...making Linux just a little more fun!

Away Mission: 2008 in Review - part 1

By Howard Dyckoff

The past year saw a number of conference trends. Many formerly large conferences have layered related topics and sub-conferences in order to hold on to their audiences. LinuxWorld, for example, added mobility tracks and the "Next Generation Data Center" conference for the last two years and now has changed its name to OpenSource World for 2009. USENIX events also had many overlapping related conferences occurring alongside its major events.

But 2008 generally saw established conferences shrinking due to tighter budgets, increasing travel costs, and the deepening recession. Balancing this trend, there were many more tightly focused events springing out of the myriad of Open Source Communities. There were also many more on-line "virtual" conferences that could satisfy keynote attendees (although, in this reporter's opinion, the limited expo venues associated with these virtual events just can't replace the sights, sounds, and swag of a real expo.)

An example of such a virtual conference was the SOA and Virtualization events by TechTarget, IDG and ZDnet. Here's a recent one: http://datacenterdecisions.techtarget.com/seminars/AEV-virtualseminar.html

Along the same lines, certain conferences added or expanded video coverage, often for a lower fee than full conference attendance, allowing people to attend 'on-line'. Several USENIX events had live video feeds provided by Linux-Magazin.de, and these are available as an archive for review by attendees. This approach means no conference bag or networking opportunities, but definitely is easier on both the budget and the body.

Many newer conferences such as QCon and Best SD Practices for SW developers and project managers saw modest growth.

The Leviathan - Oracle OpenWorld

One of the largest events just keeps getting larger: Oracle OpenWorld (OOW). It had over 42,000 attendees with multliple overlapping sub-conferences such as Oracle Develop and the JDEdwards, Siebel, and BEA conferences. In fact it shifted into the September timeframe that BEA used for its annual user conference, abandoning Oracle's traditional early November timeframe.

New this year was a comprehensive video and session material archive. This was a joint venture between Oracle and Altus Learning Systems, which provides digital media production services to companies for internal and external use.

There were 1900 technical and general sessions and these are all archived. Additionally, all Open Oracle World (OOW) keynotes are fully archived, with searchable text transcripts and all slides timed and reposted. This allows a user to search for a phrase in the transcript, then view the accompanying slide and hear the associated audio. This could be a good way to jog one's memory months after attending the conference, as well as exploring sessions not attended by quickly scanning for desired content. Altus is hoping this makes access and repurposing of content easier for users of their service.

I was given an opportunity to discuss the multimedia archive with some of the principals before Oracle OpenWorld. One of the key points of the discussion was that only a limited sampling of sessions would be available as a teaser to the public; most of these would be the keynote sessions that are usually available on-line after a conference. I had specifically asked about having one or two of these sample sessions being about Linux or Oracle Open Source collaborations and was assured at least one such session would be available for preview. But, as fate is fickle, my contact spoke to me shortly after Oracle OpenWorld (OOW) and said the chosen Linux session would only be available for a short time, not past LG's next publication date in October.

Here is the Aldus OOW preview page, which also hosts most of the OOW keynotes: http://ondemandpreview.vportal.net/

Now the flip side of this: Apparently, if you did not attend the 2008 event, you can get all media at the Oracle OpenWorld OnDemand portal but have to pay US$700. OOW-08 attendees can use the OOW 'course catalog' to get only the slides for most presentations - or pay $400 to access the portal. This is very different from previous years where slides were made available to the public on the Oracle Technical Network (OTN).

However, in a publicly viewable thread, the following information is available:

2008 OpenWorld Presentations: http://www28.cplan.com/cc208/login.jsp
(Login/password: cboracle/oraclec6)
Use this for login and for accessing each presentation.

Using that info, you can download a presentation on the Coherence Application Server Grid:

To get a multi-media view of this material, this video covers Oracle Coherence Data Grid - formerly the Tangorsol product line:

To access the Linux-oriented presenatations from the OOW catalog, go to the portal link, login, and then select "Linux and Virtualization" from only the focus area pull-down, set the other pull-downs to "All".

Here is a link to the rather extensive OOW "Unconference" listed on the OOW wiki: http://wiki.oracle.com/page/Oracle+OpenWorld+Unconference?t=anon

The big event at OOW was the announcement of the Oracle-HP eXaData database machine. Jet black in its rack and wearing the new "X" logo, it was pretty and powerful with an impressive set of specs. But it also sported a huge price tag, over a million dollars for starters, which effectively meant it competed with the high end SMP boxes like Convex and Teradata. It is very fast on very, very big databases, just the kind of thing that services like NASDAQ need and can afford.

The magic came from blending disks with Intel Xeon multi-core processors and an Oracle secret sauce that ran a lite version of Oracle to produce parallel query processing. That also meant the new hardware needed to talk to an Oracle-like DB as the controller, and there were a lot of Oracle licenses included for the disk-and-CPU array. I believe some of the newer storage arrays, coupled with FOSS databases, can produce decent performance at similar or lower costs per transaction. (Check out Sun's ZFS-based storage devices, running with Postgres or MySQL.)

Another major announcement was the new Oracle Beehive collaboration suite. The goal is to help organizations secure communications and add collaboration into business processes. Oracle Beehive is an open-standards based enterprise collaboration platform, with integrated workspaces, calendar, instant messaging, and e-mail.

This is a link to the PDF for the session introducing Beehive:

One great change is that the bigger Oracle Develop sub-conference was at the Marriot Hotel, just two blocks from the Moscone Convention Center. That allowed attendees to pick either regular conference sessions or the more technical developer curriculum with only a five minute transit time. In 2007, Oracle Develop was at the Hilton with a fifteen to twenty minute wait and bus ride (and at least a twelve minute walk) away. That had me swearing under my breath.

This year the exec conference and the partner events were at the more distant Hilton. The food may have been a little better at the Hilton, but the session rooms are easier to find at the Marriott, and it's only a one long block from SF mass transit. Congrats to the conference organizers for getting these details right in 2008 and hopefully future OOW conferences as well.

The Minnow: eComm

One very small but very focused event is the new eComm (emerging Communications) conference that was first held last year in Silicon Valley, California. eComm actually started as a community effort to replace O'Reilly's ETel Conference when that 2008 event was cancelled.

eComm organizers view the venue as "a forum to understand the radical restructuring in how humanity connects, communicates and collaborates". The first conference, in 2008, broke a lot of new ground and attracted 300 people and 80 speakers from 15 countries. The tagline for the event was "The Trillion Dollar Industry rethink" and it did make significant inroads on that goal. The '09 event in March hopes to build on that and create a forum on a post-telecom era built on open standards and open APIs.

Major topics of eComm '09 include the expected cloud computing and social computing tracks, but will also include tracks on "Open Handsets & the Open Ecosystem", "The Fight for Open Spectrum", "New Forms of Contactability" and more.

Use of the Computer History Museum as a conference venue in 2008 was a good choice, due to its closeness to Highway 101 and its facilities. But it was the wealth of exciting and innovative speakers that made this a great conference with a lot of buzz in the hallways and at the breaks.

Here is the archive of eComm 08 videos:

And here is a link to some 60 slide presentations:

The eComm 2008 site is here:

The eComm 2009 site is here:

eComm 2009 is coming up next month, March 3-6, at the San Francisco Airport Marriott.

Founder and main organizer Lee Dryburgh told LG that "the 2008 event was the first conference to cover both iPhone and Android. These signify that the trillion dollar telecommunications industry has already started down the path that homebrew computing took three decades ago. ...eComm tracks, highlights, and promotes both the people and the technologies driving the democratization of communications."

Lee hopes that eComm and other community-driven events will break the telephony model of telecommunications and drive new forms of innovation. "Telecoms [used to be] linked to telephony. But telephony is being displaced by other modes of communication, and what telephony was will be reinvented. You're going to see a lot of companies at eComm 2009 who are building exciting applications with voice. We are just coming out of the "Henry Ford" stage of telephony, where you can have any colour as long as it's black."

I'd like to highlight Brian Capouch's practical presentation on building a people's wireless and telephony network in rural areas with old Wi-Fi routers and 12 volt batteries. Unfortunately, a lot of what he said is not captured in the slides available here:

You also need to see a video of the presentation here:

Dryburgh has an interesting interview with Sasha Meinrath on Telcom 2.0 posted at http://ecommconf.com/blog/2009/01/spectrum-20-future-telecom-networks.htm

He also talks with Andreas Constantinou on Mobile OS's and NaaS (Network as a Service) here : http://ecommconf.com/blog/2009/01/mobile-operating-systems.html

Talkback: Discuss this article with The Answer Gang

Bio picture

Howard Dyckoff is a long term IT professional with primary experience at Fortune 100 and 200 firms. Before his IT career, he worked for Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine and before that used to edit SkyCom, a newsletter for astronomers and rocketeers. He hails from the Republic of Brooklyn [and Polytechnic Institute] and now, after several trips to Himalayan mountain tops, resides in the SF Bay Area with a large book collection and several pet rocks.

Howard maintains the Technology-Events blog at blogspot.com from which he contributes the Events listing for Linux Gazette. Visit the blog to preview some of the next month's NewsBytes Events.

Copyright © 2009, Howard Dyckoff. Released under the Open Publication License unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 159 of Linux Gazette, February 2009