Red Hat Summit: Overview and Reflections
Last week in New Orleans, Red Hat held its first annual conference called Red Hat Summit. I've used Red Hat Linux for quite a few years, so this seemed like a good opportunity to meet some of the Red Hat people and to learn more about the operating system and related software. Although the newness of this conference showed at times, overall it was a good meeting. Many interesting presentations were given, which made it worth attending. In this article I give an overview of the conference and conclude with some reflections on Linux that occurred to me during some of the presentations.
Over 700 participants attended the Red Hat Summit--not the thousands LinuxWorld Expo can brag about, but a respectable showing all the same for Red Hat's first conference. At the registration desk, attendants were given a neat bag worth keeping, a hat and an impressive booklet describing the speakers and sessions. The registration package looked like it went over budget. I can't imagine it being as nice at future conferences. Each night a reception or party was offered with live music, an open bar and plenty of food. The breakfasts and lunches all were part of the admission price and were excellent as well. The parties along with the meals were paid for in part by corporate sponsors, such as IBM, HP and AMD. Throw in the talks and the hotel room, which was part of the registration fee, and there certainly was good value in the price of admission.
One complaint that many of us had, though, is that the conference didn't provide users with wireless Internet access. We had access initially, but the staff realized it inadvertently had left the network open. By late morning of the first day, they had locked us out. Many of us complained, but it did no good. The staff's retort was that we should use the hotel's wireless network. Unfortunately, it wasn't free, it was down much of the time and it wasn't available in the meeting rooms where the conference was held. Maybe I'm spoiled, but I find it difficult to dedicate several days to a conference and thereby forego all of my other work. Also, it's useful to pull up Web pages and download software discussed by speakers at the various sessions. Hopefully, next year the conference staff will change its attitude on this point.
The conference started off each morning with an opening keynote address by a top person from Red Hat, immediately followed by a partner keynote talk from an executive of one of Red Hat's partners. The introduction capped off with a visionary keynote from a member of the community. The executive talks were interesting from a business perspective, but the visionary keynotes were much more interesting for general attendees. The staging, lighting and videos were spectacular, by the way: a highly professional crew orchestrated the keynote talks. My only complaint about the organization of the keynote talks was they rolled from one to the next without a break. For some, though, this may be good in that we were able to listen to three presentations in a row without having to get up.
The first day's keynote address was given by Red Hat's CEO, Matt Szulik. He talked about the future of open-source and free software and how we're at the beginning of a new revolution. He finished off his talk by donning a choir robe and joining in with some gospel singers who sang about being misunderstood. Following Szulik, the partner keynote was presented by Martin Fink, Vice President of Linux at Hewlett-Packard. Fink gave a business analysis of the open-source market. The visionary keynote of the day came from John Buckman of Magnatune who spoke about the music-download industry. At a press conference on the first day, Red Hat announced the Red Hat and the Fedora Directory Server, both of which are based on the Netscape Directory Server that Red Hat acquired last year. According to one of the pamphlets, it is "an LDAP server that centralizes application settings, user profiles, group data, policies, and access control information into a network-based registry." Red Hat intends to make the related software open-source under the GPL fairly soon.
On the second day, the keynote line up was Michael Tiemann, VP for Open-Source Affairs at Red Hat, who talked about how this century belongs to open-source and not to closed-source companies. For the partner keynote, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, VP of Technical Strategy and Innovation at IBM, spoke in the same vein. Then, Greg Stein of the Apache Software Foundation provided an interesting talk on open-source and Apache and the activities at the Foundation. He wasn't originally on the schedule, but he made a great fill-in speaker and should be asked to speak again at next year's conference.
The third and final morning offered keynotes from Mark Webbink, Deputy General Counsel of Red Hat; Richard Wirt, VP of Intel; and Bruce Mau, CEO of Bruce Mau Design. It was odd having a lawyer speaking at a software conference. However, Webbink was the right person to explain Red Hat's plan to give Fedora more independence, among other things. This includes handing over the copyrights of Red Hat code to the community spin-off. Webbink also announced that Red Hat is creating an organization called the Software Patent Commons that will work for the sharing of software patents. Red Hat has opposed software patents, but legal actions on the part of Microsoft has made it necessary for patents to be taken seriously.