Open Source Summit 2017 – Tokyo

I’m writing this blog entry in Tokyo, but before I get on to the event, it’s probably worth mentioning my journey here. As you may have read in the news recently, British Airways suffered a major IT outage last weekend, an outage that they now say was caused by UPS failure. As an IT professional this just doesn’t add up for me, how does a UPS failure bring down an entire datacentre for 24 hours? What about their DR site? Why didn’t the systems fail over? This does rather underscore why it’s critical to have a fully demonstrable DR solution in place and this entirely preventable mistake has now cost BA millions of pounds in lost revenue and compensation. However, the first thing that came to mind for me was why haven’t BA adopted a cloud native strategy yet? When this IT failure happened, everything went down, booking systems, website, phone apps, everything. Whilst problems with DR are preventable, clearly mistakes happen and with monolithic IT that can be catastrophic, at least with a cloud native approach, some, if not all, of your applications and tools would still be working.

Getting back to my journey, this IT issue meant that my plane was in the wrong place and BA had to change aircraft at the last minute, this meant downgrading a lot of premium cabin customers (the replacement plane was quite a bit smaller than the original one), bumping other customers off the flight and rebooking them on later flights. For me, after fighting through the carnage at the gate this meant changing seats and boarding passes four times, but most importantly, it meant we took off a good four hours later than we should have. Oh well, it did mean I spotted a wall of servers acting as a backdrop to a Chanel store window in the airport. Who knew servers where so on-trend? They must be Dell EMC PowerEdge 14G servers, no other possible explanation!

Anyway, this kind of delay wouldn’t normally be much of an issue, but due to other commitments, I had cut this trip pretty fine and was due to be at the conference a couple of hours after I was supposed to land in Tokyo. However, by the time I had landed, the conference had already started. I flew into Haneda airport which is close to downtown Tokyo, so being super brave, I jumped on a train and headed towards my hotel.

This is my first time in Japan and, as you might expect, attempting to ride on public transport in Tokyo when you don’t speak the language is incredibly daunting. Undeterred, I grabbed my bags and braved it, Google Maps literally saving the day with their recently released Japanese public transport directions. A great example of a microservice at work, but most importantly, it helped simplify something incredibly confusing and complicated to the uninitiated and it got me to my hotel seamlessly. I quickly freshened up and headed out to the conference, Google Maps filling me with hope by suggesting that the Tokyo Conference Centre was just 10 minutes’ walk from my hotel. Given how well it had done to get me to the hotel I was only too happy to follow it again. Unfortunately, it turns out there are two Tokyo Conference Centres and Google Maps had taken me to the wrong one. Such as shame, just when you think technology has got your back, it lets you down again. Oh well, when I got there a very helpful lady handed me a map to the correct site and gave me some directions in perfect English, turns out I’m not the first person to be caught out like this! Those directions included taking two trains so, needless to say, by the time I made it to the correct Tokyo Conference Centre I had missed quite a few of the sessions, including both the Dell EMC sessions, which was more than a little annoying.

The conference itself is pretty small and is paired with the Automotive Linux Summit so it was no surprise to find the showcase stuffed full to the brim with all of the latest Linux based automotive applications. TFT dashboards are clearly en-vogue this season, as pretty much every stand had one running. Renesas stole the show here with their future automotive simulator, complete with outrageously cool heads up display and holographic dashboard assistant. Yes, just like Star Wars, only in your car. If they don’t offer a Princess Leia hologram option when this goes into production they really would be missing a trick. Regardless, the technology demonstration worked really well and is a bit scary, because it makes you realise that sometimes you just wake up and find yourself in the future. Or was it the past? Whatever. It’s Star Wars technology, in a car. What’s not to love about that?

Despite missing half of the first day, I made myself busy, attending the Keynotes and a good number of breakout sessions. There is always lots to learn at events like this and they had some very knowledgeable and well respected speakers, such as Jim Zemlin from the Linux Foundation, Chris Aniszczyk and Dan Kohn from the Cloud Native Foundation and Abbey Kearns from the Cloud Foundry Foundation. There was a lot of attention given to Kubernetes which continues to have a huge buzz around it as well as Fluentd, both touted as key projects to help define and shape modern cloud native infrastructure. There was also an acute focus on ARM architecture throughout the show, something I initially thought made sense given the pairing with the Automotive event, but the sessions were generally data centre focused, it’s pretty clear that there is a lot of interest around ARM based platforms within the open source community.

I really enjoyed the business focused presentations, several large local corporations were represented here including Sony, Hitachi, Fujitsu and NEC. Typically they all had a slightly different take on how they had implemented their open source initiatives, how this had impacted the way they do business and the personnel changes they had to make to get it off the ground. The messages were overwhelmingly positive, whilst they had typically struggled to get these projects off the ground, they were all seeing the benefits today with some of the companies finding themselves on the cutting edge of open source software integration, Fujitsu were a major sponsor and were heavily referenced and thanked throughout the conference for example. Other examples cited how these Open source initiatives had invariably led to cloud native projects that were adding even more business value. One thing that struck me throughout the week was the overwhelming positivity of the business messages that were delivered. This didn’t strike me as being self-congratulatory, most of the presenters spoke of initial struggle but offered solutions to others attempting to take the same path and were all able to list demonstrable business benefits, some even seemed quite pleasantly surprised at just how well these initiatives had worked out.

Microsoft were heavily mentioned throughout normally preceded with “despite being latecomers…” but quite respectfully all the same. Microsoft are acquiring a lot of companies in the Open Source space and this is helping them immensely, as is their continued growth in IOT, another hot topic mentioned throughout the event, although not specifically a focus. We (and by that I mean Dell EMC) were represented at this event too, of course, along with other large IT vendors, specifically HPE and IBM. One of the sessions IBM ran was entitled “Container interfaces for storage – are we there yet?” which was interesting, even if they failed to mentioned DellEMC RexRay. They didn’t draw any firm conclusions either as far as I could see, leaving me somewhat more confused than I entered.

HPE used their breakouts to focus on testing, both at scale and for taming what they called the “container security beast”. I get that compliance can be an issue, but this felt like scaremongering and was really nothing more than a thinly disguised advertisement for their IT Operations Management offerings. Cisco got more airtime in other sessions in terms of references than I thought they had earned, which was odd. They ran a session on “OpenDaylight as a platform for Network Programmability” which wasn’t particularly well attended, but then I don’t think people are really looking at Cisco to help them with their SDN strategy, even if their offering is leveraging open source code. Actually, this is one area where Dell EMC has a big advantage and I’d really like to see us deliver more on this topic at future open source events.

As for Dell EMC, we delivered two sessions, one on NVME where we specifically call out the fact that different vendors have different NVDIMM hardware, meaning there is no standardisation, so no standard way to get information like health data. The session proposed a solution by extending the ndctl (which is a user space utility library for managing NVDIMM hardware) code base to accommodate all NVME standards. The session actually urged all vendors to submit their code upstream to the open source nvdimm community to help with this, something we are already doing at Dell EMC. Sadly this was one of the early sessions that I missed due to my delayed flight, but it sounded fascinating and extremely positive. The second session was presented by Jonas Rosland from Dell EMC {Code} and focused on leading an open source community from a large enterprise. Jonas is a great speaker and certainly very well experienced here, but again, this is one of the sessions I missed thanks to that delayed flight. I did catch up with Jonas who tells me it was well received, so much so he was asked to deliver a further two sessions at the local Dell EMC office off the back of his event presentation, which was great to hear.

Overall it was a worthwhile event. My only gripes were with the venue itself, the rooms were far too small for some of the breakouts and as a result a lot of the breakouts were heavily oversubscribed to the point of turning people away. There was also no lunch provided, which was odd, but there were restaurants in the building. Actually, in the end I quite liked having to fend for myself with my non-existent Japanese, it involves quite a lot of pointing of pictures and bowing, it’s not exactly sophisticated, but it got me through the week.

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