Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) 7 SCALE, the Southern California Linux Expo, kicks off today in Los Angeles. More than a Linux geek fest, there are signs that SCALE is starting to attract solutions providers that work with Red Hat, Novell, Canonical and other open source partner programs. Here's a look at five key trends solutions providers should be watching at SCALE.

1. Saving Money By Using Linux to Deploy Windows: Now here's an interesting twist... Instead of throwing Windows under the bus, SCALE attendees are discussing how to make Windows (yes, Windows) more cost-effective within classrooms and schools. How? Through a mix of open and closed source solutions. Brian Cluff, technical director for a K-12 school district in Arizona, will walk attendees through the specifics.

2. Open Source Accounting: Erick Tyack, CTO of DisklessWorkstations, will lead attendees through a demonstration of  open source double-entry accounting systems, with a particular emphasis on LedgerSMB.  Yes, open source is even trying to disrupt the accounting software market. CPAs and accounting VARs, take note.

3. Linux in the Cloud: The VAR Guy has heard from quite a few solutions providers that are deploying open source applications in Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud. Key examples include OpenBI (a Chicago-based integrator) and Levementum (a Chandler, Arizona-based solutions provider).

But what if you're just getting started with open source and/or cloud computing? At SCALE, Eric Hammond will try to fill in the blanks with an Amazon EC2 beginners workshop. Hammond is an expert on deploying Ubuntu, MySQL, Perl, Apache, and numerous other open source technologies in Amazon's cloud.

4. The Latest on Moblin: Frankly, The VAR Guy sometimes feels overwhelmed by all of the mobile Linux options hitting the market. From Ubuntu Netbook Remix Edition to Google Chrome OS to Google Android, the choices go on and on. So, where does the actual Moblin (Mobile Linux) offering fit in the picture? And are there really opportunities here for solutions providers? Intel's Peter Kronowitt tries to provide some answers.

5. Building a Business on Open Source: It's the age-old question. Can solutions providers really build a business on open source? Pointing back to the OpenBI and Levementum examples, The VAR Guy can confirm that solutions providers can build profitable open source companies.

But how can VARs and solutions providers get real-world perspectives on open source profitability? The answer may surface Feb. 21 during Tarus Balog's SCALE keynote.

Reality Check

The topics above show that open source continues to make progress across a range of vertical markets -- and within the IT channel.

Still, The VAR Guy realizes most customers want a mix of open source and closed source solutions. Plus, many open source partner programs aren't quite ready for prime time. Our resident blogger will offer another reality check when the second-annual Open Source 50 report debuts in Q2 2010.

In the meantime, open source channel opportunities are popping up for a range of channel partners. And many of those opportunities will be covered -- in depth -- at SCALE.