Well-Established Names Take Backseat at Linux Show

The best way to appreciate this week’s LinuxWorld Conference & Expo (LWE) in New York is to understand what won’t be showcased there.

At first glance, the open source community might appear to be at a standstill. Yes, there’s a new FreeBSD. But, that’s about it. There is no new Linux kernel; there’s no update for Apache 2.x; Woody (that is, GNU/Linux version 3.x) is still the talk of the Debian community; Redhat isn’t expected to announce any major updates to v8.0 or its Advanced Server; UnitedLinux only came out with version 1.0 in November.

No…this time ’round, those well-established open source projects are going to have to step aside for newer initiatives to take centerstage.

“There are a slew of new initiatives that is rounding out the core technology,” said Henry L. Hall, president of Wild Open Source. “For example, JBoss and its growing acceptance … I think JBoss has a lot of potential in that area.”

By “rounding out” the long-time exhibitor and attendee of the LWE show explained he means “no longer are there just components that you plug into your infrastructure … but rather enough applications to be able to build entire systems, if and when these applications become mature.”

Indeed, the time has come for business and IT execs alike to get serious about the nitty-gritty of open source computing. Since last year’s LWE show when Linux made huge strides in general purpose computing and entered the mainstream psyche in general, vendors have been busy finding ways to use open source in databases, call centers, automation as well as business-to-business processes outside of the corporate firewall.

webMethods is a good example of the ongoing trend. Back in November, the Fairfax, Va.-based software services company decided that its integration platform needed to incorporate JBoss, a J2EE-friendly application server that competes with the likes of BEA Systems’ WebLogic or IBM’s Websphere.

Why JBoss? Well…apart from its really attractive price (it’s free, folks) webMethods chose to combine an app server and an integration platform for the sake of its customers.

“One of the big beefs against webMethods is that it is a proprietary platform. Over the last year, they’ve tried to make their business integration tools more compatible with open source…I think that only benefits their customers,” said Dan Green, director of the webMethods User Community.

“Customers that have business logic written in Java, therefore, are able to use the webMethods Platform to integrate more quickly and for less money. Their existing code won’t require modification.”

To help LWE attendees better understand the full impact open source integration can have on any business, Hall and his Wild Open Source along with other blue-chip sponsors like HP, Dell, Intel, Oracle, NEC and Sybase, have joined forces on a new exhibit called the “Enterprise Solutions Center.”

The 4,000-square foot exhibit (expected to be the largest booth at the LWE show) will feature Acme Financial Services, a ficticious company — not owned by Wile E. Coyote or the Roadrunner — that highlights four solutions areas: Internet, Storage, Wireless and Desktop. The goal is to demonstrate how open source applications like JBoss can work in harmony with commercial (a.k.a. proprietary) applications at any level of the enterprise.

“One of the points about integrating open source with commercial products, of course, is that there will always be transition costs and perhaps losses of functionality, which in some cases may outweigh the benefits of just jumping in to a fully open source environment. One can imagine not only the transitioning of data formats but also the training needed for IT staff to learn a new way of operating the systems. So the idea of having both open source components and commercial components integrated and working together is an important message and one that we hope to demonstrate at the Enterprise Solutions Center.”

Microsoft, the big newsmaker at last summer’s LinuxWorld Expo for showing up at all, is expected to return. However, much of the fanfare may have vanished.

The LinuxWorld Expo will take place January 22-24, 2003 at The Javits Center in New York City with conferences kicking off on January 21.