Gettys worked at HP Labs' Cambridge Research Laboratory. He won the 1997 Internet Plumber of the Year award on behalf of the group who worked on HTTP/1.1. Gettys is one of the keepers of the Flame (USENIX's 1999 Lifetime Achievement Award) on behalf of The X Window System Community at Large.
One of his main goals at OLPC was to review and overhaul much of standard Linux software, in order to make it run faster and consume less memory and power. In this context, he has pointed out a common fallacy among programmers today: that storing computed values in memory is preferable to recomputing those values later. This, he claims, is often false on current hardware, given fast CPUs and the long time it takes to recover from a potential cache miss.
Since 2010 Gettys has been a core member of the group investigating Bufferbloat and the effect it has on the performance of the Internet.