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The top Linux and open source conferences to attend in 2020

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

I go to a lot of open source conferences. By the end of 2019, I'll have been to 11 open source conferences. Now, you probably 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 2020 conferences to attend.

Sometimes, a single how-to presentation can save you a week of work or a panel discussion can help you formulate your corporate open source strategy. Yes, you can learn from books or GitHub how-to's. But sometimes, nothing's better than hearing and seeing the people who've done the work in real life.

The hallway track is also invaluable. These are the informal conversations that spring up when you're going from one presentation to the other. Open source people, by the very nature of their work, are often willing to talk to others about what they do. Maybe at other conferences, the important people are kept away from the hoi polloi. But at open source meetings, I've seen Linux creator Linus Torvalds and Red Hat CEO James M. Whitehurst talking with ordinary Jacks and Janes.

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Besides, attending conferences is an investment in your career: Even introverts can get something out of the personal networking experience, which helps when you want to find your next job. Sure, webinars and online keynote speech streaming are all well and good, but nothing is as rewarding as meeting people of like minds in real life.

At all the conferences I went to this year—every single one—90 percent of the companies showing 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 do is attend relevant conferences and let the companies know you have the skills they need.

The big conferences aren't cheap: Admission fees can be as much as $2,000. But most of them offer student and early-bird discounts, and the smaller shows tend to be much more affordable. Note that the prices listed on the conferences below are largely for the 2019 conferences, since most 2020 prices aren't yet available.

Of course, I cover Linux and open source software for a living, so I look at a wide range of open source conferences. I'm already planning out my 2020 schedule. Obviously, some of these shows won't work for you. For example, if your IT department relies on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, you don't want to spend a fortune on a SUSE Linux Enterprise Server conference.

Many shows aren't that tightly focused, though. With the way open source projects work and 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. Because there is no universal “best” conference for everyone, the listings in this guide are ordered by date rather than a rating.

Here, in chronological order, are the best open source conferences to help your career, skills, and business in 2020. Not all the conferences have announced their plans yet. For instance, two big shows I plan on going to, Cloud Foundry Summit and Open Infrastructure Summit (formerly OpenStack Summit), have yet to set their dates. If you work with either field, keep some room open for them. You'll be glad you did.

Two other important but smaller shows, All Things Open and ApacheCon, haven't set their 2020 dates yet either. All Things Open most likely will be in either North Carolina or South Carolina. It's one of the most enjoyable open source gatherings, and if you're in the area, I recommend you go. ApacheCon is a must for anyone who works deeply with Apache-based software programs.

Essential conferences

These are the conferences everyone who works in open source should consider attending. I'll be at most of them.

FOSDEM

Twitter: @fosdem

Website: https://fosdem.org/2020/

Dates and location: Feb. 1-2, 2020, Brussels

Cost: Free

FOSDEM is a free event for open source software developers to meet, share ideas, and collaborate. With thousands of attendees, most of them programmers, this is the show for anyone who lives and breathes open source programming.

Linux Foundation Member Summit (formerly Open Source Leadership Summit)

Twitter: @EventsLF

Website: https://events.linuxfoundation.org

Dates and location: March 10-12, 2020, Squaw Creek, California

Cost: None for qualified attendees

The Linux Foundation’s Member Summit is an invite-only conference. It's also my favorite. With fewer than a thousand attendees, you get to talk with the best of the best in open source circles.

That said, this is not a show for coders or sysadmins. It's for the crème de la crème of open source community managers and project and company leaders—or people who would like to be. At this conference, you can 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 contribution practices; and how to deal with patents, licensing, and other open source intellectual property issues.

You should go if you're a senior leader with strong open source skills. But 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.

Open Networking & Edge Summit

Twitter: @EventsLF

Website: https://events.linuxfoundation.org

Dates and location: April 20-21, 2020, Los Angeles

Cost: TBD; standard 2019 price was $1,400, with an early-bird discount and lower rates for students and academics

Does your job depend on knowing 21st century networking—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 NFV, 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.

Starting this year, the conference also covers edge computing. Why? Because, according to Arpit Joshipura, the Linux Foundation's general manager of networking, "edge computing will overtake cloud computing" by 2025. Is this bold prediction right? Stop by and find out.

If you want to get on top of SDN/NFV and edge computing, going to Open Networking Edge 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.

Open Source Summit North America

Twitter: @EventsLF

Website: https://events19.linuxfoundation.org

Dates and location: June 22-24, 2020, Austin, Texas

Cost: TBD; standard 2019 price was $950, with early-bird, academic, and hobbyist rates

The Linux Foundation's Open Source Summit is the open source show of shows. Besides big-name meetings, it includes a host of business and technology tracks. If it's open source, it's here.

This conference has many 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, along with Kubernetes and Prometheus container monitoring.

In the LinuxCon sessions themselves, you'll find out what's happening in Linux development circles, with one panel featuring top Linux kernel developers and others focused on how Linux is being used.

Whether you're brand new to this open source stuff or attended grad school with Linus Torvalds, you'll find something useful.

O’Reilly’s Open Source Convention (OSCON)

Twitter: @oscon

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

Dates and location: July 13-16, 2020, Portland, Oregon

Cost: Early pricing is $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, and a regular training pass is $2,195.

Like most open source conferences, there's a lot about the ins and outs of code at OSCON, but the real focus is on open source as a catalyst for change in business and society. So, while OSCON explores and explains today's hot languages, tools, and practices, it also places open source in a societal context.

You'll 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 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, it still gives you the best overview of today's open source programs.

Focused conferences

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, look over the agenda anyway. Sometimes, a one-day pass to attend a single session is justified. And often, it's not one you'd have thought to attend.

SUSECon

Twitter: @SUSE

Website: www.susecon.com/

Dates and location: March 23-27, 2020, Dublin

Cost: $895, early bird; $1,195, regular price

SUSECon is a must for anyone who builds their IT stack around SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. 

Red Hat Summit

Twitter: @RedHatSummit

Website: www.redhat.com/en/summit

Dates and location: April 27-29, 2020, San Francisco

Cost: $1,600, with special rates for early birds, military, nonprofits, students, Red Hat customers, and previous attendees

Does your company use Red Hat Enterprise Linux? How about Fedora or CentOS? If you answered yes to any of those, 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, implementation of microservices architectures with Java EE, and OpenStack administration. There are also many hands-on labs and lectures by subject-matter experts.

KubeCon and CloudNativeCon

Twitter: @linuxfoundation

Website: https://events.linuxfoundation.org/events/kubecon-cloudnativecon-north-america-2020/

Dates and location: Nov. 18-21, 2019, San Diego (if you can make plans quickly); Nov. 17-20, 2020, Boston

Cost: 2019 prices are Academic $150, Individual $700, and Corporate $1,450 (on-site prices are higher); 2020 prices TBD

Kubernetes has become the cloud container orchestration program. Since Amazon Web Services has 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 increasingly valuable in today's cloud-based IT world.

How important is this show? It will probably draw more than 10,000 attendees.

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 about learning how to make the most of Linux and open source software. They also are much cheaper than their bigger relatives.

Of these, two of my favorites are the following:

Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE)

Twitter: @socallinuxexpo

Website: www.socallinuxexpo.org/scale/18x

Dates and location: March 5-8, 2020, Pasadena, California

Cost: $75, early-bird rate

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.

LinuxFest Northwest

Twitter: @lfnw

Website: www.linuxfestnorthwest.org/conferences/2020

Dates and location: April 24-26, 2020, Bellingham, Washington

Cost: Free

LinuxFest Northwest is the oldest community-run open source conference. Like SCALE, it has something for everyone.

Big or small, local or international, if you're serious about IT work, you need to attend one or more of these shows. It can only be to your benefit if you go. If you have your own favorites that you think we should share, let us know at @enterprisenxt.

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