A Few Thoughts on OSCon and the Open Source Community

Jul 23, 2012 / By Marc Fielding

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This past week I attended OSCon, the annual conference for open source’s true believers. And there was a religious fervor in the air, particularly from the point of view of someone more accustomed to Oracle conferences.

And if open source is the religion, proprietary closed-source companies are the devil. That having been said, I was surprised how virtually all large companies were demonized. Even long-time defenders of open source like IBM were ignored at best. That didn’t prevent them from coming though, with Microsoft and HP in particular with high-profile sponsorships and PR offensives that didn’t seem to have much influence with the crowd.

The companies generating buzz were the small companies built around development of their own open source products. There are a surprising number of them out there, especially relating to multiple forks of a popular product like MySQL or Hadoop.

For me, the highlights of the conference were not the technical sessions, but rather the keynotes and evening BOF (birds of a feather) sessions. Tim O’Reilly delivered an impassioned case for giving back to the community and the benefits of open source. Mark Shuttleworth gave a supremely impressive demo of the upcoming Ubuntu 12.10 – the HUD in particular is awesome. Piers Cawley got the whole audience to sing, in two parts, no less. Try doing that at an Oracle conference! And on the last day, Paul Fenwick delivered an entertaining yet very practical talk on how to “upgrade your mind”, complete with geeky ways of getting ourselves to do all those things we tend to put off.

I also noticed a strong push towards a few sexy technologies that aren’t heavily used currently but are said to be the stars of tomorrow, at the expense of sessions relating to more mainstream open source products. Based on my discussions with attendees and the sessions I attended, the “sexy” technologies this year include:

  • Arduino
  • Hadoop
  • MongoDB
  • Cassandra
  • Scala
  • Python
  • node.js and other JS frameworks

More mainstream open source technologies were covered, but with much less interest:

  • Linux/Apache HTTPD
  • PHP
  • Perl
  • MySQL
  • Java

Completely absent from discussion (“do people still run that?”) were:

  • Non-Linux server OSs (BSD, Solaris, Windows, etc.)
  • Hardware other than x86 or ARM platforms
  • Enterprise storage – SAN/NAS or really any shared storage
  • Networking other than Ethernet

It was interesting to note that for all the innovation in programming languages and databases, hardware and OS seems to be focused on large clusters of Linux-based x86 servers with local storage and Ethernet networking.

All in all, it was an interesting conference and community, and a great opportunity to peek at the state of the open source world.

2 Responses to “A Few Thoughts on OSCon and the Open Source Community”

  • Henrik Ingo says:

    Hi Marco

    What a nice breakdown of cool, mature and absent topics.

    I think the lack of talking about SAN is mostly because average people don’t know anything about them. Which is perhaps exactly your point, but still. I do see SANs used – much more than maybe Solaris or even Windows server. But anyway: What people are completely missing is that EBS like storage in the cloud is also a form of SAN. From a DB point of view you have the same issues, optimization and such.

  • @Henrik,

    Thanks for your insight. The “trendy” topics under discussion at the conference were focused on distributed non-block storage using Hadoop and similar technologies rather than traditional block-based or central storage at all.

    I see this as being part of a trend taking logic for redundancy and file storage from hardware like SANs into software very close to the applications themselves, with the goal of allowing large-usage scaling to petabyte data volumes without the high costs of hihg-capacity SAN storage.

    Marc

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