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maddog: Forum Will Answer Enterprise Questions

Creating a New Kind of Conference

  • September 18, 2003
  • By Brian Proffitt

The Enterprise Linux Forum, scheduled for October 22-23, 2003 in Washington, DC, is taking a new approach to how an enterprise level event is put together. The end result is a very strong array of sessions and speakers that will deliver a lot of information to those looking to implement Linux in their own organization.

LinuxPlanet's sister site Linux Today is the host for this semi-annual event, and as the managing editor, I would love to say that this upcoming event's strengths are all my idea. But that would be a huge falsehood. The credit goes to the conference chairman, Linux International's Jon "maddog" Hall, who has worked extensively with the program team and the rest of the conference's organizers to put the agenda together--while still continuing his extensive travels to the four corners of the globe.

I caught up with maddog this week and posed a few questions about his philosophy behind creating this agenda, how corporations and the community can get along, and why he's pretty calm about all the issues flying around Linux these days.

LinuxPlanet: You are the conference chair of the upcoming Enterprise Linux Forum. Having done extensive work on the program, what would be your first reaction to someone asking the question "why should I attend this show?"

Jon "maddog" Hall: Unlike a lot of Linux events, this Forum has been "scripted." Most Linux events put out a "call for papers" which then attract a lot of diverse abstracts. The program committee then puts together "tracks" which they think will attract a certain audience. If they do not get an abstract in a particular area, they do not have a talk in that area.

I took a different approach. Working with the show producers (Jupitermedia) and one of the Media sponsors (Linux Today/LinuxPlanet), I determined a target audience.

That target audience is executives who have heard of Linux, read a few articles about it, but still do not know if Linux and Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is right for their enterprise. Therefore, one full track of the conference had to deal with issues of saving and making money, license issues, standardization, certification and training, porting and migration costs, support issues, return on investment.

A second target audience is the senior systems administrator who comes from a proprietary operating system or another non-Unix background. These are people who have not been exposed to Linux or a Unix system, and remember the old days of "command line" and difficult installations. For these people I crafted a track that talks about migration, porting of software, integration of Linux with other systems. It also covers Linux as an embedded operating system, Linux on a supercluster, Linux on supercomputers, and Linux being the dominant operating system on the GRID.

A third track is devoted to case studies, actual applications, and market analysis.

Once the tracks had been created, I created abstracts for different areas that I believed the target audience needed to know about Linux and FOSS software . I went out and found the speakers that I felt would do a good job on each of these talks. The average bio was a person with large numbers of years in the computer field, who for one reason or another has made the choice to support Linux and FOSS. I also tried to get people who have the same level of responsibility in their company as the intended audience. I supplied each one of these speakers with the abstract that I wrote for the session I was asking them to present. I told each one that their challenge was to present the contents of that abstract in a vendor neutral, non-product way, and this was not supposed to be an advertising gig for their company.

This is a relatively short forum, with a lot of subject matter. I know that these speakers can not possibly present their accumulated knowledge and experience from years in the industry in the 50 minute timeslots they have been allocated. Therefore I also asked each and every one to list additional resources in a bibliography, so delegates can look up additional reports and information when they go back to the office.

Finally, as wrap-ups to this forum, I asked an industry technical analyst to give his opinion if Linux is ready for the enterprise. I have known Jonathan Eunice for years as a "Unix analyst." I know that when Linux first came out, he told me that he would not recommend it for his customers. I know that over the years he has re-evaluated it from time to time, always with a critical eye for detail. I have asked him for the good and the bad. I honestly do not know what he will say in his presentation, but I know it will be honest, and accurate.

Most of these people I have known and worked with for years. I respect them, and I hope they respect me. Out of this mutual respect I believe will come a great set of presentations.

LinuxPlanet: What are some of the things an attendee will get out of this show as opposed to other Linux trade shows?

maddog: This is not a trade show. This is a Forum. Forums allow two-way conversations to happen. People coming to this event expecting to see hundreds of vendors each of whom have some small part of their business invested in Linux and FOSS will be disappointed.

Executives who wish to talk to some of the people who actively work to make FOSS ready for the Enterprise will walk away with their questions answered.

In my thirty-five years in the computer industry I have been both a customer and a vendor, of both large and small enterprises. I think I have a good idea of what those questions might be, and we have crafted a forum to answer them.

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