AlexJ's Computer Science Journal

LinuxCon Europe 2013 – part 1

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Edinburgh, Scotland (UK) for the 2013 European edition of LinuxCon. It was my first time at LinuxCon and it was the biggest conference I attended (it’s bigger and nicer than FOSDEM). And I got to visit a very nice city: Edinburgh. If you ever get the chance to visit Scotland, don’t pass the opportunity, because it’s a great place to go to.

LinuxCon Europe lasted three days (21-23 October) and it was filled with interesting presentations. It was actually a two-for-the-price-of-one conference, being bundled with CloudOpen Europe and it was colocated with some other events such as the KVM Forum, Linux Automotive Summit, Embedded Linux Conference and with the private Kernel Summit. The theme of the main conference was, of course, The Cloud.

The conference started with a keynote from The Linux Fundation‘s Executive Director, Jim Zemlin with a positive status report of the Linux ecosystem. If you want to see him in action outside LinuxCon, I suggest you to watch Jim’spresentation at TEDx). The next presentation was from someone from Twitter, but it was so full or marketing and so void of meaning that I don’t even remember what it was about. The last keynote of the first day was given by someone from Citrix with a very simple title: “We won. What’s next?”. It was an interesting presentation and it lived up to the title, because it didn’t suggest what to do in order to get a bigger market share in IT, but rather how the Linux/open source model could be used to move other industries forward. One of his examples was the medical world, where the technologies are, in the big picture, very old. This is a place where people could contribute to provide new technologies at reasonable prices.

The parallel presentations sessions were in great numbers and on different topics, as it is typical for a conference.  You always had somewhere do go, but, unfortunately sometimes, interesting two or more presentations took place at the same moment and some other times, no interesting presentations were worth going to. Most of the presentations were cloud-related. I attended some focused on network infrastructure. I went to one about VXLAN to learn more about the technology (I had heard about it in the past, but didn’t know the details). There were, actually, a lot of presentations that touched on the VXLAN subject so I got some useful information about that. It’s hard to look at VXLAN as you would a normal LAN,but you can see the need for it in a world of datacenters. The architecture is is deeply tied to vritualization and virtual network devices (like Open vSwitch).

Being a hot topic, SDN (Software  Defined Network) was present mainly in the form of the OpenDayLight Project. OpenDayLight is a project under the umbrella of the Linux Foundation that has backing from big names in the networking industry (such as Cisco, Juniper, Brocade, Citrix, Intel, IBM, VMware). Its goal is to build a vendor neutral framework for modern networks, to make management of both network infrastructure and services a lot easier. Though I was sad to hear that it was all written in Java.

Another topic I followed was virtualization. I went to a presentation from someone at oVirt, a management interface for KVM -based virtual machines. The presentation was about how screenshots work on COW images and how that can provide features such as live migration on KVM. I had a long but interesting conversation with the guy talking about oVirt, KVM and other virtualization technologies.

In the lobby, where all the partner companies and communities had stands, there was a lot to explore. For example, I continued virtualization related talks at the stands of oVrit, Red Hat and GlusterFS (they seemed close friends). Related to cloud/cluster filesystesm, I found out about from two companies/communities unkown to me (OrangeFS and InkTank) about Ceph. It seemed common in the cluster world, but I never interacted with it. But I learned about its implementations and features (fuse implementation vs kernel implementation,  data replication etc.).

Related to virtualization and distributed storage, I couldn’t have missed the OpenStack and CloudStack stands. Although I’ve heard about these projects a lot, I never knew exactly what they did. I always had the impression that they were just buzznames for virtualization solutions. I had a long discussion with the guys from Cloudstack, and it seems my impressions were right. I got to play around for the first time with the CloudStack interface. My questions for the Cloudstack people made a comparison with VMware’s vSphere (with which I had some experience) and it turns out it’s basically the same idea. It’s just that OpenStack and CloudStack are open source, and that comes with the goods and the bads (except the fact that it’s free, you get the good part – it’s flexible and you can have a lot of strange architectures – but also the bad part of not being so friendly and “enterrpize looking”).

To be continued. Two more days of the conference to cover  and a lot to say.




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