Report from LinuxWorld 2008

The event evolves

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Some of the excitement, and much of the usual fanfare, were missing from the 2008 LinuxWorld event in San Francisco. Show-goers wondered whether they had ever seen a LinuxWorld with so little splash and flare. And yet, splash isn't everything. In the press rooms and business meetings, the industry seemed poised to launch a new era of appliances, netbooks, and virtual everything.

The first thing to notice at this year's event was the lack of big booths. Some of the usual monster booth renters weren't even at the show. Red Hat quit coming a couple years ago, and this year, Novell was missing, although openSUSE and Fedora were both present in the non-profit section known as the .org pavilion. IBM, Oracle, and Intel scaled their presence down. Cannonical/Ubuntu actually filled up one of the bigger spaces, offering training demos and a look at upcoming Ubuntu-based minis.

Conference tracks covered some of the usual favorites, such as Security, Virtualization, Desktop Linux, and Licensing. This year also included tracks for Building Mobile Linux Applications and Quick and Dirty Development.

The Buzz

IBM kicked off the first day with the tantalizing announcement of an agreement with Novell, Canonical, and Red Hat – yes, all three of them – to provide Lotus Notes and the Lotus Symphony productivity suite for desktop Linux systems. The details of the pact were unclear. Several visitors pointed out that this newfound friendship would work much better if some PC hardware vendors also agreed to go along with it, and indications pointed to big deals in the works, although no one was quite ready to announce anything on the hardware side. The annual desktop Linux panel discussion even had some awkward moments, as reps from HP, Dell, and Lenovo came up silent on questions of upcoming initiatives.

Virtualization continued to command huge amounts of brainspace. The virtualization pitch isn't even buzz anymore – it is just what everyone is doing, from embedded developers to high-performance hardware platforms. Cloud computing was the latest riff on the virtualization theme. The GoGrid cloud system won the Best of Show prize at the LinuxWorld Product Excellence awards, and all corridors echoed with pitches on the possibilities of cloud computing.

Another new development at this year's show was the arrival of the YouTube ethos, as geeks, vendors, editors, and journalists walked around with small cameras capturing moments on video vignettes. We brought our own camera crew through to chat with some promising open source projects at the .org pavilion, and we captured the thoughts of some leading Linux community managers.

Conclusion

Discussion of who wasn't at the show was peppered with some thoughts about some of the exhibitors who actually were in attendance. Along with the usual gallery of server room tools were vendors with products such as office chairs, foot inserts, and varnished wooden Mobius strips. Some of these vendors wouldn't have found a spot on the midway in the bumper years. Times are changing. Perhaps most indicative of the atmosphere was one vendor who has been around before, but was never commanded quite so much attention as now in the fading din of the lost big booths: Dice.com – the people who find new jobs for out-of-work geeks.

Netbooks are looming, desktop Linux has never looked brighter, and the world of the virtual data center brings still more importance to the admin end of the Linux industry, but the world is changing – and LinuxWorld sure is changing.

The rise of the OSCON show, which is only a few weeks before LinuxWorld, no doubt took some of the energy and geekiness away from LinuxWorld, which has has always walked the line between a business show and a community event. If they call us all together again next year – which I hope they do, though I'm not actually sure they will – I hope the planners make some changes to bring some excitement back to this important annual Linux event.

Additional .org Pavilion Videos:

Ron Severdia on Joomla

Marty Connor on Etherboot.org

Gerald Carter about Likewise Open

Jeremy Orlow on Autotest

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