, but also, I think, goals that are good for humankind. And it’s very encouraging to hear this kind of collaboration. I’ve been doing security for a long time. I’ve been doing security for about 20 years. But I always self-identify as a software engineer first that happens to have been doing security for a very long time. 

With that perspective, I personally find there’s a lot of things that security folks just, I guess in their intent of being incredibly security-oriented, that they miss from your perspective. As a software engineer for a very long time. What are security folks getting wrong? 

Arun Gupta (16:42)
Yeah, I think when I think about a conversation, I always think in terms of empathy, that what is my end customer? What do they want? What is the problem that I’m solving for them? That’s super important. Sometimes the security folks focus too much on the technology. Take a step back. Have that empathy for the customer. Does the customer understand that language? Are you talking in their language? Is the intent of your dialogue landing the impact on the customer who’s listening to that discussion? 

The second problem, which is funny enough, is not the technology. Humans are often the weakest link in security. So as security professionals, we sometimes overlook the importance of training and awareness programs for employees. Or we underestimate the potential impact of social engineering attacks. How we could have people just maneuver their way, particularly given how prevalent open source is, how 90 to 9 % of the infrastructure is relying upon open source. For two years, somebody could just social engineer their way into it and then plant something in the software is pretty dynamic. So I think how do we understand the social engineering part of it?

And I guess the last part really is the comms part of it. We need to work very closely with other departments — IT, legal management, developers — making sure the comms are being sent out on a regular basis, the trainings are being done regularly. So focusing on these elements would only make it that much more impactful.

Omkhar Arasaratnam (18:20)
Valuable insight is always Arun. We’re gonna move into the rapid-fire section now.  Okay, spicy or mild food?

Arun Gupta (18:29)
I would say spicy. I’ve always been a spicy person. I like that.

Omkhar Arasaratnam (18:32)
All right, text editors, Vi, VS Code or Emacs?

Arun Gupta (18:36)
Vim, actually.

Omkhar Arasaratnam (18:38)
Vim is the winner! Now this is a highly controversial question. Tabs versus spaces? 

Arun Gupta (18:44)
Oh, yeah, spaces, baby spaces. 

Omkhar Arasaratnam (18:47)
Spaces, all right!

Arun Gupta (18:48)
Yeah, I’m not gonna lose a relationship over it, but spaces it is.

Omkhar Arasaratnam (18:50)
(Laughter) All right, to close us out Arun, for somebody that’s entering our field today, maybe somebody that just graduated from an undergrad in comp sci or somebody that’s making a career change to move into our field, what advice would you have for them?

Arun Gupta (19:08)
Yeah, I was talking to a friend’s son actually, you know, this kid is in high school and up until now he wanted to be a lawyer. And then one day he just comes to the house and he says, I want to be a cyber security professional. And my eyes immediately lit up. I said, “Oh, that’s fantastic! What do you want to do?” And like, I had a very interesting conversation with him. And of course I pointed him to all the training and the certifications and the courses that are offered by OpenSSF. 

My general advice is with ChatGPT with so much of internet resources available, which were not available when I was in college or when I was growing up initially, there is no lack of knowledge. Have that genuine curiosity, dig into it. Don’t be afraid of AI. Embrace it, use tools like ChatGPT to bounce your ideas, build that prompt engineering skill. 

What do you want to really do? Dig into the why of it. Look under the hood, see what’s going on and what could you do? And most importantly, if you find there is a place where you can scratch your itch, do it, contribute. And the more you contribute, the more you collaborate, the more you get your name out there, the more you build the credibility. And, remember, it’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint. So be in it for the long haul.

Omkhar Arasaratnam (20:35)
That’s great advice, Arun. What’s your call to action for our listeners? What would you have them do following this episode?

Arun Gupta (20:40)
I would really encourage them, again, seems to be self-serving, but I would really encourage them to take a look at Look at all the wonderful resources, training, education, certifications that we provide over there. Take a look at that. Come to an event. Go to your local meetup. And the last one, which is very important that I’ve seen particularly people who are graduating out of college don’t have that imposter syndrome. You know, I was there exactly where you are right now 25, 30 years ago, and all it takes is perseverance, grit, and resilience. So just have that in you and roll with it.

Omkhar Arasaratnam (21:22)
Thank you so much, Arun. It’s been a pleasure having you and hope to speak to you again very soon.

Arun (20:21:26)
Thank you so much.

Announcer (22:27)
Once again, for more information about OpenSSF’s activities at the OSPOs for Good symposium and the follow-up event, What’s Next for Open Source, check out the links in the episode description of this podcast. And be sure to catch every episode of What’s in the SOSS by subscribing to the podcast on Spotify, Apple, Amazon or wherever you get your podcasts. And to learn more about the OpenSSF community, visit We’ll talk to you next time on What’s in the SOSS?