DevConf CZ 2020

This year, like every year, I find myself wondering which conferences I should go to. DevConf is definitely high on the list as given its content which is mostly around the upstream projects of Red Hat products, the people that go to it who are open source contributors, the location of Czech republic which makes it one of the cheaper ones around and the fact that I’m not so crazily busy in January as to be able to attend it.

The content

DevConf has several streams of interesting content which can be found here. The majority of my limited time I dedicated to learning more about containers as well AI/ML. The ones I found most interesting however, were the more obscure lectures I chose to attend because of my friends choices. These were lectures with a few topics from non-mainstream subjects to keep me current in the world of open source and Red Hat.

Friday for me was the most informative day as I’ve had to travel most of Sunday, and Saturday seemed to have morphed into a networking session.

Lessons learned

These are the things I want to look up and dive into when I have a few moments of spare time:

As part of the SRE talks, an idea of configuring things like quota and limits has been generally well known but Pod Disruption budgets are something that would reward good OCP tenants with a more stable platform, allowing the specification of safety constraints on pods during operations, such as draining a node for maintenance: https://docs.openshift.com/container-platform/4.2/nodes/pods/nodes-pods-configuring.html. Environments with more sophisticated uptime requirements would benefit from this (e.g. nighttime shutdown of most nodes).

Tools that check manifests or deployment configs in order to educate developers and operations team members as to what a good application deployment looks like https://github.com/app-sre/manifest-bouncer exist. This is something that can benefit communities of operations people that want to improve their SLAs and deployments in order to get the best out of a platform. Ideally, the more robust a manifest or template has been written, the more reliable the application it deploys.

Peeking into your compiler was not quite as big as some of the subjects above but nevertheless an interesting session with Ulrich Drepper and Jakub Jelínek. It talks about the comparison of GCC and other compilers (it emits assembly as a text file), supports multiple languages with a separate front and back end and targets different architectures. It then delves into the specifics of that and how each individual compiler component can be examined. Even though I don’t think I’d soon be using anything from this talk, I have been reminded of the complexity and customisability of not only compilers but also open source in general. This is both a benefit and a curse. Yes, people need to put in the effort to gain a benefit but usually the benefits outweigh the effort.

CodeReadyContainers talks are for developers that want to test their code on a OpenShift-like environment, finally replacing Minishift for v4 with something remotely workable. Bugs such as 30-day certificate expiry of CRC have been fixed, which enables long-running instances of it. Integrations with Windows and MacOS have also been released to enable developers and organiations to use it effectively.

Performance tuning is an interesting subject from many perspectives -from compilers, as mentioned earlier, to applications. PBench is a tool that caters to a simple use case of ensuring that whatever environment a program runs on, the same suite of tools will gather information about it. Well known tools such as libvirt, kernel configuraiton, sos report and less well known tools such as block, stockpile, ara are used to compile a holistic view as to what this application needs. It would be interesting to see how well it integrates with OpenShift or other container environments and in fact Lamda AWS functions and serverless as that comes to saturate the market but that may be a long way away for this tool.

Aritficial Intelligence, and in particular Machine Learning as a subject has a lot to give. Talks around data classification and pruning were particularly informative in finding the right balance between the right output and a faster system. Compromises were made in achieving the targeted outcome by pruning the data that was correlated to each other (e.g. in property age or foundation quality are correlated and only one should be kept) in such a way that the remaining non-correlated data gives the best outcome as a very rigorous principle of Occams Razor applied. AI/ML is a subject that I’m still very new at but interested in learning as I’ve always wanted to design the Matrix and not be part of it.

How to’s and getting started with…

I generally feel like any 30 minute talk during this conference was not worth my time. I think some people would have found them mildly informative but in actuality 20 minute talking and 5 minute question answering was too little to gain a deeper understanding into a complex topic.

However, I have gathered some information on “How to get started with Operators”. Operators can be created using 3 methods: ansible, golang, and helm charts. Operator basics can be investigated through this codeshare https://github.com/cloudflightio/operator-basics.

A topic that I also found could be greatly expanded is managing keys and key servers for network bound disk encryption. Rotation of keys can happen using features from tools such as: tang, clevis, sss.

Words

If anyone wants to play buzzword bingo (it’s a real thing) when the next technology adoption phase arrives,

GitOps was a very prominent word. It was coupled with managing OpenShift or K8s clusters (with ArgoCD as the main example) and having transparent and repeatable processes (heavily featuring operators).

Multi-Cloud was another one. This is related to the ability to switch clouds at will and avoid vendor lock in. This is done by using platforms such as K8s in order to deploy containers and technologies such as Ceph and NooBaa for storage on cloud providers to provide async replication between them. It dives into application use cases for this multi cloud proposal such as re-hosting/lift and shift, re-platforming (keep existing application and build new capabilities with containers), and refactoring (re-writing with a lot of effort from monolithic to microservices architectures).

Container Security: this was a topic featured by none other than Dan Walsh and his team. Moving away from root in containers is explained at https://opensource.com/article/18/3/just-say-no-root-containers. More talks were about dropping capabilities from container runtime and generating SELinux policies for containers automatically using udicia.

Self and time Management

Conferences are always a tiring thing for me. It’s a balancing act of finding things that are worthwhile and worth spending mental energy on. Developer conferences in particular have the additional bonus for the extended time with people that are far cleverer and more accurate than I am. Anyone with impostor syndrome or on the verge of it can testify that although this is eye opening and informative, it’s not boosting anyone’s ego. Therefore, time to decompress and frequent breaks are important. I find that at least 3 longer breaks are needed for this – one every 2.5 hours approximately to break the day into manageable chunks.

Fortunately, non-techie booths, lectures, and people were plentiful. I made my break time more interesting by looking at funky stickers, talking about neurodiversity, talking about how bee’s or hive’s vision could be used as an example to solve complex problems. However, sometimes that doesn’t cut it. Sometimes, you need a quiet table or a badge that says “don’t talk to me”. That was available as part of some conference booths which I felt extremely grateful for. I may have not used it but it was there should I needed to.

Things that I’ve missed and would like to see:

I’ve found that at least on Friday, I wanted to attend at least 3 lectures that were at the same time and on Sunday attend some lectures that I couldn’t due to travel time budgeted. There should be some recordings and slide sharing of these lectures but it still doesn’t beat being there in person to ask questions and network. These are the ones I would have liked to attend but couldn’t:

Will you do it again?

Yes, I think DevConf is a conference that despite of the fact that it is swimming in Red Hat upstream content has a lot of benefits to provide to the ever-learning consultant in me. I would however supplement it with something that has a more rounded view in open source next year. Any suggestions welcome.

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