||[Feb. 17th, 2014|01:52 pm]
I recently had the privilege of attending DevConf 2014, and it was really impressive. This was the first time I had ever traveled to the Czech Republic and I found the people to be extremely pleasant and helpful. The city of Brno was really easy to get around and the conference accommodations were nice.
The conference itself was more than I expected it to be, both in terms of scale and quality. That's not to say that I expected it to be poor quality, but at all conferences there are some talks or tracks that wind up being less worthwhile than you expect. That wasn't the case here. Every talk I attended was well done and very informative. Despite the conference organizers warning that the presenters were engineers and not public speakers, I thought everyone did a great job. Clearly this is a continuing trend because the conference was packed with people. It was almost to the point where a larger venue would be needed.
The first talk I attended was Thomas Graf's Linux networking stack overview. He took a very complex topic and presented it in a clear manner without overwhelming people. It was very well done, and I'll probably refer back to his slides when looking at networking issues for quite a while. I really like these kind of overview talks, because while I stare at kernel code all day long, it's hard to get a bigger picture of the whole stack if you don't work on it daily. Very helpful.
After that I attended Alex Larsson's talk on Docker. Docker was everywhere at the conference and the hype around it was pretty evident. Being a kernel guy not very much in tune with the higher level userspace stacks, I wanted to understand why people were excited and what usecases might be present for Fedora. Alex did a great job of talking to that hype and then was brave enough to give a good demo that worked. His talk was great and while I might not see myself using Docker in the future, it was definitely informative enough for me to explain Docker to someone else later on.
It was interesting to go from the Docker talk to Colin Walters' talk on OSTree. Where Docker seems designed to make it easy to swap out "stacks" of things, OSTree is very focused on building an immutable tree and having that be the basis for testing and deployment. The ability to build the trees on the server and deploy them on both bare-metal and virtual machines is interesting to me. I can certainly see this being very helpful as Fedora is making progress towards a release. It removes the ambiguity around what "version" of Fedora you're testing, since the trees are named and immutable whereas a typical system on Branched is a collection of packages that may or may not match the latest releases. I think this could also provide a great base for things like cloud-images, where you don't really focus on running an install for a great duration and upgrading it as you go. I really appreciated Colin's approach to the presentation as well. He presented both benefits and downsides to his ideas, which is not something you often see from someone presenting a new technology.
After that I did a bit of "hallway tracking". Catching up with people I haven't seen in a while, and meeting several that I've never met in person for the first time. As is typical with most conferences, the hallway track is very useful and this was no exception.
I went to the Continuous Integration with OBS talk, given by Adrian Schröter from SUSE. It was a very interesting presentation. Being able to see what OBS does differently and in-addition to koji is always good. I had looked at OBS somewhat in depth a few years ago, and the SUSE team has really continued to improve and polish it since then. Adopting some of the same features within Fedora would be beneficial, but whether that will be done is unknown to me.
The last talk of the day for me was Jeff Scheel's Linux on POWER. He did a great overview of the hardware advances in POWER recently, and what IBM is looking to accomplish with Linux on POWER. The push to get KVM running on POWER will hopefully help adoption there, as it gives others more familiar with Linux on x86 a common set of tools and interfaces to work with. To hear that the traditional IBM value adds of RAS features were also being worked on for Linux enablement was somewhat surprising and refreshing as well.
After that it was off to a dinner and then back to the hotel for sleep.
Day two started with Thorsten Leemhuis's kernel overview talk. For those that have read Thorsten's online summaries of what goes into each kernel release, this was much in the same but with great additional detail around it. I really enjoyed the presentation. Even working on the kernel all day, I still found a few things that I had missed myself. Plus, having someone else's perspective on things is always refreshing.
Immediately after I stayed for Lukas Czerner's advanced filesystem/storage features talk. This was a great overview of some of the new and complex capabilities various filesystems can accomplish, as well as some of the new trends in storage coming down the pipe. It also served as a good lead-in to a later talk from Ric Wheeler on the storage side of things. Very well presented, and worth viewing the video for anyone that is interested in these areas.
I had intended to go to the kdbus talk next, but I had already seen the video from LCA on that subject and figured the talk would be much of the same. So it was outside for a bit of hallway track again. After that, I went to Ric's aforementioned talk on the new storage technology coming out. Specifically shingled drives (SMR) and persistent memory. It's interesting to see how PM is driving changes to the block and fs layers, as the IOPs numbers for those devices are very high. Combining PM with SMR seems like an interesting way to maximize the performance and capacity issues. It will be interesting to see how things play out in this space.
Later in the afternoon I attended Dan Walsh's Secure Containers talk. As usual, Dan had a great amount of information on the work he and others are doing to secure Linux containers, why you'd use containers, and what that entails. Of course, this naturally included mention of Docker. I'm curious how the adoption of container technology will drive changes in the market place over what the adoption of virtualization has done already. Thus far it seems Containers are primarily used for scaling and sandboxing at a lower cost than virt, where virt is needed for full isolation and higher security needs areas. Openshift and Docker certainly have a lot of hype around them, so I'm wondering if the security issue will be a less of a factor in which technology gets deployed going forward.
Right after Dan's talk I stayed for Kyle McMartin's Linux porting talk. This gave a great overview of the difficulties in porting free software (not just the Linux kernel) to a new architecture. The number of assumptions that have been made in various chunks of code is what really drives a lot of the work, and Kyle presented a good summary of the bulk of those issues. He finished off with some "war stories", which are always entertaining. I had seen bits and pieces of this talk at Flock last summer, but not the whole thing. It was well worth it, and had some good updates to it. I would recommend watching the video if you're interested in the 64-bit ARM work being done, or porting work in general.
That evening was the conference party, which was really nice. The food provided was tasty, and it was good to catch up with people. I retired a bit early as jet lag seems to catch up to me on the second day for some reason, but I still had a great time.
Fedora day! To say this was Fedora day is somewhat misleading. There was talk about Fedora, implications of things in Fedora, and using Fedora for things throughout the conference. It was ever present and this was great. However, the final day of the conference was dedicated to Fedora and this is the main reason I came.
I didn't actually give a "state of the Fedora kernel" talk as I normally do at conferences. That talk is mostly the same, and frankly the presentations throughout the first two days on kernel topics were far more interesting. Instead, I was there to discuss Fedora.next and the related Working Groups.
Matt Miller kicked off the Fedora.next overview. This was a great way to start, since much of the day following revolved around what we're doing and why. When the video is available, I would highly recommend those trying to catch up on this to watch it in the entirety. Very informative. The questions at the end were actually one of my favorite parts. There were some great questions and it's clear that we need to do a better job of communicating reasoning, status, and goals in the future.
Following Matt's overview, we had a panel discussion with representatives from all of the various Working Groups. It was the first time the liaisons were all in one physical location, and it was very interesting to hear the questions and the answers each gave to them. Overall, I would say we're all on basically the same page, which is good given that a lot of things are still not clearly defined and we've been doing most of this work via email and IRC. Nice to see that distributed... er... development? works well even for things that don't relate to code. I was somewhat surprised that there weren't more specific questions on the Workstation product, particularly given some of the more energetic discussions we've had on the mailing lists so far. Was the summary of the product I gave was sufficient to qualm many fears, or were people so entirely skeptical of the whole thing that they think it will fail and doesn't matter? I have no idea. The questions we did get were well thought out and I hope that our answers were as well reasoned. Again, I highly recommend watching the video of this session. I really enjoyed participating and would definitely do it again, perhaps at Flock.
The last session of the conference I attended was the Meet Your FESCo session. I've been to several of these, and they're usually pretty interesting. After introductions they took questions and nobody seemed to want to break the ice. So I asked FESCo how they see the interaction between themselves and the Fedora Board working with the Fedora.next change being driven primarily through FESCo. The answers were interesting to me, in that most people seemed to want to stick with the status quo here. FESCo driving technical change/decisions and the Board acting as a more general project wide body. That differs somewhat from my opinion, but that's probably a discussion for another day.
Overall I thought DevConf was very worthwhile. I wish I could have gotten to some of the lightning talks on the first day, and some of the other talks in the afternoon of the second day, but there's only so much time. I hope to have the same opportunity next year, and I'm looking forward to being back in the Czech Republic for Flock in Prague this summer.