2022 SCaLE 19x – Day Three

Day Three of SCaLE kicked off the start of the main conference, which meant I spent most of the day in the AWS booth.

AWS Booth Picture Showing a Television Screen Playing Frontalot Videos

Traffic was pretty good and I got to talk with a lot of interesting people. I did take a break around 2pm and noticed from Twitter that I was missing a talk by Frank Karlitschek of Nextcloud fame, so I skedaddled over to his room to catch it.

It was pretty good. It focused on how copyleft-style licenses are often better for business since they level the playing field for all contributors, versus a number of newer licenses that are more “source available” instead of “open source”.

Frank Karlitschek Presenting at SCaLE

Please note that I’m an unabashed Nextcloud fanboy so I have some biases. (grin)

The big evening event was “Game Night” where they turned the basement ballrooms into a big gaming playground. From the classics such as checkers and chess, to Vegas-style games such as roulette and blackjack, up to the most modern of games using VR, there was something for everyone.

AWS sponsored the music for the event, and I was eager to see MC Frontalot perform. He didn’t disappoint.

MC Frontalot Performing at SCaLE

He did an hour-long set spanning the classics to the newer stuff, including “Secrets From the Future” featuring a video generated using AI.

Afterward he hung out at the merch table to chat with folks, and I got to spend some time with a new friend named Silona Bonewald.

MC Frontalot and Silona Bonewald

I was introduced to Silona through Spot as she was on the same hotel shuttle bus when we arrived on Wednesday evening. She is in charge of open source at IEEE as well as being a Burner, and I always look forward to chance to talk with her.

Today is the final day of the conference, and remember if you are reading this before 1:30pm PDT there is a raffle for an awesome 3D printer at the AWS booth, so come by to get your ticket.

2022 SCaLE 19x – Day Two

This is the first conference since joining AWS that I have booth duty, so I won’t be able to spend as much time in the sessions as I would like, but I did want to catch one of the first sessions of the day which was “Speedrunning Kubernetes”.

A slide with the session title 'Speedrunning Kubernetes'

The main reason I wanted to see this talk was to see Kat Cosgrove in action. Prior to coming to AWS I didn’t know about her but I ended up following her on Twitter and found that she has strong opinions, and I tend to like people who have strong opinions. I figured the presentation would be entertaining and that I might learn something.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Kat Cosgrove being introduced by Josh Berkus

The title alludes to a “speedrun” which is an attempt to complete a video game as quickly as possible. The goal of this talk was to bring up a working Kubernetes cluster as if you were doing a speedrun. It also included one of the more … unusual … analogies I’ve seen in a technical presentation (including my own) by using a Chihuahua as a metaphor.

A chihuahua with two cheeseburgers under each of their four feet

If the goal is to provide the “cheeseburger” application, consisting of the bun service, the patty service, the cheese service, the mustard service, etc., each instance of the application (i.e. each burger) can be considered a “pod”. There are two pods under each foot of the dog representing two-pod “nodes” and the dog forms the control plane.

Remember, now that you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it.

That was the only session I made on Day Two, but I did get some time to wander around the Exhibit Hall. The Software Freedom Conservancy had a booth, and since they are one of my favorite organizations I stopped by to chat with Pono Takamori. I know a number of folks that work there and they serve as almost a reference implementation for trying to live using 100% free software. Pono was telling me that it was getting almost impossible to find a totally free mobile wireless solution since 3G went away, as all of the modern modems tend to use binary blobs.

Pono Takamori in the Software Freedom Conservancy Booth

Now, when these exhibit halls are being set up, the “booths” are laid out with little generic signs showing the owner of the booth, and most of the time they eventually get covered up once the booth is complete.

The MySQL booth with an Oracle sign in the background

I know the Sun acquisition was a long time ago, but I still get cognitive dissonance when I see a MySQL sign next to an Oracle one.

The AWS booth for this conference is really awesome. I bow down to the genius that is Spot Callaway, and he pitched a booth design that was to invoke a teenage geek’s basement, where one might play video games and Dungeons and Dragons (think Stranger Things). The walls of the booth are made to look like brick, and there are chairs, a couch and an SNES console emulator.

The AWS Booth showing people playing a video game

The featured AWS project for this conference is Bottlerocket, and I got to learn a bit about it and meet members of the team. Bottlerocket is a minimal operating system designed just to run containers. I compared it to LibreELEC, which is a purpose-built O/S that I use to run Kodi, and while it was explained to me that I was oversimplifying things a bit, it was otherwise a good analogy.

While it is, of course, being used withing AWS, it is a 100% open source project and you can get the code on Github, and the hope is that others will find it valuable and will get involved with the community. If this is something you’re into, stop by the booth and say “hi”.

Speaking of stopping by the booth, we do have some tasty sodas and Bottlerocket branded bottle openers, but the big giveaway is an awesome 3D printer. Get a raffle ticket and stop by the booth at 1:30pm on Sunday for the drawing (you must be present to win).

AWS employees are not eligible to participate. (sniff)

2022 Scale 19x – Day One

I am back at the Southern California Linux Expo (SCaLE) for the first time in many years, and I was surprised at how happy this makes me. It is always a well run conference and it tends to bring a lot of people I like together in one place, which means I get to meet a lot more people to like as well.

The main SCaLE sessions occur over the weekend, but there are a lot of cool things that happen in the days before. For Thursday, AWS sponsored Cloud Native Builder Day to showcase some of the amazing open source technologies one can use to solve a number of challenges, and I was eager to learn about them.

But before that I needed to get registered. The first step was to show proof of vaccination. While I am thankful that we can have these events, COVID is still a thing and the organizers are doing all they can to mitigate the risk to the conference attendees. Since I’m an old I’ve had two shots and two boosters but the darn thing keeps mutating.

SCaLE Registration Sign

Once past that I headed upstairs where I could use the self check-in kiosks. It was pretty simple to sign in and get my badge printed, and then it was just a short trip down the hall to pick up the conference “swag bag” which included the badge holder and lanyard.

SCaLE Registration Area with People Checking In

The only change I would make to the process is that once you printed your badge, you should really hit the “close window” button on the screen, as there is a “back” button that could allow the next person who registers to see your name and e-mail. No biggie, but the security nerd in me always thinks about these things.

The conference spans two floors. The Exhibit Hall with the sponsor booths is on the ground floor behind registration (it is technically in the Plaza Ballroom so I just followed the signs for “ballrooms”) while the sessions are on the second floor along with registration. AWS is going to have a pretty cool booth this year.

As an AWS employee I guess I should say that we always have a cool booth (grin) but I especially like the idea behind this one, despite the fact that we were unable to get a mounted deer head (seriously). It’s booth numbers 300, 302 and 304 if you want to swing by, and for those of you who couldn’t make it I’ll be sure to post about it later.

Cloud Native Builder Day showcased three different open source projects, the first one being Triggermesh. This was presented by Jeff Naef who I immediately liked as he was the first to notice that my mask is made by K&N, a company known for their high-end automotive airflow products. He loves performance automobiles as well as open source (he was wearing a Snap-On tools hat) so I knew we would get along.

Jeff Naef Presenting on Triggermesh

In dealing with cloud native technologies, a lot of the workflow is event driven. Triggermesh lets you seamlessly link together sources and targets for events, normalizing and enriching them along the way. While it does support the ability to create functions using code (in a variety of languages) a lot of the implementation can be done just through configuration.

In one example the data was encoded in base64, and a person asked if Triggermesh could render that in clear text. Jeff was like, sure, and he bravely set out to implement that as we watched. He got really close, but in any case deserves kudos for the attempt, especially considering he was holding a microphone with one hand the entire time.

The next speaker was Zoe Steinkamp from InfluxDB. I first met Zoe at the Open Source Summit in Austin and she is one of my favorite new acquaintances I’ve met through my job at AWS.

Now full disclosure: I missed the first half of her presentation.

SCaLE has done something delightful with the schedule, which is allowing 30 minutes between talks. I’ve talked about this before but this lets speakers switch out without the usual urgency, allows more time for attendees to interact with the speaker after the talk, and improves the hallway track.

I thought I had enough time to grab lunch, which was In-N-Out that Spot had brought for me. We don’t have In-N-Out in North Carolina so I rarely pass up a chance to get it, and I figured I could be back in time. I was wrong. But I did slip into the back of the room which is why this picture isn’t as close as the others.

Zoe Steinkamp Presenting on InfluxDB

I used to work on an open source project that relied heavily on time series data, so I’m a bit of a time series data geek. Every time I see a presentation on InfluxDB I learn more things to like about it. This time I found out that it is possible to get started with it without being a programmer. A lot of people in the data science field aren’t coders, but they can send their data to InfluxDB pretty easily. The folks at Influx have created InfluxDB University as a free resource to get the most out of their solution, and while I haven’t gone through it yet it looks really comprehensive.

The final presenter was Matt Overstreet from Datastax. Datastax focuses on providing solutions around the Apache Cassandra project, which is a distributed “NoSQL” database.

Matt Overstreet Presenting on Apache Cassandra

When most people hear the word “database” they think of relational databases. This is a data structure usually based on “rows” of data made up of “fields” and indexed by a primary key. One then uses something like the Structured Query Language (SQL) to retrieve values from those fields. This is all well and good but it tends to be extremely monolithic, which doesn’t work well in today’s distributed cloud environment.

Think about it. In a datacenter you might have sub-millisecond latency, so a query can be returned quickly. Move that datacenter across the country, and now it your latency is, say, 100ms. Move that to the other side of the world and, well, you get the picture. Now if you only have a few queries that might be okay, but when you consider thousands and then millions of queries, the response time of your application is going to take a hit.

Cassandra allows you to distribute that data both within a datacenter (for reliability) and also regionally. You can then put your data near your customers, improving their experience.

I was already sold on Cassandra (we used it at OpenNMS) but what I learned from this presentation was the wonderfulness that is “k8ssandra” (kate-sandra). This is Cassandra but running in Kubernetes. If you have ever had to extend and expand a Cassandra cluster, you know that while it isn’t super difficult there are a number of gotchas that can cause problems. What if you could automate it? Matt showed us an example that let him spin up (and tear down) an 800 node cluster in minutes.

Cool, huh?

The first day of SCaLE 19x was a blast, and I am eager to see what the rest of the week brings.

Why You Should Attend SCaLE 19x

The 19th iteration of the Southern California Linux Expo (SCaLE) is around two weeks away, and I wanted to suggest some reasons why you should attend, assuming you are into free and open source software. AWS, where I work, is a platinum sponsor. The conference runs for four days starting on July 28th and is located at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton.

Note: Everything expressed here represents my own thoughts and opinions and I am not speaking for my employer Amazon Web Services.

I’ve been to a number of SCaLE conferences and I’m always impressed at how well they are run. This is a grass-roots, volunteer-led conference yet it is always at par with the more commercial trade shows I attend and sometimes exceeds them. This year looks exceptionally good.

The first reason you should go is the content. The conference has quite a number of tracks including one focused on containers and orchestration (‘natch) and also infrastructure, security and observability. There are tracks on using open source in the medical field as well as government. Big Data gets its own track as well as embedded systems, and there are several more tracks guaranteed to touch on almost every interest within free and open source software.

The conference spans four days, with the first two days focused more on workshops. Co-located with SCaLE is a two day, two track technical conference focused on PostgreSQL, and on Friday is the tenth DevOps Day LA. AWS is hosting a half-day workshop focused on Cloud Native builders with presentations on Kubernetes, InfluxDB and Apache Cassandra.

The second reason you should go is networking, or what is often called the “hallway track”.

For the last several years I’ve worked remote (i.e. not in an office outside of the home) and I will probably continue to do so for the rest of my career. Remote work has become almost a standard within technical jobs.

But I have to say I miss being able to see people face to face. When I was with OpenNMS we had this product where you could buy a year of support coupled with a week of on-site professional services and training. I used to love doing those, but even before COVID those trips became less frequent as companies adopted a distributed work force. There was really no “on-site” place to go when your team was across four time zones.

Technical conferences, such as SCaLE, provide a great opportunity to get together in person, and it can be wonderful to talk in an informal setting to people you may only know through e-mails, video calls and social media. A number of my coworkers will be at SCaLE and I am looking forward to spending some “in real life” time with them.

If you look through the list of speakers at this year’s conference, it is a “who’s who” of open source leaders and contributors, and you’ll have to the chance to meet them as well as other like-minded people. I love the fact that the organizers have built in a 30 minute cushion between talks. Not only does this avoid the rush that usually happens as one speaker finishes and another sets up, it gives people time to socialize before heading off to the next talk. Of course, it goes without saying that you should be courteous to speakers and other attendees, and SCaLE has published a Code of Conduct to formalize what that means, but also don’t let that stop you from asking tough or difficult questions of the speakers (just be nice about it). I always loved it when I was a speaker and someone asked me something I had never thought about.

The third reason you should go is the Exhibition Hall. There are a ton of sponsors who will have booths at the show (including AWS) and this is a great chance to talk with those projects you love, find new ones to love, and often there is some great swag to be had. The hall will be open on Friday through Sunday.

Finally, on Saturday night there is the famous “Game Night” reception and party. I’m excited that the original nerdcore rapper, MC Frontalot, will be performing. Frontalot combines musicianship with nerdy topics like video games, cosplay, fairy tales and technology into an incredibly entertaining show. If you are new to his work check out his YouTube channel. One of my favorite songs is “Stoop Sale” (kids especially like that one, so I guess I’m a kid at heart), and he recently had a fan take his song “Secrets from the Future” (about how all of our encrypted secrets will one day be an open book) and run the lyrics through the Midjourney AI image generator. The result is pretty amazing.

A full SCaLE pass runs $85, and I can’t think of a better value. In-person technical instruction runs $500+ a day, and even if you went to one of those on-line class sites you’re still going to pay $15-$50 a class, and here you can attend 15 or so sessions for around $5 per, and that doesn’t include all the extra stuff outside of the presentations. Even with travel it is still a deal.

I am very eager to attend and I hope to see you there, too.

Just one more note, this one on COVID. I am pretty rigorous when it comes to avoiding this disease which is one reason I haven’t traveled much in the last 2+ years. The first conference I attended since the pandemic started was the Open Source Summit in Austin, and while some people did test positive it was a small fraction of total attendees. One reason was that they had a mask requirement (except when eating or drinking) and you had to show proof of vaccination or a negative test. SCaLE has adopted a similar policy, and while this won’t mean it is impossible to get sick the evidence suggests that this will greatly limit exposure among the attendees. If you have health issues you may still want to stay home and if you come and don’t feel well use your best judgement. I will be taking along some rapid tests that I got for free from covid.gov as well as frequently taking my temperature just to be sure.