Last year, I didn't go to the Open Source Business Conference,
but the reports coming out of that conference prompted me to write
an Editor's Note that cautioned the Linux community to take care in
the then-new approach of some proprietary vendors to co-op the
benefits of open source for themselves while all the while
attempting to put Linux down.
Here we are, a year later, and the West Coast edition of the
OSBC is about to kick off again (Feb. 14 & 15, Argent Hotel,
San Francisco). Has anything changed?
At that time, Sun Microsystems was touting its new Community
Development and Distribution License and Microsoft was showing off
how much nicer shared source was compared to open source. And they
were using the OSBC as one platform to do so.
OpenSolaris has had about a year to get going under its CDDL
license, and from all accounts, it seems to be doing okay. Not a
lot of huge deployment announcements from Sun, but then I haven't
heard about any huge problems with sales, either. I think Sun
decided somewhere in the intervening year that getting militant
about proclaiming Solaris over Linux was not working for them. I
suspect that this is because even if you give the dime store
merchandise away, it still came from a dime store.
Sun has made two recent concessions to try to make us think that
they are being conciliatory to the Linux community and technology.
The first is the hinting around that they might release OpenSolaris
under GPL 3 when that license is finalized next year. The second is
the announcement in December that this spring they plan to release
the API and other documentation for their UltraSPARC platform as
part of project OpenSPARC.
Both moves lend some credibility to the notion that Sun is
reaching out to Linux. Don't believe it. Opening SPARC may make
that platform more of a commodity player, but at the end of the
day, it'll be Solaris that Sun will be pitching for their SPARC
hardware, open or otherwise. Tagging a new GPL to Solaris is one
more way to try to gain the value of an open source development
community, a community that might be more willing to work on
Solaris projects if it were truly free software.
Sun's message, since the last OSBC, is really not different.
Microsoft, interestingly, hasn't changed their message a bit.
It's still the "Get the Facts" campaign, it's still "shared source
is better for you," and customers are still waiting for Vista. Talk
about your broken record. Or the sound of one hand clapping.
Both companies are sponsoring OSBC this time around, but then,
so is Novell. This should equate to less of an anti-Linux tone than
was picked up at past conferences.
But this was just my impression of a past OSBC--what will this
one be like? Since I plan on attending the show next week, I
decided not to rely on my preconceived notions, and instead spoke
with conference organizer Matt Asay. Asay is Vice President of
Business Development at Alfresco, one of the stronger open source
startups coming out of Silicon Valley in recent days. He indicated
that one difference between this year's OSBC and previous years is
that instead of a higher-level "here's why open source is good"
approach, the conference tracks will all have a much more pragmatic
"We're going to be focusing a lot more on the nuts and bolts,"
Asay said. Conference attendees would be give real answers to real
problems, using a variety of open source technologies.
Asay believes that we are well past the point where
businesspeople have to be convinced to try open source. That
message has been delivered. Now the challenge has become educating
them on just what open source solutions are out there.
"The nature of the IT community is changing," Asay explained.
"Now they are asking how does open source work? What will we get if
we use it? How will we prosper?"
The conference, like its predecessors, promises to have a small
attendance--this isn't LinuxWorld. The number of about 750 has been
constant, and Asay feels it should remain one of the smaller, more
intimate events. The size gives attendees a chance to really
interact with one another and the event's speakers and vendors,
OSBC is different from LinuxWorld in not just size. The attendee
demographic also lends itself to a very enterprise-oriented
environment. According to Asay, 84% of the attendees were
director-level or above, with 15-20% of the total attendees coming
from enterprise organizations.
The conference tracks are aimed right for this audience: the
"What's Now" track will be a CIO-level track, focusing on major
trends. The "What's Next" track will showcase new and existing
vendors in the open source arena. And the pretty obviously named
"What's Legal" track will look at developments with the GPL 3 as
well as examine how open source plays in mergers and acquisitions,
In all, Asay is pretty geared up about the synchronicity this
conference should generate.
"We hope that people realize that this is the place to see cool
new startups," he said. "And it will be useful for them to see just
how far the open source business community has become."
Beginning tomorrow, I will be traveling to the Southern
California Linux Expo (SCALE) in Los Angeles and then the OSBC in
San Francisco. Linux Today will be in the capable hands of Rob
Reilly while I am away.
Look for on the scene reports from me from both conferences as I
get a good look at the differences and similarities between the
grassroot and the corporate Linux communities.
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