Editor's Note: A Matter of SCALE
Feb 03, 2006, 23:30 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)
Re-Imagining Linux Platforms to Meet the Needs of Cloud Service Providers
By Brian Proffitt
One of the things that I see over and over again in the Linux
community is the success of various projects that people start up
just because they want to. The projects start small, and grow to be
more successful than their founders could have imagined.
Of course, many endeavors can lay claim to this type of origin,
even commercial enterprises. But what always thrills me is the was
the free software community just up and does this kind of thing,
just for the sake of wanting to do it. No monetary goals, no
political ambition... just doing it.
If this comes across as cynical, that is not my intention. I
really carry a sense of wonder and joy about some aspects of open
source--this is one of them.
One such project is the Southern California Linux
Expo, or SCALE, which is about to happen next weekend, Feb. 11
and 12, at the Radisson Hotel at LAX in Los Angeles. This show, now
in its fourth year in its current incarnation, started out as one
Linux Users Group's annual LUGfest and grew from there. Since I am
going to venture forth from my underground command post and visit
the show next weekend, I decided to catch up with some of the show
organizers and see what was what.
SCALE emerged out of a much smaller event that was hosted by the
Simi Conejo LUG many years ago that we referred to as a LUG Fest,"
according to Gareth Greenaway, Community Relations and Facilities
Chair. "We managed to hold the event for four years and then during
the planning of the fifth someone told us that some people at the
USCLUG were looking to hold a conference."
At that point, Greenaway indicated, the two LUGs decided to
merge their resources and implement SCALE. Conference attendance
started around 400 attendees and has grown to over a thousand,
which is a sure mark of the event's success.
Another mark is the caliber of SCALE's conference track.
Speakers such as Aaron Seigo, Chris DiBona, John Terpstra, and
former Massachusetts CIO Peter Quinn are among the session leaders
for the two-day event. (Quinn is scheduled to keynote at the
pre-conference OpenDocument Format in Government Workshop, to be
held on Friday Feb. 10 from 1-5 at the same venue.) Four conference
tracks are featured at this year's event—an upgrade from the
first three-track one-day SCALE.
Every show has a target audience, and for SCALE it's the
non-profit organizations interested in developing and using open
source technology. At LinuxWorld events, these organizations are
relegated to the .org Pavillion. At SCALE, they are front and
center, and they're not just coming to the conference to show off
their work; they're there to learn as well.
"The mission statement of SCALE has always been education; first
and foremost the intent to provide opportunities for learning,"
explained Orv Beach, Public Relations Chair. "Hence the focus on
the non-profit organizations, as much as possible."
So what kind of education is getting delivered? Desktop?
"The non-profits tend to focus on end-user applications (the
desktop)," Beach replied. "Well, that's not completely accurate; we
have groups like ZOPE and LAMPSIG--they're oriented more towards
the back-end processes."
"Right," Greenaway added, "There are special user groups that
focus on specific open source projects, versus the LUGs that focus
on most things open source."
Who's taking advantage of all of this education? According to
organizers, the attendees coming to SCALE make up a pretty broad
and diverse group.
"We get the heavy, hard core developers who want to come talk to
the kernel developers that we might have speaking, also we get
business types such as IT directors and MIS managers who want to
find out about open source and Linux to see how it can fit into
their current setup," Greenaway indicated. "We also see a lot of
people who have recently heard of Linux and come to see what it's
In fact, the presence of so many new Linux users prompted the
show to add a "newbie" track last year, a feature that generated a
lot of positive response. Two of the sessions were the most
heavily-attended seminars in the event. I figured that they were
desktop-oriented sessions, but I was off.
"Actually, one was on basic wireless; the other was on setting
up Samba," Beach said. "That makes sense, since a newcomer to Linux
would be using it in a mixed environment."
It was hard for the organizers to pin down the best highlights
for this year's show. Certainly the OpenDocument Workshop is
something they want to see succeed, but "there are a lot of really
cool talks and exhibits at SCALE this year," Greenaway explained.
"It's really tough to point to one and say that it will be the
"What is really cool about SCALE is the energy on the Expo
floor--people are there because they enjoy this stuff. It's not all
business.," Beach added.
Putting this kind of endeavor together and watching it grow is
definitely a point of pride with SCALE organizers.
"Personally, what really excites me is standing back on the
first day of the show and just seeing everything come together,"
"Looking around seeing local people interact with major
developers of projects or chatting with IBM about new servers
they're putting out or perhaps this year asking Google why Google
Earth isn't working on Linux yet," he added with a smile.
I plan to have a talk with Google's Chris DiBona myself. I heard
from a reliable source about their Moon Teleporter, and I'm hoping
to catch a lift up to San Francisco after SCALE, where I'll attend
the Open Source Business Conference. From grassroots to suits, all
in one whirlwind week. Teleportation would come in very handy.