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.
I dont expect Ill find any great technological revolutions at this LinuxWorld. I do expect, however, to find more examples of Linux showing that its a technology the enterprise needs.
Specifically, I expect to see Linux desktop news from Novell and other major vendors. Its hard to argue that theres no need for a mainstream alternative business desktop when you can barely blink before news of yet another serious Windows security hack appears in the headlines.
I also expect to see a lot more news about DBMSes and Linux servers. The most exciting thing in the world? Maybe not … unless youre a CIO or chief technology officer who wants to make sure that your companys infrastructure and databases dont cost an arm and a leg but can still deliver the goods.
The part of me thats a tech kid may not have as much fun writing about the BEA, IBM and Oracle keynotes at LinuxWorld as writing about the latest kernel feature. I find it very odd in some ways that a guy who started out as a systems administrator and spent most of his early writing career delving into data compression algorithms and cache coherency theory now spends most of his time writing about business deals and lawsuits.
But, like me, Linux has become more about business than about technology. Its those large companies and their full support of Linux that makes me certain that, unlike other great but undersupported technologies such as the Betamax and the Amiga, Linux is here for the long run. Thats a good thing, not just for people who love Linux for its own wonderful techie sake, but for those who love what Linux can do for their bottom line.
Welcome to our coverage of the 2004 LinuxWorld. Welcome to Linuxs world.
eWEEK.com Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.