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Away Mission - ApacheCon, QCon, ZendCon and LISA

By Howard Dyckoff

Away Mission - ApacheCon, QCon, ZendCon and LISA

This November has a surfeit of superior conferences, most actually running in the first week. The conferences listed in the title all start on Nov 1st which might force you to make some hard choices.

I'll be putting notes on ApacheCon after ZendCon and QCon, but not out of a preference; instead, it's simply in order of shortest commentary to longest. These are all great events and we could even include the Linux Kernel Summit, which is also the first week of November, but we haven't attended one before.


Unlike the conferences reviewed below, LISA - the Large Installation System Administrator conference organized by USENIX - is during the second week of November and has few conflicts with other events. This is an event with a long history, dating back to the '80s and predating the Internet boom. Indeed, this is the 24th LISA conference. The focus nowadays is on the backends for companies like Google, Yahoo, and Facebook.

I haven't attended a LISA conference since I was a sysadmin, before the beginning of the millennium, but I fondly remember having an opportunity to talk with other sysadmins who were working on the bleeding edge of data center operations. This is the first LISA actually in the San Francisco area, even though USENIX is headquartered in Berkeley. Most West Coast LISA events have been held in San Diego.

Presentations at LISA cover a variety of topics, e.g. IPv6 and ZFS, and training includes Linux Security, Virtualization, and cfEngine among others. Topics covered by the invited presenters include:

You can find online proceedings from LISA going back to 1993 here.

ZendCon 2010

The 6th Annual Zend/PHP Conference will bring together PHP developers and IT staff from around the world to discuss PHP best practices. This year it will be held at the Santa Clara Convention Center which has lots of free parking and is convenient to Silicon Valley and the San Jose airport. It starts on November 1st and - unfortunately - conflicts with QCon in San Francisco and ApacheCon in Atlanta.

This used to be a vest-pocket conference at the Hyatt near the San Francisco airport and was much more accessible from that city. There was a charm in its smallness and its tight focus and it brought the PHP faithful together with the Zend user community.

This year, ZendCon will host technical sessions in 9 tracks plus have in-depth tutorials and an enlarged Exhibit Hall (with IBM, Oracle and Microsoft as major sponsors). A variety of tracks - SQL, NoSQL, architecture, lifecycle, and server operations - are available. This is an opportunity to learn PHP best practices in many areas.

There will also be an unconference running the 2nd and 3rd days of ZendCon, featuring both 50 minute sessions and 20 minute lightning talks. There is also a CloudCamp unconference on the evening of the tutorial day where early adopters of Cloud Computing technologies exchange ideas. And the 3 days of regular conferencing, without tutorials, is only a modest $1100 before it starts. Not a bad deal either way.

If you want to look for the slides from ZendCon 2009, they can be found here; to listen to the audio recordings being released as a podcast, take a look here.

For full 2010 conference info, visit http://www.zendcon.com/.

QCon 2010

QCon is a personal favorite of mine because of its breadth and its European roots. The mix of advanced Agile discussions with Java and Ruby programming and new database technology is intoxicating. Its also a place to see and hear something not repeated at other US conferences.

This year, tracks include Parallel Programming, the Cloud, Architectures You Never Heard Of, Java, REST, Agile process, and NoSQL. Check out the tracks and descriptions here.

Last year, the Agile track (and the tutorials) included several sessions on Kanban as form of 'Lean' and 'Agile' development methodology. Kanban is derived from the signaling used to control railroad traffic and uses token-passing to optimize queues and flows. The idea is to do the right amount of work to feed the next step in the process. An example of a Kanban work flow can be seen in the anime feature "Spirited Away" by Hayao Miyazaki, where a ghostly bath house regulates the use of hot water by passing out use tokens. That way the capacity of the system is never exceeded.

To get info on last year's event, including videos of Martin Fowler and Kent Beck speaking, visit this link.

ApacheCon 2010

I was pleasantly surprised to find this 'Con so close to home since it is held in Boston half the time. The Oakland Convention Center is an underutilized gem in the redeveloped Oakland downtown, very close to the regional Bay Area Rapid Transit station and many fine eateries in Oakland's burgeoning new cuisine district. And the weather is warmer than in San Francisco.

ApacheCon spanned an entire week in 2009. The training period started the week with 2 days of half day classes. This was paralleled by 2 days of Bar Camp - the Unconference that is `included in ApacheCon' - as well as a Hackathon, which in this case was a kind of code camp for project submitters.

This was the first year that the Bar Camp and Hackathon paralleled the training days. Since these two programs were 'free' as in beer, it afforded a chance for many local developers to get involved; it also drew several folk who had never been to ApacheCon. It was also the 10th anniversary of the Apache Software Foundation and there was a celebration during the conference.

Sessions were 50 min long and spanned 4 consecutive tracks. The track content varied over the 3 days of ApacheCon and included many prominent Apache projects. Some presentations were a bit dry and concerned with the details and philosophy of ongoing projects. Some were report cards on the progress of joint efforts with industry and academia.

I attended sessions on Tomcat and Geronimo as well as Axis and other Apache projects. These were very detailed and informative.

The Lightning Talks are short sessions held the last night of the conference. This ApacheCon variant is up to 5 minutes, on anything you want. The limited rules state "No Slides and No Bullets" (as there would be in presentations.) They provide the beer and wine. And they encourage recitals - its supposed to be fun... And they were.

The closing keynote was by Brian Behlendorf, titled "How Open Source Developers Can (Still!) Save The World". Behlendorf was the primary developer of the Apache Web server and a founding member of the Apache Group and is currently a Director of CollabNet, the major sponsor of Subversion and a company he co-founded with O'Reilly & Associates.

He spoke about the important contribution developers can make to non-profits and noted that he is on the board of Bentech, which provides the Martus encryption tools to the human rights and social justice sector to assist in the collection, safeguarding, organization, and dissemination of information about human rights violations. Martus Server Software accepts encrypted bulletins, securely backs them up and replicates them to multiple locations, safeguarding the information from loss. The software was used in the Bosnia war crimes trials.

Among other non-profit development projects, Behlendorf mentioned PloneGov.org which produces modules for Plone to implement common services (like a city meeting template). The aim is to make government more transparent and more efficient.

Behlendorf also mentioned Sahana, a part of Sri Lankan Apache Community that was started after 2004 Tsunami to help relocated survivors. This effort has now resulted in a disaster relief management package used in 20 cities. The UN is starting to use it as this was a space neglected by commercial software corporations.

His summary points: we geeks have skills that are worth more than just dollars and hours to non-profit organizations. So find a project and help out, even non-code contributions can matter.

This year's ApacheCon will be held in Atlanta starting on November 1st. Sessions will feature tracks on Cassandra/NoSQL, Content Technologies, (Java) Enterprise Development, Geronimo, Felix/OSGi, Hadoop + Cloud Computing, Tomcat, Tuscany, Commons, Lucene, Mahout + Search, Business & Community. Free events include a 2-day BarCamp and the evening MeetUps. For more info, visit http://na.apachecon.com/c/acna2010/.

Lunches were boxed on most conference days, but the last day had hot pizza and pasta with great desserts so it was worth lasting out the conference. Also, all the vendor swag was piled on a table for the taking on the last afternoon - so with ApacheCon, patience is a virtue.

The wiki for ApacheCon has some links for presentation slides, but not after the European ApacheCon that preceded the North America ApacheCon in 2009. See here.

SalesForce, DreamForce

If you are interested in Cloud Computing, consider the user conference for SalesForce.com, the annual DreamForce event in San Francisco. It was a November event in 2009 but will happen on December 6-9 this year. There are usually a few open source vendors at the DreamForce expo.

[ The Away Mission Column will be on holiday leave next month. ]


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Bio picture

Howard Dyckoff is a long term IT professional with primary experience at Fortune 100 and 200 firms. Before his IT career, he worked for Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine and before that used to edit SkyCom, a newsletter for astronomers and rocketeers. He hails from the Republic of Brooklyn [and Polytechnic Institute] and now, after several trips to Himalayan mountain tops, resides in the SF Bay Area with a large book collection and several pet rocks.

Howard maintains the Technology-Events blog at blogspot.com from which he contributes the Events listing for Linux Gazette. Visit the blog to preview some of the next month's NewsBytes Events.

Copyright © 2010, Howard Dyckoff. Released under the Open Publication License unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 180 of Linux Gazette, November 2010