Impressions from OpenSourceWorld 2009

IDG’s LinuxWorld (LW) was renamed to OpenSourceWorld (OSW) this year. Two other IDG conferences CloudWorld and Next Generation Data Center were co-located with OpenSourceWorld at Moscone West. Interest in what was once LW’s expo (now OSW’s solutions showcase) and curiosity about how the re-branding was working led me to attend the event last week.

As in past conferences, IDG did a great job with the infrastructure (stages, presentation, A/V etc.) as well as the new solutions showcase. However even an upscale venue such as Moscone West could not hide the effects of the current economic downturn. Particularly obvious was the lack of crowds.

First stop: Conference Sessions

At the conference sessions, I expected to hear about new ideas in business models and activities around open source. I was disappointed. The talks and panel discussions lacked depth. The keynotes suffered as well. The Dell keynote speaker was substituted at the last minute and seemed unprepared.

Next stop: The Solutions Showcase

Open Source World 2009, San Francisco

Open Source World 2009, San Francisco

This year’s expo was trimmed down to a solutions showcase featuring vendors from three market segments – open source, cloud computing and data center. The shortened timings (an hour at lunch and a couple of hours in the evening) might have been intended for maximizing crowd coverage between sessions and the show floor but turned out to be pretty inconvenient for many attendees, giving them little time to connect with exhibitors. However once the show floor opened and the evening reception started, the pretzels and drinks helped get conversations flowing.

Final stop: The Invisible Dot Org Zone

No open source conference is complete without the healthy participation of dot org projects. But here at OSW they were invisible! Well almost. After asking around at the FreeBSD booth which was surprisingly located on the main show floor, I found the projects tucked away in a separate room at the back of the showcase hall. This (mis)placement was unfortunate and doesn’t represent the open source world which thrives on technology from all sectors, commercial and non-commercial alike. Hopefully, IDG will consider having all exhibitors in the same area next year.

Any business conference can only be successful by virtue of the real value it brings to its participants – the sponsors, exhibitors, speakers as well as attendees. Perhaps, re-branding and co-locating multiple conferences, in the face of a bad economy, diminished a compelling value for any of its participants.

Hoping for a better OSW next year!

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