EuroBSDCon 2013 Recap

Posted in Blog, Tradeshow Events on October 03, 2013

Last week, Kris and Jordan travelled to Malta to attend one of the most highly-anticipated conferences for BSD developers, EuroBSDCon. After our intrepid travelers recovered from jet-lag and numerous airborne hours, Jordan was kind enough to share an account of his trip:

"I arrived a day early from California, my fatigue from 17 hours of flying wrestling with curiosity about Malta, a country I’d never been to before. As we came in to land at Valletta airport, I could see a rugged and rocky landscape, light brown dirt and rocks contrasting with the occasional patch of dark green cactus and, at the shoreline, the blues of the southern Mediterranean. This was clearly no jungle isle, and almost every structure I could see clearly bore the patina of many centuries of history. Malta was clearly going to be something different and rather interesting!

"A short and only moderately terrifying taxi ride from the airport to the conference hotel, the Hilton Hotel in St. Julian, followed. This is a 5 star hotel and resort, and first impressions definitely did not disappoint! Built hugging the side of a rocky harbor, the Hilton drops some 8 stories down to a luxurious man-made harbor where numerous multi-million dollar yachts were docked, affording their owners direct access to the hotel and all of its amenities. The inside of the hotel was similarly luxurious - white marble everywhere, an impressive lobby and bar, and stunning views of the Mediterranean and the harbor through large picture windows in almost every direction.

"Hmmm! I was starting to get the distinct impression that this wasn't going to be anything like my first European BSD conference over 10 years ago, where an ad-hoc gathering of 30 or so FreeBSD hackers gathered in an Arnhem technical school, drew our presentations on paper flip-charts, and mutilated our Libretto 70's with soldering irons in an attempt to overclock them for a few extra megahertz worth of performance! This was going to be quite a bit grander, and the week that followed certainly did nothing to refute that impression!

"The EuroBSDCon 2013 schedule consisted of 2 days of 'FreeBSD Devsummit' sessions (with Tutorials, which I never attend, going on in parallel) followed by 2 days of conference talks. The conference organizers received so many talks, in fact, that a good number of them simply could not be accommodated, even after the schedule was extended and parallelized even further to fit more in. For the Conference schedule, as many as 4 sessions would be going on simultaneously at any one time and even the FreeBSD DevSummit had to be split into two parallel tracks, a definite first and something which made it a real challenge to decide which room to be in! Compiler tools? Interested in those! ZFS? Argh! Interested in that too! Which to pick??! The 'hallway track' was also as vibrant as always, with numerous and interesting discussions going on, and if there was any problem with all this, it was that I was constantly wondering what I might be missing just next door! Truly an embarrassment of riches to choose from at this year's EuroBSDCon, but let me back up a bit and take it day by day:

"The first day was the opening of the FreeBSD Devsummit, and I used the opportunity to attend the ZFS 'track', where Justin Gibbs talked about the challenges of modern storage media (who knew that writing data to hard drives had become so *complex*, I certainly didn't!) and Matt Ahrens discussed the new OpenZFS project. This was a very interesting discussion, ranging from 'how many operating systems should OpenZFS support to start with?' to 'what are the most significant challenges for ZFS going forward?', and we were able to compile an impressive number of TODO list items from it. Some interesting take-aways: Universal support for the idea of including Linux in the list of supported OSes for the OpenZFS reference code base, there being far more interest in a common code base than in any divisional politics (literally, there was NONE of that). This only goes to show how much OSS has matured over the last 10 years! It also became clear that ZFS fault reporting and some sort of OSS implementation of the Solaris FMA (Fault Management Architecture) were really important to this group as an area for collaboration going forward, and it was equally nice to see the needs of the Enterprise being taken seriously since that's ZFS's core constituency.

"The second day of the Devsummit was pretty much the same, but more of it. I got a chance to talk to Peter Grehan, one of the founders of the BHyVe project, and get a few private demos of what they were working on. The technology was generally met with much enthusiasm and a sense that this could really go somewhere as a contender in the virtualization space. That said, there is clearly a lot more refinement to be done, and no current equivalent to (cough cough) vSphere or vCenter to manage the bhyve instances, but it's still early days with that project and the notion of being able to do full virtualization (and not just paravirtualization or 'light-weight' virtualization akin to jails) is pretty compelling, compelling enough that I think numerous folks will join that project and advance things fairly quickly! That night, we all trooped out to a restaurant-in-a-ship called 'The Black Pearl' (I wonder what it was called before Pirates of the Caribbean came out?) and a good time was had by all, though we did all wilt to some extent in the high temperature and humidity. If this was winter in Malta, I definitely wouldn't be able to handle the summer! :)

"The next two days were the conference itself and I have to say that it all went by in something of a blur. So many talks! So many hallway conversations! The conference schedule can be downloaded as a PDF should anyone be interested in the particulars, but suffice it to say that if you're up for drinking from a firehose for 4 days, this is the conference for you! :-)

"I was also impressed overall at how well the conference was run - perhaps no surprise given that a Swiss delegation ran it this year - and everything went very smoothly. Every night featured a 'guided dinner' activity where a parade of enormous buses would whisk the attendees directly from the hotel to various remote locations (in at least one case, *really* remote!) and there was also a series of 'widows and orphans' bus tours offered for the spouses and significant others who had accompanied us and then left cruelly abandoned while all us hacker types sat in talks and discussed various obscure and, to most of our partners, infinitely boring technical topics! For those who did not wish to leave the hotel at all, there were also a series of swimming pools on the property and, of course, the beautiful views of the Mediterranean to look at. There was also a nearby casino, sitting on a small rocky peninsula by itself, that reminded me, obscurely, of a James Bond movie, but as far as I know none of us went to it and played baccarat for high stakes or anything!

"The very last event of the conference featured a 'hand-over ceremony', where a large banner bearing all the flags for the host countries of previous conferences was presented to the host of next year's conference, which will be in Sofia, Bulgaria! It was clear that everyone in the organizational committee took their responsibility for EuroBSDcon very seriously, and the host of next year's conference actually got a little emotional about it as she was asked to say a few words about her plans for next year. There was much cheering and applause, and it was clear that the attendees were just as enthusiastic as the organizers about what EuroBSDCon has become and can continue to be. I don't have any attendee figures, but there had to be at least several hundred people at this year's conference, which is easily double what I saw in Brighton or Karlsruhe (I haven't had the privilege of being able to attend in more recent years) so it's clear to me, at least, that BSD is not only alive and well in Europe, it's growing!"

A big thanks to Jordan for writing such a detailed recap of EuroBSDCon. Stay tuned for an account of SeaGL, our FreeBSD Marketing Team’s next show!

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