Open for business

The recent LinuxWorld Expo in New York was the scene of some startling revelations regarding the state of open source. Last summer's show in California showed that Linux wanted to do business in the enterprise. But at this LinuxWorld, Linux looked like nothing but business in the enterprise.

The bouncing balls, flashing lights, and loudmouth magicians were few and far between. The trinkets, baubles, and T-shirts were in short supply. Instead, everywhere you looked, someone was trying to make a sale.

But these sales were not like those at conferences past. No one was hawking cheap Linux CDs or tins of caffeinated penguin mints. Even the boxed Linux distributions were in fairly short supply.

This time the sales targets were much bigger.

Did you need a server? No problem. Plenty of vendors were showing servers. Wanted something bigger? You were in luck: There was plenty of meat to eat on that bone.

Intel and Advanced Micro Devices were both there in force. Intel in particular had a very big booth featuring the IA64 and related technologies.

From Egenera's blade technology -- which seems to be wowing the financial community -- to IBM's grid computing model, interconnected racks of machines were everywhere.

Need even more horsepower? You could take a gander at IBM's Linux-only mainframe. That's right, folks: A new model of the traditional icon of corporate computing, the IBM mainframe, supports Linux exclusively. Now someone tell me how Linux has no place in the enterprise.

Then there was Carly Fiorina. In one of the more "clueful" (the antithesis of "clueless") executive presentations on open source I have ever heard, the Hewlett-Packard CEO outlined how the company is competing in this space. She painted open source as "the democratization of innovation in technology." HP's wins in the Linux server market include such notable names as Boeing (it showed a 400 percent improvement at one-third the cost of its prior solution), (it saved $17 million using Linux), and DreamWorks (the creators of the movie Shrek relied heavily on Linux rendering). Suddenly, IBM's Linux wins at ETrade and Pixar don't seem so lonely after seeing HP's list.

Even NetBSD got in the act. Normally a very techie, sound, almost stoic OS that feels more like a traditional Unix than Linux, NetBSD announced a new version that purports to load a very friendly system that any corporate end-user could love.

And a note to those folks who scoffed at IBM a year ago when the company announced they would invest US$1 billion in Linux development: IBM is reportedly on the verge of recouping the investment. And it didn't achieve that by selling the occasional Web and print server. The enterprise is Big Blue's game, and it is playing to win.

If you have been waiting for open source to come to the enterprise, wait no longer. It is in the enterprise now.