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Editor's Note: The Focus of LinuxWorld

Feb 11, 2005, 23:30 (5 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

Having returned from the OSDL Enterprise Linux Summit last week, I am about to embark on another trip to another coast for this winter's LinuxWorld Conference and Expo.

I am not sure whose bright idea it was to schedule LinuxWorld on Valentine's Day, but I must register my complaint publicly. Just because we're geeks, IDG, doesn't mean we don't have love lives. With a wife and two daughters, let me tell you, I am in serious trouble here in the Proffitt household. Next year, let's be a little more sensitive, shall we?

Anyway, last week's OSDL Summit was a pretty small show, compared to the gargantuan LinuxWorld events, whenever they're held. But, since many of the sessions were concentrated on kernel development and legal issues, the Summit's impact was not so out of scale. Still, let's face it, LinuxWorld is the show for the Linux community, and will have lasting impact on the business and development worlds long after the booths close.

This is nothing new, and you certainly don't need me telling you what we all know, right?

Except... there's some companies that don't seem to know what LinuxWorld is about.

First, there's Sun Microsystems. They will have a very large presence at the show, as usual, and they will be showing off some cool stuff. Some of it even Linux related. But at the trade shows, the real action for a company occurs during the private one on one meetings with potential customers and partners. And I can't help but wonder how many of those meetings will focus more on OpenSolaris than Linux.

It will depend, of course, on how Sun reacts to the criticism that is sure to be launched at them at the show. Privately, quite a few industry players have expressed wonder at Sun's new plans for Solaris, with attitudes ranging from "why bother?" to "who cares?" Nobody seems too concerned about Sun's new tack, mostly because they think it's too little, too late. It doesn't help that Sun is consistently inconsistent with their message. They are trying to keep their balance between Linux and OpenSolaris in a very politically correct manner, and thus far their balance is coming off as "mixed up."

Case in point: this week's blog from Jonathan Schwartz was an open letter to the president of Brazil. I can't read Portuguese, but Babelfish can, and even without a translation, it's easy to see OpenSolaris, Solaris, and Linux all mentioned in the same sentence.

Seriously, I don't think anyone blames Sun for trying to sell their own OS. It's just they keep denying it's a priority. IBM did the same thing with AIX, but for some reason, no one had any trouble believing them. Maybe it's because IBM had a single message that they consistently drilled into everyone's heads.

Sun's message is still relatively unclear and they are about to pay the price, as company after company is going to pick apart their recent announcements one by one. And by the way, that whole "we like Linux, but not Red Hat" argument? That one ain't flying.

Another company whose motivation is starting to confuse me of late is Computer Associates. Last year, their release of the Ingres database seemed very positive step for open source. But their stance on Linux itself seems to be pulling back from their past commitment. It's subtle, but statements like this from CA's CTO and Sr. VP Yogesh Gupta seem to indicate a small shift in their focus: "LinuxWorld is not just about Linux, but about the way open source solutions can be integrated into enterprise IT infrastructures and business practices."

That statement was made in a recent interview Gupta had with TechTarget, and it is not incorrect. But the emphasis seems a little off, especially coming from Gupta, who, like his colleague Sam Greenblatt, is usually a very outspoken proponent of Linux.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with trying to broaden the scope of your business, especially from a middleware company like CA, who needs to work with many operating systems, not just Linux.

But sources within CA have expressed some concerns with the Linux Standards Base of late. The Free Standards Group has strongly downplayed these concerns, citing them as a normal part of the standards acceptance process. Also, CA has an alliance partnership with Sun, and many here have speculated that Sun's new database offering will be Ingres-based.

All of these little flags, which are innocuous by themselves, makes me wonder if CA will be among the first of the major players to announce their commitment to work with OpenSolaris.

Again, this is not mean that CA's commitment to Linux will necessarily fade. CA's position in the market dictates they work with as many systems as they can. And joining the Linux Club does not mean you can't join others.

Which now begs the question, has LinuxWorld become the event for All Things Free and Open Source? In a way, it already has, since BSD and other free software projects have been coming for years. But will it become officially more inclusive? Will we see an OpenSourceWorld that has OpenSolaris and Darwin products featured along with Linux?

Personally, I hope not. I think that at the end of the day, Linux needs a trade show where it can stand on its own and display its own strengths and weaknesses without any interference from the other open source operating systems. While diversity is good for all open source projects on the development level, I am not sure that so much diversity in a commercial setting like LinuxWorld would be a great idea.

LinuxWorld should keep its current balance, which is about 85 percent Linux and 15 percent everything else, give or take. Of course, my opinion will matter little if the market decides otherwise.

I just hope the market does not get bamboozled into thinking that all things Open Source are good for Linux.