Open for Business

Jon Perr

Last week was a good one for economic visionaries in Oregon. As Brian Wagner reported in BlueOregon, the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof praised the WiFi network of Hermiston, Oregon as “the wave of the future.” And throughout last week, Oregon-based organizations had a high profile - and high impact presence - at the O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) in Portland.

As it should be.

The state of Oregon, home to Linux creator Linus Torvalds and the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), has made a commitment to open source-based businesses as one its key clusters for future economic growth. The city of Beaverton invested $1.2 million in the Open Technology Business Center to help incubate new open source software companies leveraging regional Linux powerhouses including Intel, IBM, as well as OSDL. At the Center’s January opening, Governor Kulongoski put it simply, “I truly believe this is the new technology wave.”

While the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department (OECDD) is working on a road map to drive business development around open technologies, several of the key players in Oregon were off to a good start at last week’s OSCON (probably the preeminent event in North America for Linux and open source developers.)

In the keynote and breakout sessions, OSDL and its members were well represented among the conference speakers. Over in the exhibits area, Oregon State University’s Open Source Lab (OSL) in Corvallis had a steady flow of visitors. OSL is working with many of the key open source projects driving development of the Linux operating system (Gentoo, Debian), web browsers (the Mozilla Foundation’s now omnipresent Firefox), the Apache web server, and many others. Thousands of users download these and other software packages from OSL servers every day. OSL’s growing prominence will be key to helping position OSU among Michigan, Indiana, Cornell, Duke, Carnegie Mellon and other leading universities driving both open source software development and innovative new consortium-based business models.

Away from the floor, Oregon’s open source agenda was advanced as well. The Open Technology Business Center had its own session at the event. Probably more important to the attendees of an open source developers conference, OSU, OSL and OTBC jointly hosted an evening reception well attended by both local industry leaders and the membership of the Portland Linux User Group.

Much remains to be done, of course, to bring about Oregon’s success as an open source mecca. Building on today’s strengths, Oregon must attract venture funds from across the country, develop and retain world class developers, and expand the region as a focal point for leading Linux vendors. Linux companies and developers alike need to see it as the place to be.

There is a long way to go. But for Oregon, last week was a good week.

(Full disclosure: I have done consulting projects for OSDL in the past.)

  • (Show?)

    The Drupal folks were in town over last week as well. They held a mini conference during the week, showing people what Drupal could do.

    They're recently begun working with Oregon State University’s Open Source Lab, thanks to thousands of dollars in donations from Drupal users.

    It'd be great to see more done to make Oregon the open source mecca you mentioned. We already have a lot of open source developers in the area.

    It'd be really nice to see a large open source conference held here that doesn't cost so much money to attend. A lot of the open source developers in the state are those who lost their jobs during the tech bust. As such, it's hard to afford more than a thousand dollars for a conference.

  • (Show?)

    Just another example of how Oregon can move its economy forward by embracing new and progressive markets, whether that is open source technology or sustainable agriculture.

  • Eric Berg (unverified)


    I'm surprised you didn't mention anything about a bill that was introduced in the 2003 legislative session. HB 28920 would have required state agencies to consider open source software when considering software, system, or network computer purchases. Under it agencies currently committed to proprietary software could continue to use it, but would have to consider open source software as a new option. Agencies would have to justify the purchase of proprietary software when open source software for the same purpose is available. In addition to promoting open source economic activity here, the state of Oregon would have saved some $8 a year in license fees.

    The American Electronics Association, Microsoft and other corporate interests successfully pressured Karen Minnis to kill it. Since Kulongoski said such glowing things about open source and it's potential in January, the same month that the most recent session commenced, doesn't it make sense that he woulds have pushed for similar legislation this year?

    (Full disclosure: 1. I know nothing about open source software or computer programming. Truth be told, I don't know if Linux is pronounced line-ucks or linn-ucks. Your post made me recall a past Steve Duin column and Minnis letter to the editor in the Boregonian on the bill in 2003. My description of the bill, its potential effect, and it's demise is from Googling 'open source Oregon legislature'. 2. My comment on Kulongoski is unrelated to the debate on BlueOregon about whether or not he should be serve a second term. However, if he doesn't run and Peter DeFazio does, I'll be very, very happy.)

  • Eric Berg (unverified)

    Oh, how I wish BlueOregon made it possible for us to modify messages after clicking on 'Post'. I never see typos until I do.

  • (Show?)

    Don't I know that feeling... done it a few times myself.

  • Jon (unverified)


    Thanks for the pointing out the oversight on HB 2892 regarding software acquisition by the state.

    As a 2004 arrival from Massachusetts (which considered similar legislation), I'm afraid I missed out on the 2892 debate.

    The high-profile Riverdale schools Linux success story, though, is one that got a lot of attention nationwide and is one I also should have mentioned.

    By the way, the OSL team is also going to be involved in hosting the upcoming GOSCON (Government Open Source) Conference in October.


  • jeff (unverified)

    thanks for this post - i am laying out on the floor of the moscone center in san frnacisco as i type - borrowing some free wireless from the project booth while taking in the 'linux world' conference, and checking in on our beloved oregon politics blog.

    the open source movement fits oregon well and should be kept in the front of any discussion about our state and new economies.

connect with blueoregon