August 5, 2004

LinuxWorld: More suits, fewer sandals in sight

Author: Chris Preimesberger

SAN FRANCISCO -- If there is a headline to describe this week's LinuxWorld Conference & Expo at the
Moscone Center, look no further than the one right above this story. LWCE is up
to 190 exhibitors and more than 90 educational sessions, the most ever in its
six-year history, and growing in importance each year. More CxOs are finding
time to mingle and make deals here than ever before, and fewer independents are
making the trek to the Left Coast.

Not that Linux itself hasn't been working, and working well, in big business
for a long time; it has. But in terms of evolving from a folksy, project-
oriented, grassroots-based confab of developers to a vital business-to-business
networking opportunity, LinuxWorld -- the conference -- has matured greatly.

"This show is not just about the big open source projects anymore," said Black
Duck CEO Doug Levin. "It used to be about Python, Apache, Struts -- all those
things. Those are still being talked about (on a smaller scale), but now this
show is more about enterprises who already are using Linux and seeking to find
open source projects that can help them."

Black Duck, based in Waltham,
Mass., is a new company that provides Web- and server-based software that helps
companies manage the development and use of software intellectual property.

"This is all about the growth of Linux and open source in general," Levin
said. "It's all coming to fruition right here."

Adam Kolawa, CEO of Monrovia, Calif.-based Parasoft Corp., a maker of testing
and QA software, said that he thought the IT industry in general is on
autopilot, but he believes LinuxWorld itself has continued to grow.

"The show is getting better, but not much has changed in the last couple of
years, as far as growth in IT overall is concerned," Kolawa said. "Companies
are being extremely cautious in how they spend their money. That never
changes. In the testing business, not much has changed, either. I think 80
percent of companies, when they are ready to ship their software, basically sit
down and try it themselves. If it works, it ships. They're not really testing
it."

Elsewhere on Day 3, IBM announced through a keynote address by its senior vice president
for technology and manufacturing, Nick Donofrio, that it would not use its vast
collection of patents to litigate against the Linux kernel in any form.

Open Source Risk Management, a
new company that offers patent indemnification insurance for Linux kernel
users, said that IBM holds about 60 patents which theoretically could cause
legal problems for other Linux-using companies. "IBM has no intention of
asserting its patent portfolio against the Linux kernel, unless, of course, we
are forced to defend ourselves," Donofrio said, to a loud round of applause
from LinuxWorld attendees.

Bruce Perens, a board member of OSRM, said afterward that he was encouraged by
Donofrio's remarks but that "I'd like to see this in writing. Governments,
people, and attitudes change, and who knows what will happen in the future."

Dan Ravicher, an attorney for OSRM, said that he and the company have
identified 283 patents thus far that may cover the Linux kernel -- one-third of
which belong to companies "friendly" to Linux, including IBM, HP, Cisco
Systems, and others. "Twenty-seven (of the 283) are owned by Microsoft,"
Ravicher said.

OSRM covers only the Linux kernel at this point, Perens said, but the company
plans to move into other types of coverages against patent infringements
involving other open source software.

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