What to expect at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo

The vicissitudes that buffet the Linux industry these days -- be they shareholder lawsuits, consolidations, slumping earnings, or business strategies gone south -- have made no perceptible dent in the seriousness with which IT professionals approach opportunities to enhance their Linux awareness. Some 22,000 to 24,000 attendees are expected to descend on this week's LinuxWorld Conference & Expo in New York -- pretty clear evidence that IT decision-makers more than ever crave business solutions that leverage the benefits of Linux and open source.

Repeat attendees at the upcoming semiannual gathering of the Linux tribes will suffer only rare attacks of déjà vu. While the basic structure will mirror that of LinuxWorld shows past -- a day of tutorials followed by three days of conference sessions and exhibits -- the folks at IDG World Expo and conference chair Larry Augustin have hardly rested on their laurels. Each of the conference's six tracks (about 50 sessions in all) will offer plenty of up-to-the-minute information to inquiring minds.

The Kernel/Cluster track, for example, features sessions on these hot topics du jour: high availability, Linux storage, mobile devices, journaling filesystems, and, of course, the 2.4 kernel (one session on porting device drivers to the new kernel, and another on 2.4's support for realtime signals). Other especially timely presentations include:

The KDE component technologies enabled by the KDE2.0 infrastructure (User Interface track) Security tools and strategies (three sessions in the System Administration track) Mozilla as a cross-platform application development framework (Scripting track) Caching dynamic Web content (ASP/Web Serving track) Enhanced Linux usability for consumers and businesses (Business/Legal Issues track)In what may have become an irreversible LWCE trend, all of the tracks except Scripting contain more sessions than there are time slots, so some pairs of sessions within a track are scheduled to run concurrently. Unless attendees can employ some type of time-travel technology, it will be impossible for even the most determined participant to attend all the sessions in a given track.

As usual, the keynote speeches and other planned events promise to be big draws. Fitting perhaps for the "Year in which IBM will spend a billion dollars on Linux", top keynote honors on Wednesday will go to Big Blue's president Sam Palmisano. (Some of IBM's billion Linux bucks will be used for hosting the LWCE opening reception on Wednesday evening, New York time.) As at previous LWCEs, immediately after the keynote Linus Torvalds will present the $25,000 IDG/Linus Torvalds Community Award to recognize an organization or individual that has shown exceptional dedication to the open source movement.

A battle of titans will ensue: a new and improved version of last August's LWCE Geek Bowl (now named The Golden Penguin Bowl for the Oscaresque gold-plated handblown glass statuettes that the winners earn). As in August, host Nicholas Petreley will toss geek trivia questions at two competing teams of prominent open source propellerheads. This time, volunteers from the audience will join the teams to help them vie for the birds. Petreley told LinuxWorld.com that one volunteer may turn out to be a fairly well known member of the Linux community mentioned in the previous paragraph. And no, we don't mean Palmisano.

For many, the heart of LWCE is the vendor exhibition. According to IDG, more than 80 percent of LWCE attendees have a strong influence in deciding what purchases their companies make. As a group they are expected to spend more than a quarter of their budgets -- about $2.5 million -- in the next 12 months on products they see at the Expo. No wonder that about 250 vendors have signed on to display and demo their wares. According to Rob Scheschareg, VP of Events for IDG World Expo, the square footage of the exhibition floor at the Javits Center this year is double that of last winter's show. While the floor is bigger in part to accommodate real-estate grabs by the giant companies that now love Linux (IBM, Compaq, Dell, Intel), Scheschareg attributes the growth primarily to a significant increase in the number of application vendors who are exhibiting.

The exhibition floor and its immediate environs are also the venue for big announcements. At the San Jose show in August, the formation of the GNOME Foundation eclipsed all other news. A potential blockbuster this week may come from Borland. While Borland won't reveal the gist of Wednesday morning's announcement in advance, we can assure you that the news isn't that Borland has officially dropped the Inprise moniker -- that press release has already gone out. It may perhaps be relevant to quote directly from an FAQ on the Borland Website: "The first products that will be released from the Kylix project are expected to be available in the first quarter of 2001." Red Hat will make an announcement Wednesday that will, according to a company spokesperson, "highlight a very large customer and partner and how we will be working together." Red Hat will also deliver news relating to the company's move into the open source e-commerce space, based on its acquisitions of Stronghold and CCVS.

Caldera Systems made its killer product announcement a few weeks ago: Volution, its new distribution-neutral Web- and directory-based system-management software for enterprise Linux installations, is now shipping. Not only can attendees test-drive Volution at Caldera's booth, they can get some free Linux training there. The Linux Learning Center, coming to LWCE for the first time (it's been a feature at Comdex Linux Business Expo), will consist of rotating hour-long hands-on classes, led by Caldera's Bruce McKay, given over all three days of the Expo.

Topics at The Learning Center include eDesktop installation, Windows file and printing sharing with Samba, Linux administration utilities, and shell scripting. In addition, John Terpstra of the Samba team will lead a two-hour Samba update session on Thursday, and on Friday the Volution product-line manager will run a Volution training class. The latter two sessions are by invitation only, but invitations should be available upon request at the Caldera booth.

For the first time at the New York LWCE, free review sessions and testing for the Sair Linux and GNU Certified Administrator (LCA) Level 1 are available at the show. The program debuted at the August LWCE, where 600 to 800 attendees took advantage of the US$5,100 value. Sair is expecting between 1,500 and 2,000 participants this time around.

If you're among the fortunate thousands attending this week's LWCE, enjoy the show! And if you won't be there, check LinuxWorld.com daily for the scoop.

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