Editor's Note: Penguins By The BayAug 12, 2005, 23:30 (11 Talkback[s])
By Brian Proffitt
Okay, so another LinuxWorld has come and gone.
Others, including our own James Turner, have described the various sights and sundries of this San Francisco show, so I won't go into that too much. But, while I was there, a lot of people asked me what I thought of the show (like I actually know anything), so I thought it best to get this out of the way now so we can go on with our lives until the next show in April.
When I was flying out to San Francisco, I jotted some notes down on things I was going to look for at the show. One thing was going to be the concept of "open source" being pushed more than Linux itself. I noted this as a being a real problem during the Open Source Business Conference back in Burlingame last year, and it also showed up at LWE in Boston in February (though not so much at LWE Toronto).
The problem, you may remember, was this notion that if it is open source, then an application or operating system is immediately on a par with Linux. At least in the minds of corporate executives and marketers. Linux, it seemed, was the old guy on the block and it had better make way for the hot new young bloods coming into the open source arena. At least, that was the general idea.
Now, as I have said before, the fact that Linux is open source is great. But it is not the only thing that makes Linux great. Solid code, better security, and the free software license are all part and parcel of Linux' goodness. Being open source is good, but it does not automatically get you into the open-source success club.
But, apparently this did not occur to many companies, and thus Sun, Computer Associates, and others started talking smack last year. I, and a number of my colleagues, were expecting the same thing for this show.
I am pleased to report that such was not the case. All of the vendors I spoke to emphasized Linux über alles, which is pretty much what one would normally expect. Yes, there was mention of OpenSolaris here and there, but really only in the context of direct platform support, and almost always lumped in with Windows, too.
Linux was the name of the game this year, not the broader concept of open source.
Back in February, when I was still kvetching about missing Valentines' Day with my family, the big theme in Boston was integration. With a capital I. Vendors suddenly figured out that Linux operated in heterogeneous environments and by golly they were going to do something about it.
This time around, it was a little harder to figure out what the Big Concept was, but I think I caught a whiff of an meta-theme that I'll share with you: it was management--specifically IT Management.
IT management is one of those new/old buzzwords that basically encompasses things like policy-driven information systems and configuration management. The idea boils down to one thing: let business drive the computers, not the other way around. More than anything else, I heard this idea being tossed around by the vendors this week, as they try to demonstrate how their products will allow end-users to manage Linux according to their business rules.
There was also a lot of mention of compliance management, especially Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPPA, two privacy/auditing regulatory policies that are enforced here in the United States. Not only do these products manage Linux, but they are also going to add big auditing capabilities as well.
Another thing vendors were pushing was systems management on a more nuts-and-bolts level. Got server sprawl? There are lots of apps out there that will help you take care of them, by virtualization, consolidation, or just straight-up management. In fact, all of this management and support capability started me thinking--the notion that Linux is hard to manage on a large scale is about to get seriously tanked.
It also got me wondering how the support models that Red Hat and Novell have brought to market are going to hold up under the presence of so many third-party support tools. It's a little early to start calling trouble yet, but it could be something to watch.
Speaking of Red Hat and Novell, one thing I noted, and even mentioned to a few people during the show was this: if a booth was running Linux on its demo box, that Linux was almost always SUSE--not Red Hat. I don't know if this was something Novell arranged, or if it was just vendor preference, but the lack of Red Hat Linux on the show floor PCs was distinctly noted.
And in case you think that I just missed the Red Hat PCs on the floor, it should be noted that several vendors who mentioned distro-specific support mentioned--you guessed it--Novell SUSE first, and maybe Red Hat second, if it were mentioned at all.
Rant: Sex, it seems still sells. I used to think it had toned down in recent years at LWE. Alas, no. One vendor booth's female staff had tied back their polo shirts so they were belly shirts, another vendor presented opportunities to have your photo taken with blonde twins (yeah, that'll go over well with the missus).
Look, I may be coming off as a prude, but isn't it time we stopped treating women as just another part of the booth display? Beauty is all well and good, but I'll tell you what: I went to dinner Tuesday night with three incredible women who are or soon will be powerhouses in this arena. And they were incredible not just for their looks, but for their personalities and intelligence. C'mon, it's the 21st Century, let's get with the program.
Raves: Rackable had a fantastic new grid solution, the Parallel File System. Essentially, it treats storage as a distributed property just as other grid solutions manage processor time and network load. As more and more businesses get into high-end grid work, faster access to their storage, whether Serial ATA or FibreChannel, is essential.
In the utility side of the arena, SimDesk is a company that is delivering file, print, and web services to citizens via their municipalities. You log onto a PC with a SimDesk client and boom, there's your stuff and access to any nearby printer. Or, log onto a handheld device and boom, there's your stuff and access to any nearby printer. Very cool tech, because it gives disadvantaged citizens access to computers all over a participating city. Or state. Like Indiana. Yeah, you read that right: another Linux project in the Hoosier State that's kicking butt and taking names.
This may go to my head...