Reported by Dan York
If you had a stuffed penguin here, you could name your price!
Welcome to CeBIT 1999, where the penguin rules! The big story from this huge trade show is Linux - who is supporting it, who is going to be supporting it, who is using it, and who isn't. It has been a very successful show for Linux! This report contains the following sections:
What is CeBIT? The brief description is that it is most probably the world's largest trade show focusing on information technology and telecommunication technologies that takes place for a week each year in Hannover, Germany. Later in this report, I describe in more detail the true size of this show.
Why am I here? As I speak fairly decent German, my employer, Linuxcare, sent me to CeBIT to speak with potential clients about Linux support options and also to continue my advocacy on behalf of the Linux Professional Institute, a community-based effort to develop Linux certification for individuals.
I also volunteered to help out Jon "maddog" Hall in the Linux International booth (Linuxcare is an LI member), which has been at the center of show attention for the many people seeking more information about Linux.
The rest of this document, and the pages that will follow, outline my perceptions of how Linux has appeared at this show.
It's hard to easily describe the massive size of this tradeshow. Numbers tell part of the story:
But even as large as they are, I don't think they give the whole story. As another measure, consider that walking outside at a brisk pace, it can easily take you 30-40 minutes to walk from one end of the show to the other. Forget about trying to do the same walk inside - there are just far too many people. Or consider that with 28 exhibit halls, you would need to visit 4 each day in order to see the entire show! (The good news is that the halls are broken out into categories such as information technology, network computing, telecommunications, software, bank technology, etc., so you can focus on just the halls that interest you.)
Or another perspective - those of you who attended the LinuxWorld show at the beginning of March in San Jose visited the exhibit hall and saw the 100 or so vendors there. Now realize that just one of software giant SAP's booths is probably close to the size of the entire LinuxWorld trade show floor! And they are just one of the vendors with massive booths: IBM, Compaq, HP, Microsoft, Siemans-Nixdorf, Oracle and many more all have large presences.
I have also not been to a tradeshow with so many two-story booths where the second story was actually used. Here the second floor serves as a conference area, demo stations - or in some cases full-service restaurants. It was quite interesting to see how creative many of the designs were. As an example, I've included a picture of one part of one of the halls.
The whole place is a pretty amazing spot to have a conference. The complete list of facilities and services could really encompass an entire article in an of itself. More information can be found on the web at http://www.messe.de/
As far as exhibiting goes, if you want direct floor space for your own booth, there is apparently a 3-year waiting list to get into the show! However, there are many companies and countries that have taken over large parts of the show floor and then rent out 10'x10' booths to smaller companies.
Linux received several awards during the course of the show.
An award in this category wasn't given, but Linux could also easily have received the award for the most media attention
By far the largest Linux announcement at the show was SAP's announcement that it's R/3 software would now run on Linux. This fact was broadcast as a case in point that Linux is "ready for the enterprise" and generated a tremendous amount of media attention. SAP also had demo stations for SAP on Linux running in the booths of partners scattered all over the show, so it was hard to miss the fact that they were now on Linux.
There were other announcements such as IBM's support for Linux globally as well as it's agreements with four distributors: Red Hat, Caldera, Pacific HiTech and SuSE. IBM also promoted the availability of it's DB2 for Linux.
What was more impressive, though, was simply the large presence of Linux at so many booths. Everywhere you wandered around the trade show floor, stuffed penguins would show up here and there indicating the presence of yet another product that ran with Linux. Compaq showed off some of their 4-way and 8-way servers running Linux. Oracle, Informix, IBM, HP, Siemans, Sybase, Software AG and Sun all proclaimed their Linux support in their booths. Several other vendors of business applications (Acucorp, Parity) proudly announced their support for Linux. There were also hardware and smaller software vendors mentioning that their products, too, ran with Linux.
And then there was "Linux row"... Jon "maddog" Hall from LI had worked with show management to get an entire row within the USA Pavilion (a giant pavilion sponsored by the US Dept. of Commerce) to be dedicated just to Linux. maddog then worked on recruiting other companies to fill the space, and with the help of some of the other vendors, put together a strong presence for Linux. The Linux companies/organizations represented were:
LinuxLand, LunetIX and bee are all firms focusing on selling and supporting Linux within Europe. Additionally, there was also a booth by Miller-Freeman (publishers of High Performance Computing) and also a booth by a software company whose card I unfortunately lost.
The Linux row was completely packed with people from before the show officially opened until late after the show closed. It was quite amazing to walk around other parts of the show and see some places where booth staff were actually sitting down and reading the paper with no people at all around their booth or area. Some of the aisles received very little traffic. However, even buried inside the USA Pavilion, people found us - in large masses! The pace was nonstop!
At the LI booth, we were constantly bombarded with questions about Linux... a couple of the people helping out in the booth finally made a FAQ that addressed the major questions we got:
Beyond that, we were asked all sorts of questions... what exactly can Linux do? how do I port my product to it? where can I find support? do you know where to get _______ (fill in the blank) for Linux? what kind of applications run with it? I hear it's the big thing, why? It was definitely an exhausting experience to work the LI booth!
It was also quite amusing to answer questions from people from larger companies who came over wanting to negotiate with a "Linux, Inc." to set up a partnership or distribution agreement. They just couldn't understand this concept that there was no central entity... no single point-of-contact with whom they could deal. Many of them had a very hard time with the whole idea.
We also received a great deal of attention at the LI booth because we were raffling off a Compaq Alpha PC system. Beyond the excellent technical capabilities, it also had stunning artwork of Penguins on ice.
A special word of thanks is due to Stefan Traby, Marc Lehman and Lukas Grunwald for all their many hours of help at the LI booth. Their endless contributions (and German language knowledge!) definitely helped make the LI booth run smoothly. Stefan Traby works for Quant-X, the company who provided the PC that LI raffled off. Marc and Lukas are both students at German universities and are involved with leading an effort to optimize GCC for the Pentium processor.
I'll write more tomorrow about the rest of the show.
Dan York is employed by Linuxcare to assist in developing support and education programs for Linux and to pursue his involvement in the leadership team of the Linux Professional Institute, a community-based initiative to develop a certification program for individual expertise in Linux.