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The top 13 Linux and open source conferences in 2019

No matter how small your budget, there's a Linux or open source conference you can afford—and should attend.

By the end of 2018, I'll have spent nine weeks at one open source conference or another. Now, you don't need to spend that much time on the road learning about Linux and open source software. But you can learn a lot and perhaps find a new job by cherry-picking from the many 2019 conferences you could attend.

Sometimes, a single how-to presentation can save you a week of work. A panel discussion can help you formulate an element of your corporate open source strategy. Sure, you can learn from books or GitHub how-tos. But nothing is better than listening to the people who've done the work explain how they've solved the same problems you're facing. With the way open source projects work, and the frequency with which they weave together to create great projects (such as cloud-native computing), you never know when a technology you may not have even heard of today can help you tomorrow.

So, I don't know about you, but I'm already mapping which conferences I'm going to in 2019.

How do you choose? Some cover a wide range of open source topics; others may be specific to your technology stack. On the other hand, even if the conference is about a tool you don’t use, look over the agenda—one-day pass to attend a single session may be justified. And often, it's not one you'd have thought to attend.

Don’t ignore the many smaller, locally driven conferences. They generally are less about newsy announcements than they are instructive and community-centric. They also are much cheaper than their bigger relatives. However, even those expensive conferences, where admission fees start at $1,000, may be more affordable than you assume. Most offer student and early-bird discounts. The prices listed below are largely from the 2018 conferences, as few have released detailed agendas for the upcoming events.

Here, in chronological order, are the best open source conferences to help your career, skills, and business in 2019. To make it easier to prioritize, I put a gold star next to the conferences I believe everyone who works in open source should consider attending. I'll be at all of them.

Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE)



Dates: March 7-10, 2019

Location: Pasadena, CA

Cost: $20–$75

Discounts: Early bird

SCALE is the largest community-run open source and free software conference in North America. It features classes and seminars for everyone from beginners to experts.

For example, on the more complex side, there were presentations at the 2018 conference on microservice architectures and how to make a snap of your Debian/Ubuntu applications. At the same time, people who were relatively new to Linux could go to sessions on container and virtual machine basics and how to secure Ubuntu. SCALE also features sessions on less common but vital topics. For instance, last year, well-known open source attorney Karen Sandler led a panel on employment contracts for open source programmers.

Linux Foundation Open Source Leadership Summit

Twitter: @EventsLF

Web: source-leadership-summit-2019/register/

Dates: March 12-14, 2019

Location: Half Moon Bay, CA

Cost: Free for qualified attendees

The Linux Foundation’s Open Source Leadership Summit is an invite-only conference. It's also my favorite to attend.

This is not a show for coders or sysadmins. It's for the crème de la crème of open source community managers as well as project and company leaders—or the thousands of people who would like to be. Expect high-level panel discussions and presentations on such subjects as how to vet an open source project's viability; best practices in open source contributions; and how to deal with patents, licensing, and other open source intellectual property issues.

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

You should go if you're a senior leader with strong open source skills. Fair warning: It's not open to everyone. However, if you've got the chops and want to advance your open source strategy, implementation, and investment, ask for an invitation.


Twitter: @SUSE


Dates: April 1-5, 2019

Location: Nashville, TN

Cost: $895–$1,195

Discounts: Early bird

SUSECon is a must for anyone who builds their IT stack around SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES). Like Red Hat, SUSE is building its own cloud stack around OpenStack, so if OpenStack interests you, that's another reason to go.

You can count on hearing about SUSE's latest releases. You'll also find sessions on how to make the most of SUSE features and programs such as the Ceph-based SUSE Storage 5.5, managing servers with the old faithful YaST, and how to manage high availability on SLES.

Open Networking Summit

Twitter: @EventsLF


Dates: April 2-5, 2019

Location: San Jose, CA

Cost: $1,395

Discounts: Early bird, students, and academics

Does your job depend on knowing 21st century networking technologies such as software-defined networks (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), and related technologies? If so, this is the show for you.

With so many SDN/NFV projects—such as OpenDaylight, Open Network Operating System, Open Platform for Network Functions Virtualization, and Tungsten Fabric—it's hard to keep track of them all. In 2018, the LF Networking Fund was created to bring rhyme and reason. How well has that gone? Show up and find out.

If you want to get on top of SDN/NFV, going to Open Networking Summit North America is a must. Besides panels and talks on the various SDN variants, expect training on NFV and the grandfather of SDN and NFV technologies, OpenFlow.

Cloud Foundry Summit

Twitter: @cloudfoundry


Dates: April 2-4, 2019

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Cost: $545

Discounts: Early bird

As your IT shop migrates from servers to containers, data centers to cloud, and old-style programs to cloud-native, understanding platform as a service (PaaS) is a must. 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. Get Containers for Dummies.

If your company is building its infrastructure using these tools, the Cloud Foundry Summit is a great conference for you. It gives you access to movers and shakers working on the project and goes deep into how Cloud Foundry works. At next year’s conference, look for in-depth coverage of containers, the IoT, machine learning, Node.js, and serverless computing.

LinuxFest Northwest

Twitter: @lfnw


Dates: April 28-29, 2019

Location: Bellingham, WA

Cost: Free

LinuxFest Northwest, the oldest community-run open source conference, turns 20 in 2019. Like SCALE, it has something for everyone. Last year’s conference, for instance, included sessions like “Introduction to Git (even for non-developers),” “Lessons learned from civic hacking,” and “Incompossibilities: Limitations and trade-offs in technology design.”

This conference is also free as in beer. That's right. You can walk in and see everything the show has to offer.

OpenStack Summit

Twitter: @OpenStack


Dates: April 29 – May 2

Location: Denver, CO

Cost: $1,199

Discounts: Early bird

I'm a big believer in OpenStack as the do-everything, kitchen-sink open source infrastructure-as-a-service cloud. But that also means OpenStack is very complex. As a result, the summit covers not just what's hot, but how to make the most of the many components that make up OpenStack.

Here's a sampling of what OpenStack had to offer at the last conference: “What we learned building a Zuul CI/CD cloud;” “Kubernetes Administration 101: From zero to (junior) hero,” and “OK, Google, create me a VM, please.” You get the idea—highly technical presentations with a dash of humor.

Red Hat Summit

Twitter: @RedHatSummit


Dates: May 7-9, 2019

Location: Boston, MA

Cost: $1,600

Discounts: Early bird, military, nonprofit, student, Red Hat customer, and previous attendees

Does your company use RHEL? How about Fedora or CentOS? If you answered yes to any of those—and most enterprise IT departments do—then Red Hat Summit is a must. 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.

At this go-around, you can look forward to sessions on best practices, tools, and frameworks for developers on containers and Kubernetes; using Ansible DevOps in your enterprise; and tuning Red Hat Gluster storage. In short, this is a show for programmers, system administrators, and the people who bridge the gap between them.

O’Reilly’s Open Source Convention (OSCON)

Twitter: @oscon


Dates: July 15-18, 2019

Location: Portland, OR

Cost: Early pricing: $2,695 for Gold pass, $2,095 for Silver, and $1,545 for Bronze. Expect those costs to rise as the conference approaches.

Discounts: Early bird, academic, user group, and government

With OSCON back in Portland, I'm looking forward to this conference, where the real focus is on open source as a catalyst for change in business and society. So, while OSCON does explore and explain the hot languages, tools, and development practices, it also places open source in a societal context.

Still, with such a big conference, you can find plenty of sessions from subject-matter experts about the ins and outs of code on today's hottest open source technologies. Expect to find cutting-edge topics such as blockchain beyond Bitcoin; emerging languages such as Kotlin, Go, and Elm; and big data's Spark, Mesos, Akka, Cassandra, and Kafka (SMACK) stack.

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, OSCON gives you the best overview possible.

Open Source Summit North America

Twitter: @EventsLF

Web: source-summit-north-america-2019/

Dates: August 21-23, 2019

Location: San Diego, CA

Cost: $950

Discounts: Early bird, academic, and hobbyist

The Linux Foundation's Open Source Summit is the open source show of shows. Besides big-name keynote presentations, it includes a host of other business and technology tracks. This conference has many high-level talks, panels, and birds-of-a-feather sessions.

Beyond Linux, containers, and cloud basics, the technical material covers networking, serverless, edge computing, and AI. The more focused sub-shows include training classes and hands-on workshops for such technologies as Docker and rkt containers, and Kubernetes and Prometheus container monitoring. If it's open source, it's here.

In the sessions themselves, you'll find out about what's happening in Linux development circles by listening to a panel with top Linux kernel developers, and you can discover how Linux is being used from experienced practitioners or the programmers who wrote the code. Whether you're brand new to this open source stuff or you attended grad school with Linus Torvalds, you'll find something useful.


Twitter: @ApacheCon


Dates: September 10-12, 2019 (tentative)

Location: Las Vegas (tentative)

Cost: $800

Does your company depend on Apache software? If it does—and it probably does—you need to attend ApacheCon. This is a small show, perhaps 500 attendees, but it's the place to be if you depend heavily on Tomcat, CloudStack, Struits, or pretty much any big data open source software.

To get a taste of what to expect, last year's conference in Montreal featured sessions on what to expect from upcoming versions of Apache Tomcat; the state of HTTP/2 protocol and TLS/SSL art on Apache web servers; and how to deploy CloudStack in a major enterprise migration. This is a very hands-on, practical conference for people using Apache software.

Open Source Summit Europe



Date: October 28-30, 2019

Location: Lyon, France

Cost: US$950

Discounts: Early bird, academic, hobbyist

Can't make it to Open Source Summit in San Diego? Well, you get another shot at it in Lyon, France. I know, that's such a hardship.

Like its North American cousin, this conference features a wide range of panels and speakers on all matter of open source subjects. Last year in Edinburgh, for example, there were panels on a log message's journey on its way across a distributed data streaming pipeline; building a fault-tolerant custom resources controller on Kubernetes; and best practices for using GitHub on corporate open source software.

KubeCon and CloudNativeCon



Dates: November 18-21, 2019

Location: San Diego, CA

Cost: $150–$1,250

Discounts: Early bird, academic, and non-corporate

Kubernetes has become a significant cloud container orchestration program. Since Amazon Web Services adopted Kubernetes, all major clouds now support it. If you're working with containers on the cloud, you must know Kubernetes. It's that simple.

Cloud-native computing techniques are becoming increasingly popular. Like containers and Kubernetes, cloud-native programming skills are growing increasing valuable in today's cloud-based IT world.

As you might guess from a show spinning around such a hot topic, the sessions tend to be highly focused on what's happening today and how to use the latest tools. You can expect to find sessions on how to get to production-ready Kubernetes, what should go into a container build manifest, and scaling AI workloads with GPUs and Kubernetes. Don’t expect introductory material; this is not a show for someone who's new to cloud-native or Kubernetes.

Packing your bags

The most obvious reason to attend one of these events is to get technical knowledge. 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 keynote speech streaming are all well and good, but nothing's quite as rewarding as meeting people of like minds in real life.

However, attending conferences is an investment in your own career: Even introverts can get something out of the personal networking experience, which helps when you want to find your next job. At all those conferences I went to this year—at every single one—90 percent of the companies showing off were actively looking for new employees. If you have the skills, there's a great job out there with your name on it. All you need to do is attend the conferences and ask around.

Now, some of you might think that some of these conferences cost too much, but think again. You'll learn a lot from both the formal sessions and the "hallway track." You may also meet people who share your interests and may be able to help you in your career. We can do almost anything over the net, but making friends is still something that's best done in real life.

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