January 24, 2012

Looking Back on SCALE 10x


A lot of things change in 10 years. Many of the Linux conferences we were going to in 2002 are no longer around, but the Southern California Linux Expo has not only survived – it's grown into a major event for anybody interested in Linux. Whether you're brand-new to Linux or using Linux to power cloud solutions, SCALE 10x had something for everybody.

SCALE 10xSCALE started out as a small conference hosted by three Linux User Groups (LUGs) at the University of Southern California (USC). Held at the Davidson Conference Center, the first SCALE was a one-day affair with two tracks. It featured 14 speakers (including folks from IBM and Sun) and a whopping nine commercial exhibitors.

What a difference 10 years makes. SCALE 10x featured three days of programming, ranging from Linux Professional Institute (LPI) "exam crams" led by LPI's Ross Brunson to tracks on open source in education, cloud and virtualization, as well as plenty of developer oriented talks.

Beginner Tracks

Prior to SCALE 10x, I got a note from Brian Proffitt asking if I'd like to do a class in the beginner's track. This was a first-time effort. While many SCALE talks over the years have been appropriate for new users, SCALE had never had a full-blown set of classes for new Linux users.

I was actually a bit skeptical about the class at first. Did we really need a class for beginners, given how long Linux has been around? Especially considering how much easier Linux is to use these days? Sure, Linux sees new users every day, but at a show like SCALE would we really draw enough interest for a decent class?


The class was actually a two-day affair and was supposed to be limited to 40 people. I believe the final tally was 43 people. The room was packed with attentive folks who were taking copious notes and asking lots of questions.

If SCALE is a reasonable barometer of interest, other community shows should be doing much more to reach out to new users.

The Changing Direction of Linux

At the other end of the spectrum, though, is the use of Linux in business. If you peek at the SCALE program from, say 2010, you still see a lot of talks focused on desktop tech (Gnash, Vim, distros for laptops/netbooks, games) and very little about cloud computing. SCALE 2010 had one talk on Amazon EC2, for instance and it had a few talks on virtualization.

This year, you couldn't swing a cat without hitting a talk on cloud computing, scaling, distributed storage, infrastructure automation, and so on. (Don't swing cats, just take my word for it. No cats were harmed at SCALE.) While much of this is, strictly speaking, a bit beyond the scope of "Linux" it's all of interest to the Linux community and enabled by Linux.

Greg DeKoenigsberg's keynote was an excellent example of this. DeKoenigsberg talked, mostly, about the Infrastructure-as-a-Service market that's being led by Amazon and challenged by OpenStack, CloudStack, Eucalyptus, and others. While this is well above Linux itself, clearly the ideals of the Linux community are driving some of the projects like CloudStack, Eucalyptus and OpenStack.


In the six years I've been attending SCALE, I've never seen an exhibit floor so packed. And little wonder, word has it that SCALE 10x drew nearly 2,000 people this year and was up about 9% over last year.

SCALE 10x had two big rooms of exhibits, ranging from everybody's favorite .org type booths (Fedora, for example) to booths for 10gen, Ceph, CloudStack, Opscode, and a bunch of others. Another nice thing about SCALE is you could find the project booths mixed in with companies, so there's not a strict ".org ghetto" as you find at other shows. The only negative I came away from SCALE with was the slightly overzealous recruiters for HostGator that were wandering the halls with "we're hiring" signs and getting in the way of folks as they were moving between sessions.

Other than that, though, I thought SCALE 10x had an excellent exhibit hall with a good mix for attendees of all stripes. Looking for cloud vendors? Got that. Looking for people doing cool stuff with Linux for education? Got that. The exhibits really showed the depth and breadth of the community.

And really, that's SCALE 10x in a nutshell. Linux is really, really big. Mindbogglingly big. Trying to fit everything into one conference is difficult. Of course, there were omissions at SCALE – I'd have liked to have seen more Android talks, and I'm sure that other folks could have come up with other topics. But given the constraints that you have to work with for a community organized conference, I think SCALE 10x hit the mark perfectly.