May 9, 2007

Red Hat Summit 2007 opens strong

Author: Joe Barr

The third annual Red Hat Summit is underway in San Diego. This year's show already has a different feel to it than the first two. The crowd is larger, for one thing. The event is a complete sell-out -- so much so that Red Hat had to stop taking registrations. Attendees have booked all the available rooms at the Sheraton and are spilling over into two additional hotels, and Red Hat is running shuttles between the hotels. Unofficially, the crowd is between 1,200 and 1,400, up from less than a thousand last year.

Conference attendees who arrived yesterday were treated to an evening event: a reception hosted by Dell in a large tent set up near the marina just outside the Sheraton. The 26 sponsors of the summit manned booths in the tent that held the reception. With that level of support, the summit has the feel of a mini-LinuxWorld Conference and Expo.

As I stood in line last night to get into the reception, I listened to an employee of the US House of Representatives chatting with other Red Hat customers and a consultant from Hewlett-Packard. Later in the evening, a young man from England sat down at the table where I was getting reacquainted with friends I met at the first summit in New Orleans, and saw again last year in Nashville. The English accent was pronounced, but it was not the only accent I heard last night. This is definitely a global crowd.

Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik officially opened the 2007 edition of the summit with his keynote address to a standing room crowd this morning. He was preceded by a new video, a follow-on to the popular "You are here" video shown at the first summit. The new version is similar, perhaps not quite as edgy as the first, but changes the messaging slightly in that the conclusion is "We are here."

Brian Stevens, Red Hat's chief technology officer, was next on the stage. He claimed Red Hat now has two million systems under subscription. In a roundabout way, he also addressed the question -- one he said was posed to him last night by reporter Peter Galli -- of when Red Hat would make a push in the desktop arena. Stevens showed a video of Brazilian schoolchildren using Sugar, the user interface for the OLPC machine, and talked about the differences between it and the traditional desktop, noting that Sugar is organized by activities rather than documents. The point he made is that Sugar, rather than a clone of the traditional Windows desktop, would become the basis for Red Hat's own desktop of the future.

The pace of the summit looks as lively as ever, with two and a half days of sessions along seven different tracks: What's New; ROI, TCO, SOA, and Other Important Acronyms; Beyond the Operating System; Peer to Peer Perspectives; What's Next; In the News; and Decoding the Code. In addition to those tracks, hands-on Linux Labs sessions will be held all day today and tomorrow.