Next week’s Palmetto Open Source Software Conference — or POSSCON — is starting to bring some serious high-tech street cred to Columbia.
The conference – which grew substantially in each of its past four years — focuses on the communal development of software like Open Office and Firefox that developers share with the world, often for free.
This year’s event Wednesday through Friday at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center features IT heavyweights Scott McNealy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, and Chris Aniszcyck, open source manager for Twitter, among others. Top companies like IBM, Oracle, HP, Google, Red Hat and Homeland Security will attend and participate.
Todd Lewis, managing partner of Columbia’s Palmetto Computer Labs and chairman of the event, said the quality of the speakers is drawing interest from coast to coast.
McNealy “is one of the most influential people in the history of technology,” Lewis said. “There’s Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, and right below that would have to be Scott McNealy.”
The conference is sponsored by IT-oLogy, which is a partnership among the University of South Carolina, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, IBM and other organizations and universities formed to promote IT jobs and training, particularly among young people.
Lonnie Emard, IT-oLogy’s executive director, said that in the last 20 years, there have been a handful of people that have shaped the world through information technology. McNealy is one of those people, along with Gates and Jobs.
“People fly from all over the world to hear Scott’s insights,” he said. “Now we’re bringing Scott McNealy and Silicon Valley to South Carolina. This helps IT-oLogy take POSSCON to the next level.”
The first conference, held at USC in 2008, had 125 attendees. The event in 2010 boasted 350 people from 14 states and had 20 speakers. And last year, about 500 people from 24 states, 30 colleges and universities and 100-plus business and government organizations attended and participated.
“This conference … has helped change the brand of Columbia and the Midlands when it comes to IT,” Lewis said. “To be able to convince all these people to come here and speak at the same time in Columbia, South Carolina is a big deal.
Among the other speakers will be Douglas Maughan, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber Security Division; Jim Jagielski, co-founder and president of Apache Software Foundation; Jon "Maddog" Hall, executive director of Linux International; and, Larry Augustin, founder and CEO of SugarCRM, which is part of the group that originally coined the term open source, Lewis said.
Conference tracks will include: education, technical, big picture and demo/training.
The conference is unique on the East Coast, Lewis said. Most open source conferences are held on the West Coast, such as in Silicon Valley. And it is significantly cheaper - $199 to register compared with $800 and up for the West Coast conferences, Lewis said.
“We’re getting a lot of interest from California, North Carolina and Georgia,” Lewis said.