I just got back from LinuxWorld Expo in San Francisco. The overall trip raised some questions (for me) about the future of Linux. I attended the show mainly because I am "working" the booth for my employer. I am a developer, so I am on hand to answer technical questions. (ya know.. Stump the Chump) This was the 5th LinuxWorld I have attended. It appears that the attendence was down yet again.
The show started this year with a whimper instead of a bang. Usually there is a mad rush throughout the exhibit hall. A mixture of hardcore Linux/Free Software geeks and System Administrators for companies. Mixed in with some "schwag hags" (people who do not even know what linux is, but are there for the free stuff). I know it may seen harse to label the attendees, but they are easy to spot. The sysadmins have green conference badges. The geeks have exhibit only passes and look like...well....geeks. They are hard to miss. The schwag hags are walking around with huge bags full of t-shirts and backpacks.
This year, the conference attendees were harder to spot than bigfoot. The geeks were very few. (even in the
Another oddity was the absence of Red Hat. When the largest Linux distribution decides to not show up....something is a miss. Not only were they not exhibiting, but all other exhibitors were using SuSE for their demos. The HP, IBM, Intel, and Oracle booths were all running SLED 10. That is great for Novell, but it was as if RedHat no longer existed. I later found out that they decided not to attend because they have their own RedHat specific trade show.
So has the bubble of Linux hype burst? Are the community efforts are getting lost in the shuffle? Contributing to a major linux distribution is about as easy to get code into Microsoft Vista. With SuSE, RedHat, Ubuntu, Mandriva all fighting for a slice of the corporate pie, quality control is preventing "Joe Geek" from getting any code changes implemented. So the answer to this is usually, go out on your own. Well, creating a new project these days is like creating a website and expecting a huge crowd of people go there. You are a needle in a stack of needles. Just look at sourceforge and you will find thousands of abandoned projects. They can't all be crap.
As far as the corporate world, is Linux really the money saver that was promised? Sure you can download Debian, put Apache on it and you have a webserver for free. However, most corporate environments need some sort of guarenteed support plan before they will agree to a new implementation. So they end up purchasing RHEL, along with the maintenance contract. They pay to get support for MySQL or Oracle, they hire System Administrators that know Linux. You add in the cost of the transition (person hours for retraining) along with the loss of productivity (because the sales team has trouble moving to OpenOffice Calc) and are you really saving money? I think that left to the community, Linux was a money saver for some things. However, now that SuSE and RedHat (as well as Canonical for you Ubuntu fanboys), are so bent on being the next IBM Global Services, Linux no longer the savior of the IT budget.
So as you see, I don't have any answers, but a lot of questions. I don't know if I will be at LinuxWorld SF next year. But if I am not going for my company, I sure won't go on my own. The feel of LinuxWorld a few years back can only be felt in small shows like SoCalLinuxExpo or LugradioLive. Although older than Linux, maybe FreeBSD is the next unspoiled frontier.