I’m in Tempe for the Fedora Users and Developers Conference, a.k.a. FUDCon. Here are some random thoughts.

  • Enhanced pat-downs aren’t so bad.
  • The weather’s nice. I should have expected the palm trees, but I totally didn’t expect to see orange trees with ripe fruit hanging just out of arm’s reach (because the ASU students picked everything lower already).
  • The ASU campus is much more interesting and varied architecturally than any other campus I’ve been on. Sure, the color palette is a bit limited – light brown, dark brown, reddish brown – but the shapes and textures make up for it. Actually there was one nice splash of color, which was a gigantic wild rose bush clinging to the side of one building. That ugly bump just north of campus doesn’t do much for me, though.
  • I haven’t seen a single squirrel on campus. I did see two cats, though – fluffy persians who must be very uncomfortable in all this heat. I’ve seen and heard lots of unfamiliar birds, too – mostly grackles, I think
  • Meeting people in person is great. The Fedora crowd is notably casual, international, and friendly – even by technical-conference standards, in all three regards. I’d particularly like to thank Robyn Bergeron and Seth Vidal, very busy leaders in that community who have nonetheless gone out of their way to make me feel welcome and included. It was also especially nice to meet Pete Zaitcev and Major Hayden, because we’ve interacted so much online but never met until now.

Here’s a Flickr set for some of the pictures I’ve taken while here. OK, enough of the fluff. What about the real stuff? More bullet points, because that’s how I roll.

  • The whole “Bar Camp” style of pitching and voting on sessions was new to me. It did seem to work, though.
  • The first talk I attended was Marek Goldmann talking about BoxGrinder. I was pretty familiar with this work from my own involvement with Deltacloud/Aeolus, but Marek deserves kudos for presenting it well and even giving a live demo.
  • After lunch, it was Steven Dake talking about Sheepdog. Again, it’s work I’m familiar with. I think Steven and I will never quite agree on the value/importance of Sheepdog. On the one hand, the notion of distributed block storage has been very appealing to me for a long time. It’s why I went to Conley in 1998, and worked on C3D at EMC a few years later. On the other hand, block storage using a single specialized application interface which isn’t even as complex as the real system-level block device interface seems a bit unambitious to me. It just limits the applicability of the result too much IMO, and that seems a meager payoff for all that work solving the harder distributed-data problems. Of course, in this case it’s all NTT’s effort anyway. As far as the talk, a comparison to RBD would have been nice since anybody who’s interested in one should definitely check out the other as well.
  • Next up was Mike McGrath, talking about how cloud computing is going to displace non-cloud computing. Even as somebody who’s working on cloud stuff, I’m a little bit skeptical. Still, it was a good talk to get people thinking about all the implications.
  • I’ll skip the next talk, since it was mine and I’ll have more to say below.
  • The last talk of the day, for me, was Chris Lalancette talking about cloud management – especially Deltacloud and Aeolus. Having worked for a while on this project (and sitting about twenty feet from Chris most days) this was also pretty familiar territory, and Chris did a good job presenting on a complex subject. I apologize to both him and to Tobias Kunze (with whom I had an awesome chat later in the evening BTW) for putting them on the spot about the relationship between Makara and Aeolus.

So, how did my own presentation go? Somebody pointed out that I’d seemed a bit on edge the night before. Partly that was just the stress of travel and of being an introvert mingling with an unfamiliar group of people, but there’s another factor that I hadn’t even consciously realized until I was writing this post. I’ve presented about CloudFS privately and/or in fairly abstract terms so many times that I’d actually forgotten this was the first truly public presentation about a concrete thing that I’ll actually be delivering in the near future. That’s a big deal. I was a bit concerned at first because they’d put me in the largest room and at five past the hour it was still three-quarters empty. Nobody likes talking to an empty room. Shortly after I started, though, the room was pretty much full – not standing-room-only full, but I don’t remember seeing many empty seats. Not that I was trying too hard to count, of course; I was otherwise occupied. Even better, people were engaged. There were many questions, and they were good questions – questions that to me indicated genuine curiosity and constructive intent, not just the “I’m going to prove I’m smart” or “if you don’t get this one right your project will look silly” kinds of questions that one often gets. The post-presentation chatter even went on so long that Chris had to kick us away from the lectern. Good problem to have. :)

The best part of all, in my opinion, was outside of the talk itself. In at least two other presentations, and in even more hallway conversations, the possibility of using CloudFS to solve some problem or add some functionality came up. Also, at least one person had clearly given the code a pretty detailed look since my talk, asking questions and making comments about internal details that he could not have known about otherwise. That is so cool. It’s all very well to have people’s attention for an hour or so before people move on to the next new thing, but when something you’ve talked about shows up in colleagues’ own thinking about how to solve their own problems that’s an even surer measure of being on the right track. Thank you, everyone, for letting me be part of the broader progress we’re all making together.