Tuesday Jun 09, 2009

OpenSolaris User Group Leaders Bootcamp

The keepers of the OpenSolaris Community took advantage of having a number of the User Group leaders at the CommunityOne conference this last week to set aside a day for a User Group Leaders' Bootcamp.

What a great opportunity to get together in the same room with folks working to create and sustain OpenSolaris user groups around the world! We had folks from every continent - from Atlanta and Argentina, from Dallas and Serbia, from China and London, and on and on. Something like twenty-five to thirty of the OpenSolaris User Groups were represented.

The whole day was a great experience. It was great to see that as different as each group was, there were a lot of common themes for both successes and for challenges. And a lot of great ideas were shared as to how to boost participation, to improve meetings, and to improve the success of the groups overall. It will be exciting to hear a report back next year on how these ideas have played out.

Be sure to check out Jim Grisanzio's photos to see some of these characters and what all went on at CommunityOne and in the OSUG Bootcamp.

Jeff Jackson, Sr. VP for Solaris Engineering, started the day off with a greeting and charge to get the most out of this opportunity to meet with each other and with the OpenSolaris and Solaris headquarters teams.

Since the thing that brought this group together was a common focus on OpenSolaris User Groups and not the fact that we knew each other, we began the day with a bit of team-building exercise, courtesy of The Go Game. This is a cross between a scavenger hunt and an improvisational acting class. Teams criss-crossed downtown San Francisco trying to find and photograph places hinted at by clues on web pages. At some venues, the teams had to act out and film various tasks. For example, on the Yerba Buena lawn, the team had to engage in an impromptu Tai Chi exercise in order to find their long-lost phys ed teacher, Ms. Karpanski, who then led the team in creating a new exercise video. Once we all returned, all of our submissions were voted on by the team and a winning team chosen. Supposedly, we can see all these photos and videos. Haven't yet found out how. Perhaps, that's for the best!

In order for us to get to know each other's groups, each User Group prepared a poster describing the group, where we were located, what we do, what sort of members make up the group, and what makes us special. Many of these posters were really well done! We had a bit of a scavenger hunt for answers to questions found by careful reading of all of the posters. It was really cool to see what sorts of projects some of the groups had undertaken and how they were working with various university or other organizations.

But the main part of the day was spent in a big brainstorming session. We all identified our successes, our failures, our challenges, and ideas for the future. We put all of these on several hundred post-it notes and placed them on large posters. We grouped them by topic and then went through all of these. Even though this only had an hour on the agenda, it ended up taking the bulk of the day. Since this was the most important thing for us, we decided to rearrange the day to accommodate it.

From these sticky-notes, we found out that some of our groups were mostly focused on administrators but others had a large developer population. We all have some sort of issues around meeting locations - whether it's a matter of access in the evening, finding a convenient location, or providing network access and power. For most groups, having some sort of refreshments was important, though some groups felt like good refreshments attracted too many folks who just show up for the food.

There were a lot of good ideas around using a registration site to get access to the facility and order food, creating and using Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, using IRC, interacting with the Sun Campus Ambassadors, using MeetUp to find new members. Many folks found it useful to video and make available presentations given at their meetings. Some groups (for example in Japan) have special sub-groups for beginners. Other groups are doing large-scale development projects, such as the Belenix project in Bangalore.

For me and the Atlanta OpenSolaris User Group, I have a lot of new ideas that I want to put out to our membership and our leaders - move back to monthly meetings, use a registration site, set up a presence on various social networks.

Many people said that folks come to the user groups in order to network and expand their circle of business acquaintances. In light of the current economic situation, with so many smart people out of work, I am thinking of promoting our group with some of the job networking groups around Atlanta. For example, my church, Roswell United Methodist Church, has one of the largest job networking groups in the Atlanta area. Every two weeks, nearly 500 people meet to network and help each other in their job search. Perhaps the many IT folks in this group might find this a way to get current and stay current in a whole new area.

At any rate, I am inspired to get things cranking at ATLOSUG!

After spending the afternoon working through our hundreds of sticky notes, the OpenSolaris Governing Board had a bit of a roundtable with us to talk about what they do and how we can work better together. It was really helpful for me to hear from them and to get to put faces to some of the names for the folks I did not already know.

We finished out the evening with a great dinner at the Crab House at Pier 39. From what I have seen, many of the photos from dinner and the meeting are already on Facebook, Flickr, and likely blogs.sun.com. Jim Grisanzio, OpenSolaris Chief Photographer, was out in force with his camera!

Thanks so much to Teresa Giacomini, Lynn Rohrer, Dierdre Straughan, Jim Grisanzio, Tina Hartshorn, Wendy Ames, Kris Hake and everyone else who had a hand in organizing this event. Thanks to Jeff Jackson, Bill Franklin, Chris Armes, Dan Roberts and all the other HQ folks who took the time to come and listen and interact with the leaders of these groups. I know that I got a lot out of the meeting and am more eager than ever to promote and push forward with our user group.

CommunityOne Recap

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend CommunityOne West in San Francisco, along with a number of the other leaders of OpenSolaris User Groups. (I head up the Atlanta OpenSolaris User Group.) What a great meeting! Three days of OpenSolaris.

First off, I am sure that Teresa and the OpenSolaris team selected the Hotel Mosser because they knew it was a Solaris focused venue. As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up! Even the toilet paper was Solaris-based. Bob Netherton and I were speculating that perhaps this was an example of Solaris Roll-Based Dump Management, new in OpenSolaris 2009.06.

CommunityOne Day One

Day One was a full day of OpenSolaris and related talks. The OpenSolaris teams maintained tracks around deploying OpenSolaris 2009.06 in the datacenter and around developing applications on OpenSolaris 2009.06. For the most part, I stuck with the operations-focused sessions, though I did step out into a few others. Some of the highlights included:

  • Peter Dennis and Brian Leonard's fun survey of what's new and exciting in OpenSolaris 2009.06. ATLOSUG folks should look for a reprise of this at our meeting on Tuesday.
  • Jerry Jelinek's discussion of the various virtualization techniques built into and onto OpenSolaris. This is a sort of talk that I give a lot. It was really helpful to hear how the folks in engineering approach this topic.
  • Scott Tracy & Dan Maslowski's COMSTAR discussion and demo. COMSTAR has been significantly expanded in recent builds, with more coolness still to come. I had not paid a lot of attention to this lately and this was a really helpful talk, especially since Teresa Giacomini had asked me to present this demo for the user group leaders on Wednesday. In any case, I have reproduced the iSCSI demo that Scott did using just VirtualBox, rather than requiring a server. Of course, the VB version is not something I would run my main storage server on. But it certainly is a great tool to understand the technology. I hope to have Ryan Matteson (Ryan, you volunteered!) give a talk at the ATLOSUG sometime soon.
  • I branched out of main OpenSolaris path to see a few other things on Day One, as well. Ken Pepple, Scott Mattoon, and John Stanford gave a good talk on Practical Cloud Patterns. They talked about some of the typical ways that people do provisioning, application deployment, and monitoring within the cloud.
  • Karsten Wade, "Community Gardener" at Red Hat, gave a talk called Participate or Die. This was about the importance of participating in the Open Source projects that are important to your business. He talked about understanding the difference in participating (perhaps, using open source code) and influencing (helping to guide the project). By paying more attention to those who actively participate, active members of the community enhance their status and become influencers of the direction for a project. And it is important that this happen - in successful projects, the roadmap is driven by the participants rather than handed down on high with the hope that people will line up behind it. Really, I think, his key message was that it is important not to just passively stand by when you care about or depend upon something, leaving its future in the hands of others.
  • Kevin Nilson and Michael Van Riper gave a great talk about building and maintaining a successful user group. This was built on their experiences with the Silicon Valley Java User Group and with the Google Technology User Group. They took a great approach by collecting videos from the leaders, hosts, and participants in these and other groups around the country. It was really helpful to hear people's perspectives on why they attend a group, why companies host group meetings, and why and how people continue to lead user groups. While a lot of what they had to say, and the successes that they have had, are a product of being in a very "target-rich environment" in Silicon Valley, it was interesting to see that some things are universal: a good location makes a lot of difference; having food matters. I got a lot of ideas from this and from the OpenSolaris User Group Bootcamp that I hope to get going in ATLOSUG.
  • OpenSolaris 2009.06 Launch Party finished out the evening. Dodgeball and the Extra Action Marching Band. I thought these folks were the hit of the evening. You get the best of marching bands, big drums, loud brass, but add to that folks flaying around, throwing themselves at the dodgeball court nets. Much more exciting than your regular marching band, even some of the cool ones around Atlanta in the Battle of the Bands!

CommunityOne Day Two

Day Two was filled with OpenSolaris Deep Dives. These were very helpful, not just in content, but in helping me to hone my own OpenSolaris presentations. For this day, I stuck close to the Deploying OpenSolaris track, having learned in graduate school that I am not a developer. This track included:

  • Chris Armes kicked off the day with a talk on deploying OpenSolaris in your Data Centre (as he spells it).
  • Becoming a ZFS Ninja, presented by Ben Rockwood. Ben is an early adopter and a production user of ZFS. This was a two-hour, fairly in-depth talk about ZFS and its capabilities.
  • Nick Solter, co-author of the OpenSolaris Bible, talked about OpenHA Cluster, newly released and available for OpenSolaris. With OpenHA, enterprise-level availability is not just available, but also supported. He talked about how the cluster works and about extensions to the OpenHA cluster beyond the capabilities of Solaris Cluster, based on OpenSolaris technologies. Some of these include the use of Crossbow VNICs for private interconnects. I am still thinking about the availability implications of this and am not sure it's an answer for all configurations. But it's cool that it's there!
  • Jerry Jelinek rounded out the day talking about Resource Management with Containers, a topic near and dear to my heart and one I end up presenting a lot.
We finished out Day Two with a reunion dinner of some of the old team at Bucca di Beppo. Around the table, we had Vasu Karunanithi, Dawit Bereket, Matt Ingenthron, Scott Dickson (me), Bob Netherton, Isaac Rosenfeld, and Kimberly Chang. It was great to get at least part of the old gang together and catch up.

Day Three was the OpenSolaris User Group Leaders Bootcamp. But that's for another post....

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