Velocity 2008

I got back from Velocity 2008 last night – an “first stab” conference focusing on Performance and Scaling for web applications and operations. For a first stab at the conference, it went really well. They reported that more than 600 folks attended the two-day event, and while many of the talks seemed to suffer from the “intro only, no real meat” syndrome, the overall flavor of the conference was a lot of finding itself.

I think the first day suffered more than the second on this point, and the hallway, lunchroom, and dinner conversations among attendees was probably the highlight there. The first day also felt very product-driven, although I suspect that’s a touch unfair. There were some really interesting vendors at the show, and it’s no surprise that for a first conference there was a lot of talk/attention from those vendors that were supporting the gig.

I think rather than talk about too many specifics from the conference, I wanted to focus on the general things that I saw.

  • The first, and most notable, was that more and more people are measuring performance right down into the javascript engine and wanting to get information about what’s happening in the browser as a general computing platform. By that I mean profiling, debugging, and having a sense of what they can do to optimize for that specific computing environment. The browser as a general computing platform is really coming of age – and driving the tool set quite forcefully. There was some noise about Flash/Flex and Silverlight – and mostly in the form of dismay that those environments were relatively opaque compared to the world of javascript in a browser.
  • The second was my desire to shout KNOCK IT OFF YOU WANKERS! THE CLOUD DOESN’T EXIST YET!. To be a tad more specific, it seemed that everyone and their third cousin decided that this conference was the time claim they were, or should be considered, a cloud vendor. Of course nobody really defined what the hell they meant by it, so it could have been anything. The one that really chapped me was Akamai trying to make a claim that a CDN was a cloud – I mean come on guys, give it over and try to stay real, will ya?

    The implied definition of cloud as it exists today ranged from outsourced datacenter/operations with an encouragement towards rapid deployment toolchains (Joyent, Amazon’s EC2, Slicehost) to full platform support engines (Google’s App Engine or EngineYard) to CDNs (Akamai). “Cloud computing” is the new marketing hypeword of the moment.

    I pitched out a twitter tidbit about this which ultimately led to an evening chat with Duncan about how some of the key technologies to make applications that “just work” in a cloud computing environment nice and seamlessly just plain don’t exist as yet. Everything in current environments is still manual, and frankly pretty complex. The “shove it into the environment and it just works” technology that enables automatic allocation of compute resources and nifty tricks like autoscaling isn’t there.

  • The white elephant in the room is that all this great datacenter scaling and automation really and truly sucks when you’ve got a heterogeneous computing environment – where in ‘heterogeneous’ I mean a mixture of Windows and Linux/Unix. There were a number of great talks about the how to and detail of running a scaled environment within a single environment. Microsoft’s otherwise not-talked-about project “Autopilot” (zipfile of presentation) isn’t (to my knowledge) available to it’s customers. Puppet and HJK’s various tool sets of goodies just flat out doesn’t support Win32 or Win64. ControlTier stood out to me in that they had an answer (all open source, no less) and that “Yeah, it kinda sucked…” (my paraphrase – don’t blame them). I was very surprised that I didn’t see BladeLogic as a sponsor there, given their interest in this sector and purported ability to provide a cross-platform solution.

Some general link love from Velocity:

Oh – and amusingly you can just see the top of my fuzzy little head in the background of one of JDD’s pictures from the conference. I remember him taking that photo – staring down the barrel of that lens – and hoping that he was actually doing something more foreground because my mouth was full of whatever munchy they were offering at the time there.

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