Impressions from Sun Tech Days, Buenos Aires

Sun Tech Days are a series of developer focussed events being organized world-wide by SUN. The main focus of these events are Java and OpenSolaris. The emphasis of the events is less on product features and more on how to engage developers to work with the product.

Here is the main event link http://developers.sun.com/events/techdays/

There were a couple of "tracks" (series of talks with a specific theme) in Buenos Aires: OpenSolaris, NETBEANS, Java and Solaris Development. The Java/NETBEANS related tracks were going on in parallel with the the Solaris ones.

Here is the Agenda in Buenos Aires: http://ar.sun.com/sunnews/events/2006/techdays/agenda.html

My talk titled "How to develop Highly Available Applications with Sun Cluster", was scheduled for the Solaris Development track.

Here are some of my impressions of the event:
Audience Profile

The average age of the audience couldn't have been more then 35. For most of the audience, Spanish was the primary language and while most could speak some English, they were not fluent enough to follow a full presentation in English. I can speak no Spanish at all, so as you can imagine, that presented its own problems. There were translators available, who would translate the speakers "on the fly", but the presenters have to constantly check themselves, lest they go too fast. During pre-presentation briefing, i was told that Spanish is 30% more "verbose" then English (i took that to mean it takes 30% more of phonetic utterances to convey the same concept/meaning across... interesting, isn't it?). I think this was a factor, at least to some degree, in the audience participation/interactivity which was lower then other similar venues i have seen.

Chatting with audience during the break, i noticed a rather large percentage of students from Argentinian universities. Most of these folks use Windows/Linux and were only mildly familiar with Solaris, and even less with Opensolaris. I did not meet anyone who had taken a OS course with Solaris (rather, System V) as the topic. That was rather surprising to me, but i suppose things have changed since i got my college degree....

This also put things in perspective: These audience probably wouldn't have been introduced to Solaris, if it was not for Sun Tech Days.

There were couple of participants who were sysadmins for IT departments in different business. Based on informal audience surveys and show-of-hands taken by various presenters i'd say the break up of the audience was roughly:

60%: Developers, with students being the largest subgroup within that.

25%: System Admins.

Rest: Other, main subgroup here being business types from Local Sun Partners.

Day 1: OpenSolaris

OpenSolaris welcome was done by Teresa Giacomini. The emphasis was to get developers to install and play with OpenSolaris. The organizers were distributing a DVD containing OpenSolaris distro, source code, as well as a couple other (non SUN) distros based on OpenSolaris such as SchilliX and Nexenta .

These DVDs were well received by the audience. There was a contest to win those and there was a fair amount of participation for those. I personally had heard of SchilliX but not of Nexenta. Apparently Nexenta is "Solaris Kernel with GNU userland", pretty neat concept. Audience were encourage to sign up on OpenSolaris forums and participate into various projects.

Nils Nieuwejaar presented OpenSolaris Virtualization Technologies where he talked about Zones, LDOMs and Xen. Zones by far had the most comments. One person in the audience asked about Sun Cluster support for Zones during his talk and that led to some discussion on whether clustering the zones themselves is a way to go or whether what is really needed is ability to failover applications between zones. I stepped in and explained that Sun Cluster 31U4 has the ability to failover zones themselves and with the upcoming release of Sun Cluster 32, applications can be failed over from one Zone to another (including those on the same node). I plugged-in my talk scheduled for next day as well.

Glenn Faden presented New Security Features in OpenSolaris, i remember "secure by default" and "Trusted Extensions" as the main takeaways there. There were a couple questions on whether TX would be made available in previous releases of Solaris (such as S9) and whether TX model is "compatible" with old Solaris 8 based trusted model. Answers: No it would only be available on S10 because it uses Zones as the fundamental isolation environment, and yes there is application level compatibility but the solution would need to be redeployed on S10U3 from an admin infrastructure perspective.

In the evening there was a rehearsal session for presenters on the next day. Good thing i went to that, because my laptop wouldn't work with the overhead projector! That took some tweaking of Xorg config files to get going. Thanks to "Stas" (Stanislav Mekhanoshin) from SUN studio team for help with that. This appeared to be a common problem actually with other speakers as well.

Day 2: Solaris Development

Jim Hughes presented "Solaris - World's Best Operating System" and he did a good job of getting the audience interested in Solaris. Again, the emphasis was on OpenSolaris and the key differentiators such as Dtrace, Zones, ZFS etc. Another point being made was that the Solaris development is actually open. All new projects being done in Solaris are being designed and debated on OpenSolaris.org, participation from the developer community is encouraged.

Day 2 afternoon: Sun Cluster Presentation

My presentation on "How to Develop Highly Available Applications Using SunCluster" was scheduled after lunch. Before starting the presentation, i did a show-of-hands and just two or three people in the audience has had prior knowledge of Sun Cluster, a bit more of them (around 8-10) had heard about Clustering in general (including on Linux). Given that, i spent a bit more time then i had planned, on introducing the basic concept of Availability and Sun Cluster itself. I talked about concept of SPOFs and how Sun Cluster deals with failures in Storage/Network/Server/Application etc. I moved quickly over details of Sun Cluster Application management itself (including RGM and Resource Type concept etc.) and then spent some amount of time on the Sun Cluster Agent Builder. I showed the audience a demo of the Agent Builder, by taking Apache2 as the example application. I showed how the START/STOP/MONITOR commands can be plugged-in into the Agent Builder and Agent can be generated as ksh, C or GDS. I had planned for demonstrating GDS, but from previous presentations done by Solaris folks, i gathered that the developer crowd was more into C, so i choose C as the example and showed a bit of generated C code. I had to rush thru deploying the application part of the demo because of lack of time. I closed with a "Developer Resources" slide which listed various web resources, the Sun Cluster web site, SDN download site for Sun Cluster, Sun Cluster blog and SDN Cluster forum. I am hoping that at the very least the audience would remember that by going to either http://www.sun.com/cluster or SDN they can look around for additional information on Sun Cluster.

Miscellaneous

It was spring in Buenos Aires (it is Southern Hemisphere after all) and the weather was very similar to northern california (fall here). Buenos Aires is a beautiful city with a very European (rather then central American) feel to it. I took some pictures of my visit, including the Presentation hall and podium. The picture at the top of the post is from Day 2, during the "Solaris - World's Best Operating System" talk.

And yes, i got quite a few questions about whether in the Southern hemisphere, do toilets indeed flush counter clockwise? Here is a link provided by one of my colleagues on that BadCoriolis . check it out.

If you missed the event in Buneos Aires, check out the schedule on http://developers.sun.com/events/techdays/ , you may just find one near your home town.

Ciao
Ashutosh Tripathi
Sun Cluster Engineering

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