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LinuxForum Day 2 - Updated 3Xs
Monday, March 06 2006 @ 02:17 AM EST

I know I told you that elhaard said he wouldn't be doing a report on day two of LinuxForum, Copenhagen, but he has, I'm glad to say. Enjoy. There will be video, I'm told, on the same page as the audio after everyone recuperates from the weekend, so keep checking if you'd like to enjoy the entire program.

This article represents elhaard's reactions to the day and his point of view, of course. You can listen and form your own impressions. I thank him very much for his reports, because it made it possible to get a real feel for the event. And this report is packed with information that I personally hadn't seen before. UPDATE 2: Note that IBM is contradicting elhaard's recollection of what he heard.

UPDATE 3: We have the video of the IBM speech, so you can see for yourself that our report was accurate. Some media reports blew up what we reported into more than what we wrote, and IBM contradicted those reports that added to what was reported here. But judge for yourself. That is the Groklaw way. The audio is poor, and we've done all we can to fix it. At 41:22 in the video, Andreas Pleschek says (answering a question beginning at 40:53 about IBM's migration to Linux):

"The Lotus Notes part will be available around Summer. We at IBM need this very much. We can go out in thousands when we have that Notes stuff in there. So let's say the following: After we have created the Notes plug-in in Summer and put it [against to?] Eclipse and it works nice, then we will start to migrate thousands of users, because IBM has cancelled the contract with Microsoft. It ends in October. This means we can use XP and Office XP, but our maintenance ends in October, so when Vista is coming out, and Microsoft Office 2007 and Office 12, we are not allowed to install these products. Because our strategy is this one here [AP is pointing at the projector screen showing their new, Red Hat-based platform]. We take Windows XP as long as we need it, but we want to move to the Workplace Manage client on Linux, because there we take OpenOffice and [?????] with Lotus Notes, and our Internet we do with Firefox. So this is our strategy.

I don't know, I think [in] 2007 we do not have 300,000, but I think we have a significant number [...] 50,000 - 100,000. We are already [?????] client around 30,000 installed worldwide."

There are now pictures of the event on LinuxForum.dk to supplement the ones elhaard took just for us. And he found Andreas Pleschek's slides that are almost identical to the ones he used at LinuxForum. At any rate, it will give you a ballpark idea.

UPDATE: Video of Day 1's panel discussion on standards can now be found here or here.

**************************************

More from LinuxForum 2006 - Day 2
~ by elhaard

I know, I wrote that you would have to make do with my report about Friday on LinuxForum 2006 in Copenhagen, Denmark. And I did plan to sit back and relax all Saturday, listening to the technical presentations and talking to user groups. But my plan was foiled by a presentation from IBM, which brought so much new information and perspective that I just have to tell you about it. And while I am at it, you might as well hear about the rest of the day, too. So here is my report from the second day of LinuxForum 2006:

Celebrities Galore
As I mentioned in my report on Friday at LinuxForum, this venue runs over two days, Saturday being for the techies. Most presentations were too technically detailed to do them any justice in a short report. But I can share the overall impression of them with you and decribe my encounters with the celebrities.

First up was Lars Eilstrup Rasmussen from Google Maps. He is originally from Denmark, but has been living abroad for more than 15 years, mostly in Australia and in the US. In 2003, he founded Where 2 Technologies together with his brother to make a map application for Windows. In October of 2004, before they had finished it, their company was acquired by Google and Lars became the lead engineer for Google Maps. There, the map application, written in C++, was transformed into a JavaScript-based web application running in any browser, something he originally did not think was possible.

His presentation centered both on the history of Google Maps and on the technical solutions they had to come up with. He also told that although Google did not expect it, there soon was a plethora of third-party sites using Google Maps for their own purposes. Seeing that creativity, Google made and released the Google Map API and actually hired several of the third party site developers. Google's only problem was that their data providers were not very happy with Google Maps suddenly being used all over the web.

After that, Wietse Venema spoke on "Postfix as a Secure Programming Example". Postfix is one of the most widely-used mail servers, especially in large-scale installations. It has been developed by Wietse Venema with security as a key goal, and also with a strong focus on performance. He is also the co-author of TCP wrapper, SATAN (Security Administrator Tool for Analyzing Networks) and other security tools. In his presentation, he desribed his work with Postfix and how he always focused on security, polishing his code again and again. He struck me as one the very few thorough, conscious capacities who is putting security and clean, well-written code over the ever-increasing demand for new features. So many projects rush ahead to add functionality while never re-visiting old code to improve what might have been too hastily written. I think the moral of this is that developers need to have the time and patience to think and rethink designs, especially when working with infrastructure software.

Photo Wietse Venema
Wietse Venema

Later on the day, I attended Alan Cox' presentation on "The Changing Face of PC Storage". Alan Cox is one of the key Linux kernel developers, and he told about different problems with hard disc utilization through the history of PC architecture. Also, he talked about some of the current challenges, and how they are solved with different kinds of schedulers and other techniques. If anyone thought that it is simple to write a file to a hard disc, this presentation would have made them think again. I personally found it extremely exciting. Mostly because I am deeply fascinated with the topic of communication with hardware, but also because Alan Cox is so very famous. It was second best to seeing Linus - or PJ. As for those of you who missed beards on the pictures from yesterday, Alan Cox is a fine example of "those long-haired smellies", although I did not notice any smell :-)

Photo of Alan Cox
Alan Cox

IBM in the World of Open Source
While the techincal presentations spoke dearly to the computer scientist in me, the most interesting presentation in an overall perspective was IBM's Andreas Pleschek speaking on "IBM vs. Open Source, Friend or Foe". Andreas Pleschek is working at IBM in Stuttgart, Germany, and head of open source and Linux technical sales across North East Europe. As far as Google tells me, he has given the same presentation before, at least in the Netherlands and in Sweden. Nevertheless, it was news to me and provided me with a more detailed understanding of IBM's future plans.

Photo of Andreas Pleschek
Andreas Pleschek

He began by stating that IBM is for open standards. And since open source software drives open standards, they are for open source too. Apparently, it was the Jikes Java compiler, that opened their eyes about open source. IBM developed Jikes, and in 1997 they put it up for free download as binaries for their UNIX platform. When they put Linux binaries up for download in 1998, they experienced a download rate seven times as big as for the UNIX version. That told them that Linux was going somewhere. In late 1998, they open sourced Jikes, and within eight hours, they received a non-trivial enhancement that was so complex that they had to study it for days just to understand it. In 2000, Lou Gerstner announced that IBM was going to invest one billion dollars in Linux, and IBM now have 650 people working on open source projects such as Apache and Linux. Furthermore, IBM has open sourced software such as Eclipse and Cloudscape (the latter is now known as Apache Derby).

IBM found out that they could use open source principles in-house, because open source "enhances multi-site development". They have purchased several products over the years (Lotus, Tivoli, WebSphere, DB2, etc.) and they wanted to break them up into smaller components that could be mixed and matched. But they discovered that the pieces did not fit together, because the different developers did not talk to each other. Andreas Pleschek referenced Eric S. Raymond's "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" and said that IBM wanted to exploit the bazaar model rather than their previous cathedral model. They told their developers just to share, although it took some convincing.

Last year, IBM changed their business model after a Gartner study told them that 19% of the software market will move from commercial, proprietary software to open source software over the next five years. IBM's new philosophy is to take the best from both worlds. They will use open source for the commodities, i.e. things that everyone need, such as file zippers, browsers and word processors. On the other hand, he said, proprietary software is better for specialized software - mainly because there is not enough community interest to drive a complex, fast development for something that only a few people need. He said that there is a pendulum motion between the two, so the border between what is best solved by Open Source and what is best solved by proprietary software moves all the time.

Accordingly, IBM will now offer three categories of software: Some will be Open Source, which they will help develop, sponsor or even donate to the Open Source community. Also, they will offer support and integration for it. Some software will still be proprietary - mostly their big, complex systems in full-blown versions. And some will be offered as closed source, but free download. That will often be watered-down versions of the proprietary software. He used the term "community edition".

When asked from the audience whether the new business model works, he said that IBM's customers loved it but that their sales persons were "concerned". But since Gartner predicted that 19% of the market shares would be lost anyway, he did not think that it makes much difference on sales. And if they can sell support to just 10% of the customers that switch to open source, they will still be better off.

Overall, I had the impression that IBM has seen the writing on the wall that proprietary software eventually will be a thing of the past. But on the other hand they have a huge investment in proprietary software, and that is still where they get their money. So of course, they cannot just open source it all at once. They have to do it gradually so that they can grow a new business to replace the income of the former. Personally, I do not like their closed source/free download idea, but I realize that it is the only way for them to keep the business for the full-blown versions. I think they would open source it if they could. But then again, a more cynical interpretation could be that the "community editions" is just a way to get people dependant on them in the hope that they will upgrade to paid-for versions later on.

At the end of the presentation, Andreas Pleschek revealed that the laptop he used for the presentation was running a pre-release of their new platform, the Open Client. It is actually a Red Hat work station with IBM's new Workplace Client, which is built in Java on top of Eclipse. Because of Eclipse, it runs on both Linux and Windows, and they have been able to reuse the C++ code in Lotus Notes for Windows to run it natively on Linux via Eclipse. Internally in IBM, for years, they have had a need to run Lotus Notes on Linux, and now they can. And they will offer it to their customers.

Workplace uses Lotus Notes for mail, calendar, etc. and Firefox as their browser. For an office suite, they use OpenOffice.org.

Andreas Pleschek also told that IBM has cancelled their contract with Microsoft as of October this year. That means that IBM will not use Windows Vista for their desktops. Beginning from July, IBM employees will begin using IBM Workplace on their new, Red Hat-based platform. Not all at once - some will keep using their present Windows versions for a while. But none will upgrade to Vista.

Reflections After Two Days of LinuxForum 2006
It is now Sunday, and I have had to reflect a little on the two days of LinuxForum 2006. What stands out to me is the new business models of two major players in the software business; both Sun and IBM have committed to Open Source, although to different extents. They have both realized that Open Source is coming fast now, and that they have the best chance of surviving if they embrace the change rather than fight it. IBM is a big ship to turn around, so they need time to make sure that everybody on board is working in the same direction. And they have a lot to lose if they go too fast around the bend, losing their old income before the new is ready. It is indeed an important time right now.

Hewlett-Packard is keeping a low profile. They did speak on LinuxForum Friday, but only on how they used Linux internally in HP (I did not attend the presentation, though, as there was a more interesting presentation at the same time). They do sponsor some Open Source development and make Linux drivers for their hardware, but they have yet not made the same public commitment to Open Source as Sun and IBM. They are not fighting it either, although they do sell PCs with Windows on them...

Apple was there too. After all, you can run Linux on their hardware, and the new MacOS is derived from BSD. But it seems to me that they are mostly interested in freeloading on the community without giving anything back. As for Microsoft, they are still fighting the tide.

I cannot help noticing that both Sun and IBM have a long history, dating back to before shrink-wrap licensed software. Perhaps that gives them an advantage now. If only they can remember. Anyway, it is obvious that they are both very much aware that the times call for a change in business models. On the other end of the scale, Microsoft is still kicking and screaming against the change. They have done small open source projects, but overall they are still not showing any signs of change in their ways. I wonder if they will before it is too late. IBM Workplace is looking to be a real competitor to Microsoft Vista - and it comes without that horrible EULA.

We are in a new age. Simon Phipps called it the Participation Age. I think it has also something to do with freedom. Software want to be free. People want to be free. The Microsofts, Sonys and RIAAs of the World have pushed us too far. Just as a bully in the school yard, they have been on top for a while but are losing friends fast. It is being noticed whether you are being naughty or nice, and your fate is determined by it, as SCO found out. Will the other bullies in the class learn from it?


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