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LinuxWorld, San Francisco: Day One Keynote Report

LinuxWorld, San Francisco: Day One Keynote Report

The LinuxWorld San Francisco 2004 Conference & Expo opened yesterday with a Red Hat keynote which at times seemed like a case study and at times like a political candidate's speech.

The keynote opened with a talk by Chris Hjelm, CTO of online travel site Orbitz. Since its public launch in 2001, Orbitz has become one of the three largest online travel companies with access to 455 airlines, 65,000 hotel properties, and 23 rental car companies. It also touts 20% more choice than its competitors in terms of travel options returned.

Linux - and Java - have played an important role in Orbitz's success, Hjelms says. One of the primary benefits is the lower staffing requirements and lower cost that Linux systems provide: Orbitz has 23 million unique users and manages their day-to-day operation with a staff of only 6 systems administrators.

"We got a late start in this market and have to be very efficient as we work to deliver more with less, all while keeping the store open 24x7," says Hjelm. "From interaction with third party systems to things we engineer ourselves to the infrastructure we build, everything at Orbitz is done with high availability and high reliability in mind."

When Orbitz launched, the company built a scalable, 3-tier architecture. Both the search engine and Web site ran on Red Hat Linux and Apache. The database and application server tier ran on Sun Solaris. However, after evaluating the cost of operations, it became clear that migrating the application server tier, running BEA WebLogic, would run as fast on Linux as it would on Solaris, and at a significant cost saving. Orbitz has since moved much of its operations to Red Hat Linux.

Following Hjelm's talk, Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik took the stage to deliver a talk entitled "Freedom of Choice." His talk started out by sympathizing with members of the audience whose jobs have been outsourced to places like India and China.

He then told the story of the fly-fishing industry in Montana. In the past, much of the fly fishing equipment was made locally. Recently, much of the production has shifted to Asia. The result is that the fly fishing industry in Montana saw enormous growth as the basic materials of the sport, flys, saw their prices drop dramatically allowing more people to get involved in the sport. Szulik's point was the trend in outsourcing will ultimately lead to a larger market, since more people worldwide will be able to participate in the Linux community.

Szulik closed his talk by recounting LinuxWorld conferences of the past. Ten years ago, much of the talk was about low-level issues like drivers and systems level code. Five years ago, the discussion turned on issues like multi-processor support and kernel stability. Last years discussions at the LinuxWorld show were all about what Szulik referred to as the software industry's equivalent of "The Sopranos" - a thinly veiled reference to SCO Group and their litigious CEO Darl McBride.

This year, Szulik sounded a hopeful note for the future, playing off of the SCO litigation. He close with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: "First they ignore you, then laugh at you, then they fight you," he quoted, implying the Linux litigation is proof of its ascendance. What he left out of the quote was the last clause of the quote, but there is no doubt where Szulik thinks he and Red Hat will end up.

"Then you win."

More Stories By Bill Roth

Bill Roth is a Silicon Valley veteran with over 20 years in the industry. He has played numerous product marketing, product management and engineering roles at companies like BEA, Sun, Morgan Stanley, and EBay Enterprise. He was recently named one of the World's 30 Most Influential Cloud Bloggers.

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