Alistair Maclean's Web Site
LinuxWorld Expo, 2002
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A Quiet Hold

Admission: $29. (Jan 29th - Feb 1st 2002)

This is the second or third computer expo held at the Javits since September 2001, and like the others, this one seems to be suffering from the malaise that sits over NYC at the moment. The show was smaller than last year, far less vendors and a vendor mix that is definitely in the course of changing. Of course the gray, wet and chilly weather may also have had something to do with attendance, but this is a North Eastern winter we are in.

As is usual, I find that the less visitors to an Expo means I have a better time with the vendors; I can talk with people that are not harassed or overloaded with inquiries. It's bad for the vendors, of course, but I still have some of the 90's in here... ME, ME, ME! This years name dropping must do with brushing shoulders with John "Mad Dog" Hall, one of Compaq's Linux visionaries.

The show could be split along two lines: The changes taking place in the disposition of vendors; and where Linux seems to be going in the corporation.

Vendors

Last years show was full of vibrant Linux vendors, but for the most part they were unknowns. This year the show was dominated by IBM, HP, Compaq, Intel and AMD. Even the standard Linux folks like Redhat & Caldera were looking like bit players. These big boys of the computer world were throwing a great deal of effort into demonstrating that they were using Linux in new ways and that they could lend that air of authenticity corporate aficionados have been crying for.

IBM dragged to the show some stunning hardware; bottom end mainframes, mini's and many PC based servers, all running Linux. It's an impressive picture, all that Goliath black hardware running this David of an OS.

Over in the Compaq corner we were able to see multi terabyte tape archive systems, PC servers and Alpha servers all with Linux as the driving force.

The Chip manufacturers were flaunting their latest processors as the best thing to power your Linux box with. Itanium chips were clearly in evidence, (Oh, my are they big chips, too) though there were some saying the lack of apps for these 64 bitters is still limiting their usefulness.

The next biggest area of change seemed to me to be in the embedded Linux market, where last years many vendors were this year shrunk to just 3, and that included Redhat showing just their embedded development environment. Clearly the dot com implosion has badly effected fortunes in this arena.

Enterprise

The big boys of computing were not here to show their love of the GNU license, they were here to strut their stuff to potential corporate weenies with the wherewith all and the money to take Linux into enterprise computing. There were several examples of vendors showing big multiprocessor boxes. Big problem though, while the latest Linux kernel (2.4.x) is MUCH better in multiprocessor systems that the last kernel (2.2.x) it is not scaling well to the really big systems with 32 or more processors. Of course the preponderance of clustering solutions helps alleviate that limit, certainly in any real situation, however if you have been weaned on Big Iron, then a single box solution is all you think about. So the big boys are here and they are pouring effort into making these kernels perform better with more processors.

M.I.A.

As I said, this show was smaller. The show size says a great deal about the state of the computer industry, not just the Linux end of it. Though there were many healthy and happy vendors present, the lack of freebies also points to these guys having to be ever more hard nosed about selling and marketing. I got a frisbee from the Ximian guys, a Kylix CD (open source release) from Borland, a pen from Dice, though I was not quite willing to go for Intels' illuminating pen though, I also failed to locate the Caldera giveaway Penguins... And that was about it. No free distributions, no funny hats, no squishy globes.

The lack of distributions, free or otherwise, was a let down. I was hoping to be able to see what there was on offer; feel it, kick it..

Odds and ends

TechTalk, a tech radio show playing in Arizona, Rhode Island and on the Internet, looked like they were at the show generating material for further radio programmes.

Ancillary hardware looks to be coming on in leaps and bounds. There was a nice display of serial interface cards, having multiple ports and Linux drivers, from Equinox. A company called Sangoma had a neat card with a T1 port on a PCI card, an integrated CSU/DSU allowing you to stuff the T1 cable right into your firewall box without need for the usual clutter of ADtran or CISCO boxes.

Summary

Much smaller than last year, still quite energetic, but suffering in these hard times, the LinuxWorld show indicated that there is life a plenty in the Linux community; life may be changing, going in a more mainstream direction, but it's going nonetheless.

 

© A. Maclean 2002


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