Linux World Conference and Expo - Day Three


Ok, so here I am with yet another late write up. This is for day three of LWCE 2008 which was Thursday, August 7th... the last day of the show.

Marc and KirMarc and KirWalking around some

Marc was able to help man the OpenVZ booth some today. He lives in San Bruno and took BART to the show... so I got the chance to actually walk around the exhibit floor some, take some pictures and talk to a few people. I posted about 199 photos to the LWCE 2008 photo gallery.

After walking around some it became increasingly obvious to me that the number of exhibitors (when compared to last year) was way down. There were a lot more open spaces and the amount of room between isles seemed bigger. There were also a number of new areas that took up room including the Installfest, Software Central, the App Zone, Linux Garage and the Center Stage.

Here are some shots of the empty space:

Linux Garage

Exactly what is the Linux Garage? Basically it was a showcase area for embedded systems companies to show their hardware. OpenMoko, Tin Can Tools, Trango Virtual Processors, NSLU2, Linuxstamp, and Literacy Bridge were there. Of course the primary display was a blue car outfitted with all kinds of gadgets on top of it so it could drive itself. The guy who headed up the project to teach a car how to drive itself gave a keynote speech and even had a beer bash. Unfortunately I was unable to attend either.

Literacy Bridge

I did get a chance to talk to Forrest Carmen of Literacy Bridge. What is Literacy Bridge? Forrest described it as being similar to the One Laptop Per Child project but rather than focusing on providing a laptop for educational purposes they were providing an electronic reader and books to go along with it to help with literacy issues around the world. He described the various projects they have going and showed the prototype device. It was pretty darn interesting.

Places I wanted to visit but didn't get a chance... Drupal, Etherboot, DRBL / Clonezilla just to name a few.

OpenVZ Booth Activity

We had a number of interesting people with interesting questions stop by the OpenVZ booth.

InfiscaleInfiscaleGreg Kurtzer from Infiscale stopped by the booth to ask how OpenVZ could potentially be used with his product to improve High Performance. Before starting Infiscale, Greg was the founder of the Caos Foundation which eventually lead to the development of CentOS. I talked to Greg about Infiscale's solutions and how they compared to Rocks Clusters. According to Greg, Infiscale's products are used in the a large number of the top 500 fastest super computers and Rocks Clusters is using a completely broken approach. The main factor he mentioned was that Rocks uses physical disks in each of their compute nodes whereas Infiscale uses a stateless computing approach with a single machine image and no hard disks. Of course, he would have to say the competition was broken to help justify his approach but I'm sure there is a lot of validity to his claims. My guess as a layman would be that reality is somewhere in the bell curve... with Rocks being a completely suitable solution for some (probably smaller systems with smaller budgets) deployments but Infiscale's approach being more desirable when you can afford it.

An owner of a hosting service of some sort stopped by, and I didn't catch his name nor the name of his business, to ask if we thought OpenVZ would be a suitable solution for him and his customers. He spent some time describing his business and his current solution (that is based on Xen) and the various pitfalls his customers face and why it is fairly hard for them to be successful. He wants to offer them the services that meet their needs in an affordable way so that they will have the best chance at success... because insuring the success of his customers is the best way to insure the success of his hosting business... as the money paid to him by his customers grows as they become more and more successful and need more and more services to grow with that success. It was a rather lengthy and interesting conversation. He basic concern was about management tools... specifically wanting the ability to manage accounts and duplicate accounts across virtual machines. OpenVZ doesn't really have anything ready made to fit the bill so I recommended that he have his technology person check out Puppet to see if they could fairly easily build their own solution enabling them to deploy OpenVZ.

Both Greg and the hosting company owner seemed to have a greater interest in OpenVZ after visiting us at the booth... and seemed as if they were going to pursue OpenVZ as a direction for their work. Let's wish them success. I told them if they do all the work, I'd help write the press releases. :)

OpenVZ on the Asus EEE PC?

Kir brought a Asus EEE PC with him along with his trusty, large-ish IBM ThinkPad. He said he had tried various distributions on the EEE but that he had reverted back to the default it shipped with based on Xandros and a custom menu application. When I first arrived at the booth on Sunday morning Kir had a headset on because he was talking to his wife in Russia over Skype.

Kir being the hacker that he is decided on night two of the show that he wanted to get OpenVZ going on the EEE and spent much of Thursday early morning building a kernel for it. He explained to me the problems with installing a new kernel on an EEE and how it has two hard drive partitions (one read only) and UnionFS that merges them together. He said that the only way to install a new kernel on the EEE is to boot in single user mode, mount the necessary partition to be writeable and then use the stripped down environment (that uses Busybox). He said it takes at least two reboots to install a kernel. He had upgraded his EEE PC to have 4GB of RAM but the BIOS could only see 2... and that the default EEE kernel could only see 1. So he had two goals... make a kernel with OpenVZ support that can see more than 1GB of RAM.

At some point on Sunday he was successful and he had a few OpenVZ containers running on the EEE PC... although I don't think live migration was working too well between his ThinkPad and the EEE.

Prior to getting OpenVZ going on the EEE, it was primarily used to drive the flat panel display that Marc had furnished for the booth to run the OpenVZ slide presentation. Once OpenVZ was going on the EEE it served as a good example answer whenever someone asked what the minimal requirements were to run OpenVZ.

Kir phoning home with his Asus EEE PCKir phoning home with his Asus EEE PC

Show Summary

Ok... now for my summary of the show... which is kind of hard to write since I was stuck in the OpenVZ booth most of the show and didn't get a chance to check out very much.

Kir is lucky enough to visit a number of shows around the US, Canada and Europe. He said that Linux World Conference and Expo seems to be getting smaller but all of the more community oriented shows seem to be getting larger. LWCE definitely serves a purpose... as being the business to business show and they still do well with getting FOSS projects represented at in the .Org Pavilion. It is great to see the massive, professional booths from the big companies showing that they support Linux because Linux is helping to provide them with a revenue stream... but I'm really not sure how much tangible benefit many of the exhibitors get from attending the show.

I can say that the few interactions with booth visitors I've mentioned in my three reports, if one or more of them pan out, could end up being quite significant for the OpenVZ Project so I'm guessing that many other exhibitors had similar interactions with their booth visitors.

I am very thankful to Parallels for funding my plane ticket, to my brother-in-law Steven and his fiancée Ray for allowing me to stay with them, and to my wife for allowing me to take a week away from the family... and work for letting me take a week away from work.

I hope OpenVZ is there next year and I hope I can man the booth again. I do recommend LWCE to Linux business oriented folks but give a stronger recommendation to any of the community shows (like SCALE or LFNW, etc) around the country.