Tuesday Jun 16, 2009

Paris in the Clouds: A CloudCamp Paris report

CloudCamp logoLast week, Eric Bezille invited me to Paris for a couple of Cloud Computing related meetings and to help out with CloudCamp Paris. Paris in the clouds, what a nice experience!

This was also a great opportunity to try out the audio recording features of my LiveScribe Pulse pen. This pen not only can record what you write (on special dot paper), it can also record what has been said while you write, creating links between the words you write and the points in time of the audio recording. Very cool. You can then tap on the words in your notebook and the pen will play back the associated audio. Great for conferences, and I wish I had had this pen during my university times :). You can also export your notes including the audio as a flash movie and share them on the net, which is what I'm going to do below.

Intro Session and Lightning Talks

The CloudCamp was kicked off by a representative of Institut Telecom, the location sponsor of CloudCamp Paris. Sam Johnston gave a short and sweet introduction to Clouds, providing some definitions, examples and also some contrarian views, finishing with a short video on how easy it is to set up your account in the cloud.

A series of lightning talks by the sponsors gave us some interesting news, insights and context for the conference:

  • Eric Bezille from Sun showed us what's behind Sun's cloud activities.
  • Arvid Fossen from Aserver.com talked about how they provide datacenters as a service to their clients. Wanna have your own cloud? Go buy it as a turnkey solution!
  • Matthew Hugo (Not sure if I got that name right...) from Runmyprocess.com showed some nice examples of integration between different cloud services.
  • Josh Fraser, VP of Business Development at Rightscale showed some impressive examples of how the cloud can neatly adjust to your business demand curve.
  • Peter Martin from Orange Business Services showed us some pictures of his kids who use clouds based services today (Facebook anyone?), pointing out that when they'll grow up to be CEOs, CIOs and decision makers, they're most likely not going to operate their own datacenters. Food for thought for the sceptics who think Cloud Computing is just a temporary hype or not ready (yet) for prime time: Just wait 'til your kids grow up. It may happen sooner than that, though, given the enthusiasm of the more than 100 people in the room...
  • Finally, Owen Garrett from Zeus provided a really good reason for using a software load balancer: Take back control of your application!

Here are two pencasts with audio and notes taken during the above lightning talks. The first one covers the intro until and including the Rightscale talk, the second one starts with the Orange talk and finishes with the Zeus talk.

The Unpanel

I've been to a couple of unconferences before, but this was my first unpanel. Dave Nielsen asked the attendees about who thought they were an expert on Cloud Computing. A couple of hands went up and whoosh - there you have seven experts for a panel :). Then he asked the group to provide seven questions for the panel to answer, after which each of the panelists got to answer one. For each question, the group was asked whether there was potential for some more discussion on that topic, so we also had a good basis for creating some spontaneous sessions during the conference part. Listen to the whole unpanel session on the right.

Cloud Architecture Session

After the introductory sessions and the unpanel, it was time for the breakouts. There were four of them: Cloud Security (moderated by Luc Wijns from Sun), Cloud Architecture, Open Clouds and Cloud Business Opportunities. Sébastien Pahl from DotCloud and I moderated the Cloud Architecture session. After some introductory slides, Sébastien explained his work on creting portable cloud-based services (including leverating Solaris Containers). (Sébastien, let me know when you have your slides online...). We then let the group share their questions, answeres, thoughts and discussion points. We talked about scaling MySQL in the cloud, or perhaps it would be better to leave the traditional relational model and use a simple key/value alternatives such as CouchDB. Developers asked whether they'll be able to use their IDEs with the cloud (hint: Check out NetBeans...) or whether they need to throw it all away and learn everything from scratch. How much should developers care about scalability? Isn't that something the cloud should provide? What about different APIs? Does it make sense to write your own abstraction layer? Message queues were also a popular topic and we noticed that RESTful interfaces are everywhere. I liked the final statement of one attendee most: Maybe clouds are forcing us to rethink a lot of our developer concepts so we can actually sit down and start writing clean code for a change!

Here's the audio recording from the architecture session. I tried to write down some notes after they have been discussed so you can try and skip to the pieces you're most interested in. The audio is a bit low volume, but still quite intelligible.

Wrapping It All Up

After the breakouts, a surprisingly large number of attendees were still there despite being late into the evening to gather and listen to the summaries of the different sessions. Here's the recording, including some notes to help you navigate.

All in all, this was a great event. A big thank you to Eric and his team in Paris and the sponsors for setting this up! More than ever, it became clear to me how significant the trend towards cloud computing is and how many talented people are part of this community, driving the future of IT into the sky.

Update: Eric now published his own summary with a lot of background information. It's a great read, so check it out!

Monday Mar 02, 2009

The Inner Life of ZFS: Cool ZFS On-Disk Block Structure Movies

Pascal Gienger of Konstanz University published a nifty DTrace script that captures ZFS' on-disk block activity and published it on his Southbrain blog.

The cool thing: He animated the data. That's right. Using a Perl script, he draws greener or redder dots depending on whether a particular range of blocks on disk sees more reads or writes. By aggregating data over many hours while doing interesting tasks such as backup, he created a series of very cool animations.

In his first post, he shows us the inner life of a Postfix mail queue as an animated GIF:

ZFS on-disk block animation

Then, he compared the write patterns of UFS vs. ZFS using a MySQL workload to produce a cool MPEG-4 movie.

In his latest ZFS animation work, he shows us 18 hours of a mirrored file server including some backup, night rest and user action (Download MPEG-4 Movie here).

Congratulations, Pascal, this is way cool stuff. You really should upload these to YouTube so people can embed them in their blogs :).

Update: Meanwhile, pascal told me that he uploaded his videos on YouTube already. He has a full playlist full of them. Enjoy!

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