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LinuxWorld Summit New York City: A Wrap-Up Report

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If you hold a LinuxWorld but there are no community exhibits on hand or distro CDs to pick up, what do you have? On May 25-26, IDG World Expo held a first-of-its-kind LinuxWorld Summit in New York City with that sort of dynamic. And for those two days, the answer to the question was "business focus."

Designed to attract attendees from corporate managerial strata (read: big time suits) rather than function as a general penguin fest, the LinuxWorld Summit opened with daily keynote panels before featuring a three-track conference: "The Business of Linux and Open Source", "Data Center and Virtualization" and "Security: Inside and Out."

The CIO Magazine Keynote Panel opened the event. Featuring three notable panelists, it was no surprise that each brought an enthusiastic message of positive results deploying Linux. For business, the financial bottom line is an imposing factor in decision-making policy. Thus, as would be expected, large cost savings were reported by each panelist. Each reported additional technical good news beyond cost savings-- improved scalability, reliability, uptime and so on--but given the responsibilities of C-level management, the cost savings was the headline.

I must confess that given the sometimes rancorous debate over what constitutes proper TCO accounting on the desktop, I was not surprised that each panelist detailed successful projects that reside in the data center rather than sweeping Linux-on-the-desktop initiatives. Within the data center, there is intense focus on the mission-critical task at hand and considerably less opportunity for lateral feature exploration. Given the possible range of options, one can imagine that Linux-on-the-desktop initiatives easily can be waylaid in no time.

The second day opened with the ambitiously titled "The Evolving World of Linux and Open Source Keynote Panel." Although flanked by two corporate panelists with solid messages, the star of this panel was Eben Moglen. As General Counsel to the Free Software Foundation, he gets to say such things as his "I make freedom" introductory statement. However, Moglen did much more than drop packaged hype to a crowd used to wading through sensational messages. He presented cogent analysis of why free software is the future and never strayed from point--"Free Software is not product. Free Software is knowledge"--even when handling questions during the Q & A that followed his talk.

"The Business of Linux and Open Source" conference track generally focused on resenting positive news to decision makers. The early adopters of Linux and open source are leading successfully, but quite a large number of more risk-averse managers still are on the sidelines, awaiting the results. Thus, this was an important track for this conference.

Although not exclusively about legal and licensing concerns, "The Business of Linux and Open Source" track did feature packed presentations about these important issues. Given the various FUD public relations efforts both directly issued from Microsoft and indirectly staged through partners targeting precisely these people, their attention to the legal issues was not surprising.

The "Data Center and Virtualization" track was weighted heavily with vendor presentations about Linux in the data center. This content dovetailed quite nicely with the Wednesday morning keynote panelist presentations. Virtualization is a hot topic, and AMD was among the vendors presenting (Xen for AMD) within this track.

"Security: Inside and Out" featured a range of presentations about Linux security in a corporate setting. I have to confess that the initial thought of having to reassure managers currently running massive Windows deployments about the quality of Linux security seemed like nonsense. How could they not know this? However, after reflecting on the high level of managerially targeted Microsoft FUD, especially the dubious accusations about Linux vulnerabilities and patching efforts, I had to agree with the inclusion and importance of this track.

Outside of the planned events, the big news at the LinuxWorld Summit was made by Nokia. At a press conference immediately following the CIO Magazine Keynote Panel, the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet handheld device and the maemo.org development site were unveiled and the formal pledge not to use patents against the Linux kernel was stated.

As big an announcement as the patent pledge was--Eben Moglen acknowledged its importance when answering questions about Linux patent concerns the following day--the 770 easily overshadowed it throughout the two day event. How could it not? A handheld device featuring multiple forms of input and wireless connectivity, the 770 also is designed as an open development platform. To encourage developers, Nokia unveiled the maemo Web site, which is dedicated to supporting 770 development. The Nokia table was constantly busy the rest of the show, as everyone in attendance had to witness the 770 up close. I was able to speak with a Nokia representative about the announcement; see An Interview with Dr. Ari Jaaksi of Nokia.

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