LinuxWorlds Sobering Message

eLABorations: The wide-eyed unselfishness that launched the OS won't last much longer.

This years LinuxWorld Conference and Expo marked the end of the age of innocence of the open-source community.

Sure, men of all ages and varying-length ponytails crawled the show floor. But the show itself was dominated by the big names of enterprise computing. Making money and gaining market share were the ascendant themes; a pall was cast over cooperative development for its own sake.

This means that one of the chief concerns debated at the show was about the fragmentation of the various brands—not flavors—of Linux, and what exactly open-source means. For example, it was clear that Red Hat was making a case that its Advanced Server was the only offering worth considering.

This kind of statement is a far cry from the spirit of cooperation that was the genesis of the open-source movement and of Linux.

Although its true in our economic system that people must be paid in order to eat and must pay the power bill so they can code all night, it was equally clear that a very small number of people are placing a bet that they are going to make a lot of money off the basically no-cost work provided by the current generation of Linux kernel developers.

Scott McNealy, Chairman and CEO of Sun Microsystems Inc., in his oddly titled speech, "The Role of Linux in a Capitalist Society," said as much: "Im not sure how it makes you feel, but I benefit from all the work youve done."

While some might argue that this is a natural development process, where early technology pioneers with their ponytails and wild ideas give over to the polished poise of companies who can "execute" in the market, it didnt seem natural at LinuxWorld. Perhaps its because the exuberance, even in the harsh economic times now faced by the high tech industry, was still in the air on the show floor, especially in the Rookery, where young companies such as Cybozu were showing a Web-based collaboration suite.

Refreshing in its absence from the show was a total fixation on security. There is still so much happening with the basic Linux infrastructure that companies dont have to whip up the traditional security hysteria often found in the Windows world to generate interest in the technology.

The show floor was covered with server management, OS and application deployment tools. The conference itself had all manner of sessions devoted to Linux in the data center and, of course, the usual sessions on the current state of the kernel.

The cooperative Linux world will give off that exuberant glow at least for a few more months, but dont expect it to last much longer.

Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant can be contacted at

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