LinuxCon to Highlight How Linux Has Changed in Its 25 Years

Linux users are set to assemble for the annual LinuxCon event, this time celebrating the 25th anniversary of the technology and how it's changed.

Linus Torvalds

The first time I met Jim Zemlin in person was 10 years ago, when he spoke in front of a small audience at the LinuxWorld Canada event in April 2006. At the time, Zemlin was the executive director of the Free Standards Group (FSG), a predecessor organization to the Linux Foundation, which Zemlin now runs. Zemlin is returning to Toronto from Aug. 22-25 for the LinuxCon North America 2016 event and the celebration of the 25th anniversary of Linux.

Somewhat coincidentally, the big 20th anniversary celebration gala for Linux was also held in Canada, with the LinuxCon 2010 event hosted in Victoria, B.C. Among the big keynotes at the 2010 event was one from Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst, and as luck would have it, Whitehurst is back for the 2016 event in Toronto and set to deliver another keynote.

Zemlin and Whitehurst certainly are interesting to listen to, but one name stands above all others in the Linux community—that of Linux creator Linus Torvalds (pictured), who has been a fixture at LinuxCon events for the past five years. He has never delivered a direct stand-alone keynote, but rather has been part of Q&A sessions, often with Zemlin moderating. In 2010, he called virtualization "evil"; in 2013, he spoke about Linux development; and last year, Torvalds discussed security. At the LinuxCon 2016 event, Torvalds is scheduled to speak on Aug. 24, along with his longtime friend Dirk Hohndel, who recently left Intel to become the chief open-source officer at VMware.

While LinuxCon in years past was an environment where the name Microsoft was only spoken in contempt, the company is now part of the larger Linux world. In fact, for the 2016 event, Wim Coekaerts, corporate vice president of enterprise open source at Microsoft, is set to deliver a keynote titled, "A Tale of Penguins." No stranger to the Linux community, Coekaerts spent more than a decade leading Oracle's Linux efforts.

Also somewhat coincidentally, the first time I met Coekarts was in 2006, and at the time, he criticized the OSDL (Open Source Development Labs) group, one of the predecessor organizations to the Linux Foundation. After the OSDL criticism, Coekaerts and Oracle played a key role in the genesis of the Linux Foundation, which was officially formed in January 2007 as a merger of the OSDL and the FSG. I've had the good fortune to speak with Coekaerts many times over the years since and still have a hard time believing that he left Oracle for Microsoft, so will be very interested to hear "A Tale of Penguins."

From Containers to Collaborative Projects

While LinuxCon Toronto will be a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Linux, it will also be a showcase of the latest and greatest in the Linux world, which has changed significantly in the last five years, let alone its full 25 year life.

LinuxCon Toronto is co-located with ContainerCon. Containers are among the hottest technologies today, and they, for the most part, run only on Linux.

Among the sessions on containers that I'm looking forward to attending is one from Red Hat software engineer Dan Lambright on how to use containers to fight malware at scale. Another ContainerCon session of interest for me is titled, "Unikernels: When You Should and When You Shouldn't" with Docker engineer Amir Chaudhry. The idea of a unikernel is particularly interesting in that it is essentially a purpose-built kernel to run an application. Docker Inc. acquired Unikernel Systems in January and has been building out the technology.

The wider world that Linux enables is core to the modern mission of the Linux Foundation and is exemplified by the Linux Foundation Collaborative Projects.

With the Collaborative Projects, the Linux Foundation helps foster a vendor-neutral home for open-source development projects. One such project is the Hyperledger Project, which uses blockchain technology to help validate transactions. Brian Behlendorf, executive director of the HyperLedger, is set to deliver a keynote at LinuxCon detailing the project's current progress.

Additionally, LinuxCon plays host to multiple co-located events from Linux Foundation Collaborative Project members, including Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) Day, Xen Project Developer Summit, KVM Forum and an OPNFV Hackfest.

Linux Beyond Linus Torvalds

When Linus Torvalds first got started on Linux 25 years ago, it was all about the kernel. For Torvalds today, in conversation after conversation, he will almost always reiterate that the kernel is still his primary focus. The difference between Linux today and Linux 25 years ago is that Linux is about much more than just Torvalds, or even the Linux kernel. Linux today is about the wider world that Linux enables. It's a world where the collaborative development model that Linux pioneered has been extended into every realm of software development.

Ten years ago, when I first met Jim Zemlin, his message was about trying to prevent the fragmentation of Linux by having the Linux Standards Base. While fragmentation is still a concern, it's no longer at the top of the list for Linux. Today Linux and the wider ecosystem it helps enable is the basis of the modern world, from the internet of things to smart phones, servers and everything in between.

As Zemlin has said many times in his state of Linux address at LinuxCon events over the years, "Linux is awesome."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.