Its been five years since I set foot on the floor of the first LinuxWorld in San Jose, Calif. What a long, strange trip its been.
Back then, Caldera, Corel, Compaq, IBM, LinuxCare, Red Hat, Sendmail and VA Research dominated the rather small showroom floor. As for Debian, the Linux behind popular business distributions such as Xandros and Progeny? The Slashdot crew? They were wildly popular back in the hinterlands of the floor. My, what a few years will do.
Caldera, to make a really, really long story short, became SCO, the archenemy of all things Penguinish. Of 1999s major Linux distributors, only Red Hat has remained independent. Most of the other companies at that first show have disappeared, changed their business or been bought out by other, bigger firms.
Who would have thought it? Not me. I will give myself credit for one thing: Even before the show doors opened, I knew that Linux was going to be big, big business for the enterprise.
Anyone can see that now. IDCs numbers show it. Linux is kicking Unix out of the server room and keeping Microsoft out it. In some areas, such as Web servers, NetCraft has been showing that Linux and Apache have been pushing Microsoft IIS (Internet Information Services) market share downward since 2002.
In 1999, LinuxWorld was 90 percent people who loved Linux. In 2004, its 90 percent people who love what Linux can do for their business. Then, 90 percent techie. Now, 90 percent suits.
I miss those crazy days when it was all about the technology, but Im more of a pragmatist than a romantic when it comes to technology. I want to work with Linux rather than work on Linux.
Thats how most businesses are, or at least the ones that stay in business. Operating-system religious wars may keep people entertained, but its technology that just works reliably and well that keeps people fed.
In 1999, you could argue that Linux couldnt become such a technology. In 2004, Linux clearly has become just that.