20 Years of Open Source Erlang: OpenErlang Interview with Ericsson's Christopher Price

by Erlang Solutions

What happened in 1998?

There was the introduction of a brand new currency in Europe, Google was founded and the iconic Britney Spears came crashing into our worlds. Of course we’re forgetting one vital development.

The significance of Britney is undoubtedly important, however more so was the decision to make Erlang open source, making this year its 20th anniversary. To celebrate, we have been hosting parties, conferences, webinars and meetups including the #OpenErlang interviews.

The #OpenErlang Interviews

We have been interviewing a few contributors, makers and shakers from the Erlang community as part of our #OpenErlang celebrations! From those who have had a key involvement in the process of creating the language to the individuals contributing to its further development and ultimately the companies adopting Erlang.

Keep your eyes peeled each week as our key influencers of Erlang give exclusive interviews regarding the programming language and its development over the last few decades.

Next up is our exclusive #OpenErlang Interview with Christopher Price, President at Ericsson Software Technology.

Christopher has been championing a shift in the technology industry from standardization to open source software development for many years and across many companies. Here, he talks about the legacy of Erlang, and what Ericsson plans to do to develop and promote open source technologies around their exciting 5G transformation.

We have the transcript listed at the bottom of this blog post.

About Christopher

Christopher has always had a passion for open source technologies throughout his career, collaboration ideas and community building in the technology and ICT sector. Initially beginning his journey as a developer for global and carrier networks, over the past few years, Chris has really focused his efforts on the open source community and advancements in technology.

Christopher Price is now the President at Ericsson Software Technology based in Stockholm, Sweden. He is responsible for developing and promoting software across open source communities. As well as actively participating within the open source community, Chris is an active member of the Linux Foundation, the OpenStack Foundation and the OpenDaylight Project.

At Ericsson, Chris previously was the head of the network architecture and standardization team for the IP and Broadband division. His other key skill sets include technology development and architecture, policy control, user session control plane solutions and DPI technologies.

The Legacy of Ericsson

A huge number of mobile traffic is carried through Ericsson. Can you take a guess? That is 40% of all mobile traffic (thank you Erlang OTP team out there!)

Not only is Ericsson a dominant force in the mobile industry, but communications in general, having been founded around 140 years ago with that very goal. The aim of Ericsson was to make communicating easier, and that has certainly been the case for well over a century.

Founded by Lars Magnus Ericsson, Ericsson successfully broke into the 21st-century technology where many other businesses failed to adapt, and it did so with ease. Now, in 2018, Ericsson offers an abundance of services all aimed around this initial goal of “communication as a human need”. This spans into digital services, managed services and many innovations.

What is Ericsson doing nowadays?

Real-time connectivity is Ericsson’s key focus. As technology excels and we - the consumers - become more demanding, Ericsson has wholeheartedly accepted the challenge of offering A+ communication at lightning speed.

This is seen through 5G standardization, in which this process is highly complex and extraordinarily innovative. The stages of 5G standardization include radio access, 5G core, security and sustainability.

The race to release 5G is underway. This means data speeds and capacities will be increasing, and countries must provide the correct bandwidths under the correct conditions to be in with a chance of keeping up. Worldwide mobile subscriptions are forecasted to be up to 8,980 million in 2022 with mobile traffic set to skyrocket by 33% from 2016-2022. Nearly every business has seen a substantial shift from desktop to mobile traffic and data speed must keep up with the demand.

Key developments of 5G standardization from Ericsson include a completely scalable numerology system that is flexible, and compatible with LTE and ultra-lean transmissions; the 5G New Radio (NR). This is teamed with the full 3GPP Release 15 New Radio with stand-alone NR. This also includes protocol plane.

In terms of security, the aim of 5G security is to provide maximum protection of subscriber identities - this is a given - however amazing security is also about providing flexibility. The 5G security is able to deliver this as well.

With sustainability, transferring systems to “always available” allows energy to be saved and stored. And lastly, 5G core works with “network slicing” and “distributed cloud adapt” throughout businesses.

Ericsson has developed research facilities that allow pioneering and innovative work that not only benefits many industries, but society as a whole. Ericsson is the leader in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and by the sound of things, it will be for a long time.

You can find out more on their website, they share a very in-depth insight into their projects and innovations.

Interview Transcript

At work with the boss breathing down your neck? Or don’t want to be one of those playing videos out loud on public transport? Here’s the transcript, although not as exciting as the real thing..

Chris Price: My name’s Chris Price. I work at Ericsson in our Open Source division. I’m involved in open source and have been for a while. I worked with Linux Foundation, the OpenStack Foundation and of course with Erlang.

Erlang was born from the Ericsson Labs, of course, and that emerged and evolved within Ericsson for some time making its way into a number of products before the decision was taken to make an open source and the journey that it has taken today.

From its humble beginnings, when Erlang was just an operating system and language in Ericsson to when it became open source, we saw a little bit of growth but it’s grown a lot more in the last 10 years or so as other communities have picked up parts of Erlang and integrated into their own systems. We now have a thriving community that’s doing great.

Erlang open source is turning 20 years today. Before that, it was an Ericsson language and operating system specifically designed for telecommunications and high transaction volumes. Since that time Ericsson’s used Erlang in a number of products. We sometimes say that 40% of the world’s traffic runs over Erlang, mobile traffic that is. We’ve been a user and a contributor and the caretakers of Erlang for a long time now.

We’re going through the 5G transformation journey. We’re looking at how to bring in open source technologies, Erlang, Kubernetes, OpenStack, new IoT solutions. What you’ll start to see coming from Ericsson is these technologies being delivered as part of an end-to-end solution to operators and networks around the world that will enable a new wave of innovation through the networks.

I think what we’re going to see is a difference or a change in how we utilise the network. The network will become like an extended data centre. You’ll then be able to adjust the way you deliver services. Gaming will change, Augmented Reality will become more part of our day-to-day lives. You’ll start to see people delivering services and delivering technology to the edge and in a distributed fashion.

Moving forward, as Erlang evolves and grows, we’ll start to see, I think, a higher level of language evolved around it. You’ll start to see more complex applications being developed on it. The sky’s the limit when it’s open source.

[00:02:14] [END OF AUDIO]

OpenErlang; 20 Years of Open Sourced Erlang

Erlang was originally built for Ericsson and Ericsson only, as a proprietary language, to improve telephony applications. It can also be referred to as “Erlang/OTP” and was designed to be a fault-tolerant, distributed, real-time system that offered pattern matching and functional programming in one handy package.

Robert Virding, Joe Armstrong and Mike Williams were using this programming language at Ericsson for approximately 12 years before it went open source to the public in 1998. Since then, it has been responsible for a large number of business big and small, offering massively reliable systems and ease of use.

OpenErlang Interviews; Robert Virding and Joe Armstrong

If you enjoyed Chris’s interview then you’ve got to check out our first in the series with Robert Virding and Joe Armstrong!

Who could have known how influential Erlang was going to be 20 years ago when it was initially open sourced by Ericsson, and Robert and Joe explain to us the process behind this as well as their sheer joy at what Erlang has become. The community Erlang has built as well as the massive projects it has achieved, including the likes of WhatsApp, make this programming language one of the best on the BEAM.

Coming up at Erlang Solutions…

Continuing with our #OpenErlang celebrations, we have a webinar with Ben Marx from Bleacher Report entitled Strategies for Successfully Adopting Elixir on Monday 17th September. If you can’t make the 17th, it’s still worth signing up as you’ll receive the slides and video via email before anyone else.

We also had a meetup announced this week! Jeremey Barrett from Alert Logic is presenting at our London offices on Wednesday 19th September. “It’s All About The Runtime!” will go through why Jeremey uses Erlang and how to build complex and distributed systems.

For all other #OpenErlang news including parties, meetups, webinars and blog content, visit our dedicated #OpenErlang page.

Don’t forget you can contact us about anything and everything. Whether you’re just enjoying our content or you need specific technical assistance, we love to hear from you.

If you’re interested in contributing and collaborating with us at Erlang Solutions, you can contact us at  

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