computerworld OSBCWhen the Open Source Business Conference starts March 17 in San Francisco, The VAR Guy will be watching and listening closely for signs of corporate open source momentum from upstarts like Canonical and giants like Microsoft, Oracle and even SAP. Yes, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP. Here are five trends to anticipate at the OSBC conference.

1. Where are the Channel Partners?: The agenda for OSBC sure looks promising. But how come solutions providers, VARs and integrators aren't really mentioned on the agenda? Surely, channel partners should use the OSBC conference to connect with potential corporate IT customers. Also, initiatives like the Open Source Channel Alliance and Tech Data's Open Tech could have earned some headlines and partner momentum at the OSBC...

2. Canonical's In the House: Traditional names like Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst are on the agenda. But source say Canonical -- promoter of Ubuntu Linux -- will also have a strong presence at the show. And for good reason: New Canonical Chief Operating Officer Matt Asay is founder of the OSBC. The event represents a prime opportunity for Canonical to make its pitch to businesses.

3. Will Novell Still Be Novell?: Carlos Montero-Luque, Novell's VP of business and product management for Open Platform Solutions, is on the agenda. But Novell's board of directors is considering an unsolicited takeover offer from Elliott Associates. And The VAR Guy thinks Novell will offer a status update on the potential deal before Novell BrainShare starts on March 21. It's doubtful Montero-Luque will be able to discuss Novell's ownership status in great length during the OSBC event. But Novell's future will certainly be on everyone's mind at the conference.

4. The Oracle and SAP Factors: Known mostly for their closed-source efforts, Oracle and SAP each will have a strong presence at the Open Source Business Conference. Some pundits think Oracle is the world's largest open source company. Meanwhile, the SAP Community Network continues to promote SAP's various open source efforts.

But just how serious are Oracle and SAP about open source?
  • The OSBC is one of the first conferences where Oracle can start to talk publicly about the recent Sun Microsystems (and MySQL) acquisition.
  • Also, SAP's Claus von Riegen will use the OSBC conference to discuss whether SAP is a friend or foe to open source.
5. The Microsoft Factor: Stuart McKee, national technology officer for the United States at Microsoft, will discuss how Microsoft continues to work with open source partners on Windows, SharePoint and Windows Azure initiatives.

No doubt, The VAR Guy has been impressed with the number of open source applications that are moving to Azure -- Microsoft's cloud-based Windows platform. But for many skeptics, Microsoft and open source remain conflicting terms.

The VAR Guy will be listening closely to see if McKee can continue to change perceptions of Microsoft within the open source industry.

Reality Check?

Ultimately, The VAR Guy thinks the OSBC conference will provide a healthy reality check for open source in corporate computing. Our resident blogger will be watching closely to see if corporate open source can continue to push beyond Linux to encompass virtualization, ERP, CRM and collaborative computing.

Alas, The VAR Guy just wishes channel partners had a higher profile on the agenda.