The open-source community's call to arms

The LinuxWorld Conference & Expo kicked off last week with a keynote address by Stanford Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig, who told a packed audience the open source community's work doesn't end with an operating system and applications. The battle now is in creating a free culture in which the creation and consumption of content are not hindered by stringent copyright laws, Lessig said. He said that while large media and network companies such as Amazon, Apple, AT&T and Comcast may be controlling how people consume content, there is a growing "read-write" culture in which content is modified and shared via the Internet.

He used a series of videos that combined animation and news or movie footage with music to show how people are reusing content to create political messages or humor. The trouble is that copyright regulations turn such creations into acts of piracy, he said.

The open source community needs to take its free software philosophy into the realm of content to help foster a more free-flowing environment for innovation, he said. He urged the use of the Creative Commons license, which reserves some instead of all rights, allowing for content to be reused and modified, somewhat as software code is used and shared in the open source community.

Virtualization is about more than server consolidation, and enterprise customers need to understand how to take advantage of the technology to create a dynamic infrastructure that responds to business demands, a panel of industry experts said during a virtualization-focused session at LinuxWorld. Virtualization was high on the list at the show, where attendees were looking at how best to deploy Linux and open source in critical business environments.

"As soon as people move away from consolidation and start thinking about neat new uses of virtualization for application migration and service-oriented architectures, virtualization will take off," said Jim Fister, lead technical strategist for Intel's Digital Enterprise Group.

During the panel discussion, which included questions from audience members, the panel delved into the maturing nature of virtualization software, which is getting a boost from hardware-assisted virtualization technologies that now are available on Intel and Advanced Micro Devices processors.

"As the hypervisor commoditizes - and that doesn't mean it has no value, it means it's pervasive - there will be new ways of tying business processes together," Fister said. "Using policies, [QoS] for applications . . . the application will define what I require and then the infrastructure, through management, will decide what's available."

Linux has great potential in the mobile arena, but establishing it there will be a tall order. Mobile phone users will have to demand the technology, and they are more interested in cool devices and applications than in a software platform for its own sake, said Greg Franklin, a venture capitalist at Intellect Partners.

Franklin participated in a panel discussion that was envisioned originally as a chance for mobile operators to talk about Linux as a component of their products and services. It ended up as a conversation about the operators' venture capital funding for mobile Linux start-ups, however. That's the aspect carriers wanted to talk about when organizers approached them about participating, said John Ellis, director of carrier market development at Motorola, who moderated the panel. That may be a good indication of where most mobile operators stand on mobile Linux: They value its flexibility and are interested in new technologies, panelists said, but there is less going on in the trenches of actual device and service rollout.

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