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14 Linux and open source conferences worth attending in 2018

Whether your budget permits you to attend large, global events or just small local shows, there's a Linux and open source conference to suit everyone.

As I write this at the end of 2017, my thoughts turn to holiday celebrations, friends and family, and setting up my 2018 Linux and open source trade show calendar. OK, so maybe everyone doesn't put that last item on their project planning list, but when you cover Linux and open source as deeply as I do, detailed scheduling is necessary.

Even if you don’t live and breathe open source, I highly recommend you attend at least one conference that fits your schedule and travel budget. The technical know-how you gain can make your life easier, and it’s helpful to know what’s on the horizon. Sometimes, a single how-to presentation can save you a week of work or a panel discussion can help you formulate your company’s IT strategy—and that justifies the cost.

Plus, in the sense of enlightened self-interest, attending conferences is an investment in your own career: You need to keep your tech skills honed. Even introverts can get something out of the personal networking experience, which helps when you want to find your next job. You can't beat the "hallway" track at a conference for learning what people really think about the latest and greatest programs. Webinars and online streaming of keynote speeches are all well and good, but nothing's quite as rewarding as meeting people of like minds in real life.

Obviously, some of the open source conferences listed below are must-attend if your IT department relies heavily on a given infrastructure stack but may be ho-hum if you don’t use that software. For instance, while Red Hat software users should naturally pay attention to its conference, the event might not have the same appeal if you use SUSE or Ubuntu. However, the open source community is so interrelated these days, building on its culture of openness to co-create things like cloud-native computing, it may make sense to be aware of these shows and perhaps attend if it’s geographically convenient.

Fortunately, even if your budget is slim, just a single open source conference can help you learn what you need to know about Linux and open source software. Here, in chronological order, are a baker’s dozen open source conferences to help your career and your business in 2018.

Must-attend open source conferences

Some events simply percolate to the top. If the boss says, "There's time and budget for only one," choose from one of these conferences.

Linux Foundation Open Source Leadership Summit

Dates: March 6-8, 2018

Location: Sonoma Valley, California

URL: https://events.linuxfoundation.org/events/open source-leadership-summit-2018/

Cost: Free to invited attendees

Twitter: @linuxfoundation

The Linux Foundation’s Open Source Leadership Summit, an invite-only conference, is one of my favorites. This is not an event for coders or sysadmins. It's for community managers and project and company leaders who are active in open source development circles—or would like to be. Expect panel discussions and presentations on such subjects as how to vet the viability of an open source project; best practices in open source contribution practices; and how to deal with patents, licensing, and other open source intellectual property issues.

The summit is ideal for senior staff with strong open source skills. But you can’t just fill in a web form and show up; the event is invite-only. However, if you want to advance your open source strategy, implementation, and investment, ask for an invitation.

Open Networking Summit

Dates: March 26-29, 2018

Location: Los Angeles, California

URLhttps://events.linuxfoundation.org/events/open-networking-summit-north-america-2018/

Cost: $1,395, with an early-bird discount and lower rates for students and academics.

Twitter: @EventsLF

Networking is not what it used to be. Today, for corporate networking, it's all about software-defined networks (SDN) and related technologies. With SDN, a sysadmin can change the company’s cloud deployments, data centers, and containers as needed.

That’s a good goal, but implementation isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are many SDN projects, such as OpenDaylight, Open Network Operating System, Open Platform for Network Functions Virtualization, and OpenContrail. Frankly, they're hard to keep track of—and I cover them for a living.

If you want to get on top of SDN, Open Networking Summit North America is a smart move. Perhaps it’ll help us all figure out how to make the most of these technologies. Besides panels and talks on the various SDN variants, expect training on network functions virtualization and the grandfather of SDN and NFV technologies, OpenFlow.

O’Reilly’s Open Source Convention (OSCON)

Dates: July 16-19, 2918

Location: Portland, Oregon

URL: https://conferences.oreilly.com/oscon/oscon-or

Cost: Early pricing (through June 8): $2,695 for Gold pass, $2,095 for Silver, and $1,545 for Bronze. Early-bird pricing for a Platinum training pass is $3,695; a regular training pass is $2,195. Check website for pricing after June 8.

Twitter: @oscon

OSCON is coming back home to Portland. I'm really looking forward to this conference, which, as always, focuses on open source as a catalyst for change in business and society. OSCON explores and explains the languages, tools, and practices you need to know about to stay innovative and productive, and it does so with depth and breadth.

You learn from subject matter experts about today's hottest open source technologies. Here, you will find cutting-edge topics such as blockchain beyond Bitcoin; emerging languages such as Kotlin, Go, and Elm; and the Spark, Mesos, Akka, Cassandra, and Kafka (SMACK) stack for large-scale data processing.

OSCON managers like to say this conference is for everyone from developers to CxOs to hackers and geeks. They're right. While not as focused as many programming-specific conferences, you can't beat this one for providing the best possible overview of today's open source programs.

Open Source Summit North America

Dates: August 29-31, 2018

Location: Vancouver, British Columbia

URL: https://events.linuxfoundation.org/events/open source-summit-north-america-2018/

Cost: $950, with early-bird, academic, and hobbyist rates

Twitter: @EventsLF

If you can attend only one major open source conference, make it the Open Source Summit. This event combines LinuxCon, ContainerCon, and CloudOpen. Besides these big-name meetings, it also includes the Community Leadership Conference, the Diversity Empowerment Summit, and a business and compliance track. Besides Linux, containers, and cloud basics, it has networking, serverless, edge computing, and AI coverage. As a result, the summit lets you catch up on all open source trends. You name it, someone will be talking about it this summer in Vancouver.

This conference has plenty of high-level talks, panels, and birds-of-a-feather sessions. The more focused sub-shows include classes and hands-on workshops with such technologies as Docker and rkt containers, and Kubernetes and Prometheus container monitoring.

In the LinuxCon sessions themselves, you'll find out about what's happening in Linux development circles, a panel with top Linux kernel developers, and the relationship of Linux with other open source panels. For example, last year’s topics included “open source software as activism,” “Signing Linux executables for fun and security,” and “How Kubernetes and containers are redefining Linux.”

This show is for everyone in open source circles. Whether you're wet behind the ears or a Linux gray beard, you'll find something useful to bring back to your IT shop. You've got all this and, chances are, Linus Torvalds speaking as well. What's not to like?

Worthy mentions

In several cases, a conference is of interest if you're currently using a technology but not all that helpful if it's not part of your technology stack. On the other hand, if these are nearby, do look over the agenda. Sometimes, a one-day pass to attend a single session is justified. And often, it's not one you'd have thought to attend.

Embedded Linux Conference and OpenIoT Summit

Dates: March 12-14, 2018

Location: Portland, Oregon

URL: https://events.linuxfoundation.org/events/elc-openiot-north-america-2018/

Cost: $850, with early-bird discounts and lower registration costs for academia and hobbyists 

Twitter: @EventsLF

Once upon a time, the only people who went to embedded OS conferences were hard-core programmers. Things have changed. These days, thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), I'm hard pressed to think of a business that isn't dealing with IoT as a manufacturer, business partner, or customer.

Linux dominates in both the embedded and IoT space. If your IoT plans intersect with open source in any way, the Linux Foundation’s Embedded Linux Conference and OpenIoT Summit is a must. The vendor-neutral conference is chock-full of useful, practical lectures and seminars. Among last year’s presentations were “Building Multi-protocol IoT Nodes with Thread, BLE and ZigBee;” “Securing the Connected Car;” and “Best Practices in Optimizing C for Microcontrollers.” If IoT is a significant part of your 2018 IT strategy, you’ll want to attend other conferences too. But this one appeals to those who build their IoT solutions using embedded Linux and open source technologies.

Cloud Foundry Summit

Dates: April 18-20, 2018

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

URL: https://www.cloudfoundry.org/event/nasummit2018/

Cost: Fees have yet to be set for this event, but last year, the standard entry fee was $545 (with early-bird pricing and academic discounts).

Twitter: @cloudfoundry

As your IT shop migrates from servers to containers, data centers to cloud, and old-style programs to cloud native, you really need to understand platform as a service (PaaS). Cloud Foundry is an open source PaaS cloud platform that bridges the gap between legacy software and cloud-native programs.

Unsure how to get started with containers? Yes, we have a guide for that.

If your company is building its infrastructure using these tools, the Cloud Foundry Summit is a great conference. It gives you access to movers and shakers working on the project and goes into plenty of details. Last fall’s conference included presentations like “To Kill a Monolith: Slaying the Demons of a Monolith with Node.js Microservices on CloudFoundry,” “Managing the Complexity of Microservices Deployments,” and “Burning Down the House: How to Plan for and Deal with Disaster Recovery in Cloud Foundry.” At this year’s conference, look for more coverage of containers, the IoT, machine learning, Node.js, and serverless computing.

KubeCon and CloudNativeCon

Dates: May 2-4, 2018 (Copenhagen, Denmark), December 11-13, 2018 (Seattle, Washington)

URL: https://events.linuxfoundation.org/events/kubecon-cloudnativecon-europe-2018/ 

Cost: $950 for corporate attendees and $450 for individuals, with early-bird and academic rates

Twitter: @kubeconio

Kubernetes has become a primary cloud container orchestration program. Since Amazon Web Services has adopted Kubernetes, all major clouds now support it. So, it behooves you to pick up some knowledge about it too.

This conference usually has a lot of hands-on training for beginner and midlevel system administrators. The seminars have plenty of information for new users of Kubernetes and related technologies such as containers. As a sample of the kind of discussions to expect: “Using Jenkins and Kubernetes for continuous integration,” “Hands-on with Kubernetes on AWS,” and “Deploying to Kubernetes thousands of times a day.”

Red Hat Summit

Dates: May 8-10, 2018

Location: San Francisco, California

URL: https://www.redhat.com/en/summit/2018

Cost: $1,600, with early-bird, military, nonprofit, student, Red Hat customer, and previous attendee rates

Twitter: @RedHatSummit

Do you use Red Hat Enterprise Linux? How about Fedora or CentOS? If you answered yes to any of those, the annual "all things Red Hat" conference is easy to recommend. Besides getting the latest news about Red Hat products and services, the conference is a convenient way to get Red Hat training for its many certifications, such as performance tuning, implementing microservices architectures with Java EE, and OpenStack administration. There are also many hands-on labs and lectures by subject matter experts.

OpenStack Summit

Dates: May 21-24, 2018

Location: Vancouver, British Columbia

URL: https://www.openstack.org/summit/

Cost: Week-long full-access pass is $1,199; a full-access pass plus online COA exam is $1,449. Day passes and OpenInfra Mixer passes are also available.

Twitter: @OpenStack

I'm a big believer in OpenStack as the go-to open source infrastructure-as-a-service cloud. But this conference may be of interest for a wider development and IT infrastructure audience, because OpenStack is also moving into other cloud-related areas. The first of these, Kata Containers, seeks to natively secure containers.

Among the presentations, case studies, and workshop topics are cloud strategies, edge computing, continuous integration and delivery, and machine learning. In other words, if you are doing DevOps in any way, it’s worth investigating this event.

For example, the fall 2017 conference included a case study about “composing open source technologies at Commonwealth Bank” and sessions on “Virtual Networking in OpenStack” and “Climate Change, Brain and Imaging Research on OpenStack.”

The local alternatives

There are also many smaller Linux and open source conferences. Well, I say smaller, but many have thousands of attendees. These tend to be less about the latest software developments and newsy announcements than they are about learning how to make the most of Linux and open source software. They also are much cheaper than their bigger relatives.

Of these, I especially recommend:

Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE), March 8-11, Pasadena, California

SCALE is the largest community-run open source and free software conference in North America. It features classes and seminars for beginners (how to install Linux on your laptop) as well as experts (how to create smart badges, such as the Mr. Robot badge and the Darknet badge seen at the hackers' Defcon).

LinuxFest Northwest, April 28-29, Bellingham, Washington

LinuxFest Northwest has been around for 19 years, making it the oldest community-run open source conference. Like SCALE, it has something for everyone. This year, expect to see panels and presentations around its theme of "Message in a Bottle: Security, Containerization, and Personal Data."

Southeast LinuxFest: June 8-10, Charlotte, North Carolina

While newer than its West Coast relative, Southeast LinuxFest also covers a wide variety of subjects of interest to both business and amateur Linux and open source users. It's part educational conference and part social gathering. Because it’s a short drive for me, I make a point of attending. Which in a way is the point: These local shows are nearby and may not strain your travel budget.

All Things Open, October 21-23, Raleigh, North Carolina

All Things Open is more business focused than the other regional shows. That's not too surprising because, unlike the others, it has a close relationship with a corporate partner, Red Hat. So, while All Things Open also has panels and discussions, you'll find more business software and services covered than at its sister shows.

Honorable mention: The date, location, and pricing for ApacheCon hasn’t been announced yet, but if you're a serious user of any Apache software, it is worth attending this conference. Your company probably depends on software in the Apache stack (and woe betide any organization that doesn't pay attention to its Apache software).

I’ve attended ApacheCon often, and have always found it valuable because so much of today's enterprise IT relies on Apache software. For example, besides the eponymous web server, much of big data relies on such Apache programs as Hadoop, Spark, and BigTop. Many Java-based web apps rely on such Apache stalwarts as Tomcat, JMeter, and Struts.

Enjoy, learn, and look for me. I'll be around! And if there is an open source conference that I should have included on this list, tweet it to me at @sjvn and @enterprise.nxt.

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This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.