LinuxWorld Expo Boston: Day Two

by Jeffrey Bianchine

In terms of the ballroom events, fewer keynotes were held during Day Two of LinuxWorld. Also, Tuesday was the day for both the Product Excellence Awards and the Golden Penguin Bowl, and you can only have these sorts of moments once per exposition.

The flavor of the press conferences held on Wednesday also was quite different. On Tuesday, Novell, IBM, Oracle and Red Hat--giants bestriding their markets--were the press area headliners. Yesterday, the press announcements were being made by considerably smaller companies, eager to make an impact. This is not a surprise, as the opening day of any event of this sort traditionally is when the major players make their big statements.

The ultimate expression of this size disparity both in terms of the size of the company presenting and its press audience was found at the final press conference of the afternoon. Kirix, the kind of young company with an interesting product so often reported about from expositions, presented their Strata product to one member of the media. I know this because I was that one guy attending. Honestly, the best part of the product demonstration wasn't even seeing the product capabilities, which are impressive at first glance. Rather, the best part was seeing that despite the lack of a big audience, the demonstration was not a canned exhibit booth demo. Instead, we worked together with the product, and all of my questions were addressed directly. Thus, Kirix derived a unique press experience on the fly.

Bruce Perens' State of Open Source presentation, sponsored by Prentice Hall--although arguably the most significant of the day's press events--was lightly attended, despite including lunch. Bullet points are posted here.

Bruce opened the event by speaking about the Bruce Perens Open Source Series, published by the luncheon sponsor. Although Bruce continued to speak happily of the advances that open source has made as a business model--as evidenced by this expo--and as a source for further innovation--case in point, GNU Radio--he spent much of his time presenting his concerns about the patent, licensing and other IP-related issues that still cloud our future. He also voiced concern that as open source comes under additional legal attack through patents, losing the "moral high ground" earned by the traditional emphasis on community and freedom will be a serious problem.

Marten Mickos, CEO of MySQL, was more upbeat in his keynote message. His presentation, while lacking the sort of production theme that HP displayed yesterday, arguably was more effective talking about similar topics, because he projects such an affable onstage presence. He comes across as somebody you might know personally instead of some distant being talking at you who happens to sit at or near the top of a corporation.

It was interesting to hear that in contrast to Bruce's concern over open-source licensing issues--too many variants to be truly useful--Marten draws encouragement from the majority of SourceForge standardizing on the GPL. Listening to him equate risk aversion to open source to the ultimate lack of benefit from open source also was refreshing, given that so many in managerial roles frequently exhibit high risk aversion.

Yesterday, I reported on the sharp dichotomy between corporate media events and the residents of the half of the exhibit hall known as the Dot Org Pavilion. As I also reported, the pavilion houses more than the dot orgs, though, and includes some hardware and software vendors. On Wednesday, I spent time on the other side--the auditorium--where the biggest corporate players deploy large teams in multibooth spaces. The Red Hat booth dominates the entrance, with employees bedecked in red baseball caps and Boston Red Sox style uniforms--"Hat," where, "Sox," would be expected.

Whereas Red Hat's corporate humor is tongue-in-cheek, BakBone is the only premium space presence running anything that resembles a traditional trade show booth. There are no musical numbers, dancing girls or flashing lights, but there is local talent dressed as the comic book heroes Batman, Spiderman, Superman and, of course, Wonder Woman.

The auditorium definitely is the hardware side of the exposition. If you want a lot big racks filled with server-room hardware of all shapes and sizes, this is where you want to be. Not surprisingly, this also is where prominent cluster and virtualization software is found.

Not all present in the auditorium are giant corporations or their partners, however. A large number of single and double booth spaces are filled by smaller companies showing interesting hardware and software. Given that almost none of these display on the other side of LinuxWorld Expo, one has to wonder about their competitors situated among the dot orgs.

As far as the reported buzz from LinuxWorld Expo, informal chatting with personnel from booths large and small yielded positive responses. Day One was busier for some but not all in this space.

I also was able to find more booths staffed by people who had been at the New York LinuxWorld Expos than I was on Tuesday. Among these folks, opinion was mixed about the transition from New York to Boston. Generally, though, there were no complaints.

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