|FROM ||Ruben I Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [hangout] From The Linux Journal - Linux is ready for Enteprise Desktops
The Trade Show Floor: LinuxWorld Ireland 2003
Posted on Thursday, April 10, 2003 by Paul Barry Printer Friendly Page
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Linux Community A mixed bag of messages at Ireland's premier Linux
Ireland is a small country. North and South, the population does not
exceed six million people. Paradoxically, when it comes to the IT
industry, Ireland is a big player. For years, Ireland's IT claim-to-fame
has been the fact that it is the second largest exporter of
shrink-wrapped software in the world (next to the US). There are a
number of reasons for this, but the main one is Ireland is the European
operations center for a large number of US-based companies. Microsoft,
Symantec, IBM/Lotus and many others have a large presence here. But,
it's not only software that's big; Intel has a chip fabrication facility
an hour west of Dublin. HP, Dell, Apple and Sun are large employers.
And, recently, Google announced that Ireland would host its European
LinuxWorld came to Ireland on April 3rd, 2003. Sponsored by IBM in
association with ILUG (the Irish Linux Users Group), the conference
never was going to be very big. It was scheduled to take place on the
last day of ICT Expo, Ireland's Information and Communications
Technology Event. The small number of Linux-specific stands at the show
were stuck in the middle of a mix of everything from data projector
companies to accounting software suppliers. Cyclades was there, as was
IBM, whose stand hosted ILUG. Red Hat boxes were everywhere, and ILUG
handed out Knoppix CDs to as many delegates as they could. An Irish
company, OpenApp, was on hand to discuss how it successfully is
delivering IT solutions to clients using primarily open-source
The big draw (for me, anyway) was that John "maddog" Hall was scheduled
to give the keynote. In addition to kicking-off the conference with the
keynote, maddog spent as much time as he could at the ILUG stand,
fielding questions and helping out.
Figure 1. Helping to spread the word: "maddog" at the ILUG stand (hosted
Seating was available in the conference hall for about 200 delegates,
and it was two-thirds full for "maddog". This was to be the largest
audience for any of the six talks on the day.
The keynote was entitled "Total Cost of Ownership...More than You
Think", and "maddog" highlighted the real cost of software. The mantra
was "no software is without cost", and TCO is not only about hardware,
software and services. "maddog" talked with some passion about
empowerment, the quality of solutions, the balance of payments, IT
quality, security, future cost and control. In doing so, we were treated
to a tour of the world, "maddog"-style. The discussion roamed to China,
Venezuela, India, Brazil and the US, with each case study showing
regular people leveraging the work of others to get their own work done,
all with open-source software. I initially tried to keep up with
"maddog" while taking some notes, but about ten minutes into the talk, I
decided to sit back and enjoy it. It was great.
It was not going to be easy to follow "maddog", and the task fell to the
unfortunate David Valentine of IBM. David is IBM's Linux Leader for
Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and he's a Sales and Marketing guy.
David was all blue-suit, traditional, conservative IBM. The audience was
more jeans and t-shirt than suit, and David pitched his talk at the
wrong level. If we had all been C-level people (CTO, CEO and CIO),
David's talk would have been great. Unfortunately--for all
concerned--the IBM talk was, well, boring. Even "maddog" had trouble
keeping his eyes open. Although David's message was that, as far as IBM
is concerned, Linux is ready for prime-time, the message got lost in a
blur of buzzwords, marketing speak and sales pitches for zSeries
systems. This, combined with David's decision to present to a Linux
conference using PowerPoint on Wintel, did nothing to endear IBM to the
audience. However, it must be said that it was great to see IBM
supporting Linux (and ILUG) in such a big way. It was just a shame they
presented in the way they did.
It was a jaded (and much depleted) audience that Ciaran McCabe of
OpenApp found himself in front of for his talk, which described Linux as
the "next big thing" for Irish businesses. Ciaran's message was, "Linux
is ready! What's keeping you?" He worked through a selection of
enterprise-ready applications in an effort to show that open-source
alternatives are available for a growing number of them. The likes of
ComPiere, Claroline and Kora were highlighted as case-studies.
A short lunch break allowed me to scout quickly around the rest of the
exhibitors. Novell was there, as was Dell. Eircom (one of Ireland's
largest telecoms providers) and Computer Associates each had a large
stand. Remarkably--and I went around twice in order to confirm
this--there was no Microsoft stand.
Figure 2. The guys from Cyclades are committed to Linux, and they have
the neck-ties to prove it!
After lunch, it was Tony Redmond's, CTO of HP's Consulting and
Integration Division, turn to speak. His message said HP likes Linux but
thinks it is not ready for the Enterprise. In Tony's--and by
association, HP's--view, Linux suffers in five key areas: manageability,
support, change, perception and the desktop. The "change" complaint was
that Linux is changing too rapidly for big enterprises. Poor old,
conservative HP. Those Linux upstarts are upsetting their apple cart and
moving much too fast for them. Again, another PowerPoint/Wintel
combination did nothing but insult the by now much smaller Linux
audience. Of course, it may have been me, but Tony Redmond looked an
awful lot like a heavier-set Bill Gates. And, of course, there was that
unfortunate last name.
The contrast between Tony and the next speaker, Michael Meeks of Ximian,
could not have been more stark. Up bounded Michael, black backpack slung
over his shoulder; out popped his laptop running OpenOffice.org. He
plugged in, switched to the data projector and started talking. After
about 10 seconds and 100 words, Michael asked if he was talking too
fast. Not for an Irish audience--talking fast is a national past-time.
Michael walked, almost ran, from side to side of the stage, talking
about GNOME 2.2 and OpenOffice.org. He was infectious. He was wired. He
was high; not on drugs (he looked too healthy) and not on booze (he was
too coherent). Michael Meeks was high on freedom. The freedom to do what
you need to do with your software, when you want to do it. It was pure
entertainment, and the handful of delegates that hung around loved every
minute of it.
Michael rebuked most of what Tony Redmond had to say about Linux. He
also encouraged more developers to get involved with OpenOffice.org.
When asked what he thought of the likes of AbiWord, gnumeric and Kword,
Michael delivered a short, sharp, shock: "They may not know it yet, but
they're dead." This resulted in a loud groan about three wasted days of
effort from an audience member to my right. When Michael followed up
with "Are you a member of the gnumeric team?", the delegate replied that
he was just a guy with "too much free time on his hands". Michael
flashed a smile, pointed back to his slide on the large data projector
screen and said, "OpenOffice.org". They need more help from developers,
and they need help yesterday. Bribing the audience with Ximian t-shirts
and Beanie Monkeys was a master-stoke, although I suspect the questions
would have come up anyway.
The final speaker was James Cleere, Sun's StarOffice Engineering
Manager. Based in Dublin (where a lot of the StarOffice engineering is
occurring), James talked about the StarOffice/OpenOffice.org offerings.
In his view, the lack of a compatible, interoperable office suite is the
main reason for Linux's lack of penetration on the desktop. He believes,
as does Sun (and quite a few others, I suspect), that the latest
StarOffice/OpenOffice.org offering has the potential to change all that.
James presentation generated the most questions, despite being delivered
to the smallest audience of the day. As an engineering manager, he came
across as someone who would rather not be the center of attention, and
God love him, he nearly choked to death half way through his talk.
Despite this, his message was clear: StarOffice/OpenOffice.org is ready,
and Sun, together with their partners (such as Ximian), is committed to
the technology and its ongoing development.
In the end, the conference showed how far Linux has come. It is big
business now. Granted, IBM sees Linux as a mechanism for selling
zSeries, and HP sees it as a mechanism for selling services. Both kept
harping on about cost savings, the bottom line, profit and the like.
They obviously hadn't been listening to "maddog", as Linux is about so
much more. It's about empowerment, quality, security and control. Linux
is all about community.
A big thank-you to "maddog" for kindly providing me with a selection of
pictures from the show to include with this report. Upon browsing the
pictures, I came across this one, which may hint at his real reason for
coming to Ireland.
Figure 3. If you've ever needed a reason to visit Ireland, then here it
Paul Barry lectures at The Institute of Technology, Carlow in Ireland.
His first book, Programming the Network with Perl, was published by
Wiley in February 2002. His next book, Bioinformatics, Biocomputing and
Perl, a collaboration with Michael Moorhouse, is scheduled to be
published by Wiley toward the end of 2003.
Brooklyn Linux Solutions
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