Jammed into the Hynes Convention Center, a haven for geeks and
suits exploring the world of open source technology, the first
LinuxWorld Conference and Expo of 2005 delivered on the promise to
get the message of Linux in the enterprise out to all who would
The week started to be an interesting one as soon as I arrived
at my hotel on Monday night, when the desk clerk asked me if I
thought the big news of the conference would be coming from Novell
or Red Hat. Startled, I laughed and said that Red Hat would be the
likely source of big news, with their release of Red Hat Enterprise
Linux 4. And, I was right--for one day.
Red Hat did indeed capture the attention of many on that first
day, with a glitzy party complete with New Orleans food and drink
to highlight their upcoming June summit in New Orleans. The party
was full of all the right people saying the right things about RHEL
4, and I have no doubt that the crew from North Carolina thought
the buzz from the conference would be all about them.
Tuesday morning, the sun rose on Boston, and the winds changed.
Instead of from the south, they now came from the west. More
In terms of sheer bulk, Novell may have won any competitions on
number of press releases. But beyond the sheer weight of their
messages, the importance of their announcements (such as donating
NetMail to the Hula Project) would create far more buzz on the show
floor. Instead of a Red Hat, it was now about the Big Red N.
Overall, I think the perception of Novell changed during this
show. Like any big company jumping into the Linux arena, they have
been viewed with anything between a "wait and see" attitude to
downright suspicion. Viewing the sum of their plays this week, they
have now solidified their position with Linux, and are now being
considered as much of a Linux player as IBM or Red Hat. My initial
worry was that SUSE was going to get lost in the hype, but never
fear: SUSE Linux is right there, front and center.
In fact, it got mentioned more than I knew. I kept hearing
people talk about "slash 9" and wondering what the heck they were
talking about. Finally, someone said it slowly enough that it
clicked: "SLES 9" short for, of course SUSE Linux Enterprise Server
9. You learn something new every day. "SLES 9" got mentioned a lot
during my interviews, of that you may be sure.
In terms of new products, the winner by far was Virtual Iron's
VFe virtualization cluster management tool. It was buzz, buzz,
buzz, about that. I'd already heard about it in a pre-briefing
before the show, so I could run it up on LinuxPlanet on Monday. By
Day 2, I swore, if one more person came up to me and mentioned VFe
and how cool it was, I was going to pop. But the buzz kept on
coming--I even heard the product mentioned on the plane coming home
last night. Thank goodness the stewardess came by with the
One of the things I always enjoy is meeting Linux contemporaries
face to face at these shows, and not just fellow media. That's part
of the fun. In my case, perhaps too much fun on Wednesday night at
a party Google had for the Free Software community. But that's
another story for another time--like in the court records in
Cambridge, Mass. (Kidding, Groklaw folk, kidding!)
And boy, was I mad I didn't luck out and meet Pamela Jones when
she stopped by on Tuesday. A few of my colleagues did, and remarked
how nice she was. I playfully harassed her via e-mail that night,
and I at least got to share with her who that was who sang The Spam
Song during the Golden Penguin Bowl we had both mutually watched.
It's probably just as well she didn't announce her presence openly.
I think the entire press room would have erupted in applause, which
would have been the last thing she wanted. But, I will say
this--most of the journalists I talk to, even the ones who don't
always agree with her, see PJ and Groklaw as a valuable resource
who has made their jobs a lot easier.
Back to the show. The winner of the Best Open Source Project and
Best of Show this year was the Mambo Project. Big disclaimer here:
I was on the judging team for that Open Source category, and I
helped lobby for Mambo for best of show. Here's why: this project,
an open source web content management system, is intuitive,
flexible, and has a strong user community behind it. I was just
floored, and so were my peers, some of whom are not easy to
impress. If you haven't tried Mambo, go check it out.
Every time I got to one of these shows, I try to find a
take-away idea or concept to sum up what the show was about. This
year, I think the one-word take away was integration. Everyone is
focused on it. Getting Linux into heterogeneous and legacy
environments is the new game in town, and there are lots of
solutions out there or coming soon to address that need.
Secondary to that, and only slightly, was any tools that will
help move Linux closer to the center of the enterprise and
mission-critical work. Backup, replication, network management,
high-availability--it's all there, ready to use.
Linux and open source is now about getting into organizations
anyway it can, and it is probably a path we should have expected,
given so many open source projects out there and so many ways to
apply Linux. But it was interesting to see it in action
And, finally, commerical Linux companies are not setting their
sights on ousting Microsoft Windows. They're now only talking about
knocking off UNIX--with one specific UNIX in mind: Solaris. This
may seem like a non-news issue, but I remember when it was "Linux
is going to take away share from Windows." Then "Linux will gain
share from UNIX and Windows." Now, it's just UNIX in the middle of
Is this a copout? Absolutely not. As one analyst said to me,
"it's about getting the low hanging fruit." And, as Don Marti from
Linux Journal argued to me, UNIX has always been a migration
target. But, I think he agreed with me when I pointed out that
there's been this subtle shift in message--at least from the big
commercial Linux players--though we disagree on the timing.
Lest you think that getting Windows share is out of the picture
entirely, never fear. UNIX is just the target. Red Hat, Novell, and
IBM all told me they will happily take on Windows to Linux
migration projects if a customer needs it. And there were plenty of
new desktop Window-to-Linux tools on the floor this time
So, is it about working with different systems, or working
against? Both, of course, but I think right now the emphasis is on
working with, betting on the very valid notion that once Linux is
inside an organization, it will be used, noticed, and likely
admired. Which, every open source organization believes, will bring
even more interest.
Linux was never about taking over the world--that's a mission
its advocates took up. Judging from what this winter's show had to
offer, that mission can succeed--one install at a time.
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