I did not actually have any plans to attend LinuxWorld this year, and I suppose that I barely actually did: I was there half a day as it turned out. Even in the little I saw today ("Today" being while I am writing this, which is Wednesday, August 6th, 2008) the show has changed. More about that in a bit.
I was in San Francisco for a completely different reason than LinuxWorld. I was in the Silicon Valley to do some work on a potential new BMC R&D datacenter. No new hidden announcements there: just consolidating six regional R&D data centers into one much larger and more modernly designed facility. It is amazing how fast a data center design goes retro.
Fun Fact: If you stacked all the computers we use for R&D in the Silicon Valley on top of each, in the shortest possible dimension, that would equal a stack of computers 29 stories tall... and this is after we have retired hundreds and hundreds via virtualization. I know: Utterly useless knowledge, but kind of fun to know. If nothing else it helps me visualize the scope of the task it will be to move all this as smoothly as possible. Fortunately this is not my first time... and this isn't even our biggest R&D data center.
I finished up what I was in the Bay Area to do a little early, and someone at the BMC office had free passes to go to Linuxworld, and asked if I wanted to attend for a half day. Not one to turn down serendipity, I of course went. I had to pay, but with half a day to spend there I was just going to get a floor pass anyway.
I have not presented at the SanFran LinuxWorld for a couple of years, and I have never been as a non-speaking attendee, so it was very interesting. Here are some of things I noticed that seemed the same... and some that seemed very different. This is utterly my subjective experience of course. I was not really there long enough to square root the show, nor did I attend any sessions. From what I could see of the session list, that is still a very rich, fact filled experience.
- Coming in, the lobby and the banners and the way everything was decorated was soothly familiar. Very much like coming home. There was Tux all over the place, and the familiar light blue on white signage I have seen at so many of these events.
- The T shirts and other stuff at the event store looked to have even more, better selection than ever. I resisted another tie-die Linuxworld shirt only by sheer force of will.
- There were fewer booths than last time I was here. I talked to one vendor in attendance but who did not have a booth about why that might be, and they said that that they used the Internet for a great deal of the things that they used to get from being on the floor. I get needing to spend the marketing money wisely, but it also made me sad: It looks like we have another endangered species on our hands.
- The flavor of the vendor mix that was there was also interesting:
- I saw lots of stuff about 10Gig Ethernet, FC over Ethernet, and 8Gig FC.
- Lots of storage : I was especially interested in Promise technology in that regard because of their recently replacing Apples Xserve RAID product as Apples solution for low cost data center storage. We liked our Xserve RAID gear quite a bit, but this gear looks better in every way but one: It is not as cool a physical design. Oh well, you clearly get more bang for your buck than with the Apple product or days gone by. Promise also supports actively Linux, whichmoves it to a new level for me personally.
- Rackable systems had a Semi-trailer filled with a portable datacenter. Not the first time for that I know, but the first time I got to touch one. Very cool.
- The .org area was as fun as usual: This time I spent some time at the DRBL / Clonezilla booth, and I will definitely be looking into these tools when I get back from vacation.
- There must have been 1.5 Bazillion Linux powered netbook class laptops. In vendors booths driving displays and in attendees hands as their mobile computing device. Makes sense, since they have sold those by the truckloads. If it wasn't a netbook, it was an Apple, and several of the Apples were running Linux. The MacBook in the Clonezilla booth was running Ubuntu.
- When I first started going to LinuxWorld, RedHat, SuSE, Xandros, and so forth were there. Even though Wednesday (the day I was there, which as I write this is still today) was "OpenSUSE day", they had no booth I could find. Neither did RedHat or Xandros or MS. MS dropped out pretty early I think. That just could not have been comfortable.
- Side Note: RedHat used to give away red Fedora hats at LW: I always thought that was the best gimme ever at a trade show ever, even beating BMC's own combo laser pointer / pen (or, "laserwriter" as I used to call them when I was giving them away)
- Ubuntu / Canonical *was* there. There were not before.
- Is it just me, or is Ubuntu pretty much everywhere now?
- I saw several products listing Mandriva as supported: Never noticed that before. Good sign.
- Saw one vendor listing PCLinuxOS as supported. Also good sign.
- Linux based hardware appliances were all over the place: WAPS, Cells phones, general handhelds, and on and on.
- Bumper sticker on an Apple: "My Other Computer is a Data Center": From Google.
- At one point on this trip I could not get to the Internet... while I was writing this in fact, so I could not use Googles Docs as I often do. Had to go with Komposer, which is better for HTML generation anyway. Looking at all the Linux powered netbooks, and thinking about how Apple pulled the iPhone tethering application recently, it seemed to me that Suns "the network is the computer" is still in force, and that we are still a ways away from ubiquitous network access.
My general feel, after walking around and talking to people and looking at stuff was that Linux had turned a corner sometime between the last time I was here and this time. Where it used to be "Linux can do it" where "it" was defined pretty much as "Anything", from desktop replacement to embedded to server, the claim that it could do "it" was based on the fact that it factually could do it, not that it had huge market uptake or maturity.
This felt different. This looked like an event that was about something that was utterly mainstream. It felt like a mainframe conference of old, where all the vendors were selling things that made the MF work better or analyzed it in some way or added missing functionality (Hey! We do that!).
In a way it was a little hard to deal with. It was one thing to be an early adopter, but now, looking at all the netbook users running around I realized in some ways the Linux world has caught up to and even passed me a bit. For one thing, I left my XO-1 in Houston, although the netbooks looked more usable in the keyboard department than the XO-1 is in any case. Rats. Time to start saving my pennies.....
Welcome to the Linux World.