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BSDCan 2011 - Wrapup

2011 marks the eighth year of BSDCan. BSDCan has become one of the largest, if not the largest 4.4BSD conferences in the world. Because of its size, BSDCan draws a lot of big names to make presentations. This year was no exception. I was excited to have the opportunity to attend this year, as I use FreeBSD on a daily basis as a Systems Administrator at Six Feet Up.


This year's opening keynote presentation was given by Peter H. Salus, former Executive Director of the USENIX Association and the Sun User Group, and former Vice President of the Free Software Foundation. In his keynote, Peter provided a brief non-architectural history of Unix and Unix-like operating systems. I find listening to stories from people who wrote the protocols, tools, and frameworks we use today to be a very enlightening experience as it helps provide insight into where we are going.


I later attended a talk by Jonathan Anderson on Capsicum, which is adding a hybrid capabilities based security framework to FreeBSD. This work is scheduled to be included in FreeBSD 9.0-Release and should revolutionize the future of computer security in FreeBSD. Neel Natu from NetApp gave a presentation on BHyVe (pronounced BeeHive). This software fills a void on FreeBSD by providing a native HyperVisor for virtualization. This software is a work in progress, but is scheduled to also be included in FreeBSD 9.0-Release. Having a native HyperVisor on FreeBSD is a big opportunity for us. If this work it completed in time, it will allow us to ultimately remove the remaining CentOS Linux installations from our servers at Six Feet Up.


Brooks Davis gave a great presentation on using ZFS to improve system management. Listening to how they are using ZFS sparked some additional ideas on how we also also better leverage the ZFS file system to improve our own system management processes. I also had lunch with Josh Paetzel. Six Feet Up has spent some time over the last 10 months to improve ZFS and iSCSI support for storage servers. Josh looked over the snapshot replication software we wrote and was impressed with how it handled "catching up" in the event that a secondary or tertiary server goes offline.  He was provided a copy of the software which might be used in an upcoming version of the FreeNAS appliance.

My Presentation of Speed Daemons

On day two, I gave a presentation on Speed Daemons - High Performance Clusters for Fortune 500 Companies (and their admirers). About thirty or so people attended my talk. But of those thirty most were influential people in the FreeBSD Community. People like Matt Olander from iXSystems, Ed Maste from Sandvine, Tom Judge from Sourcefire, and John Baldwin were all present. After giving my presentation, I attended a talk from Eric Allman on the History and Design of Sendmail.  Like the keynote I find it interesting to listen to stories from people who shaped the internet into what it is today. Tom Judge gave a presentation on Role Based package management, which is based on Tinderbox, and software he wrote called pmanager. This talk was the one I was most looking forward to attending at BSDCan and it didn't disappoint.
At the end of day a closing Keynote was given by Dan Langille. During this keynote he relayed a story from earlier that day. He explained that while he was in Eric Allman's talk he was chatting online with the high school-aged daughter of a friend of his about the conference. She didn't think the conference sounded like much fun. And then Dan mentioned that many of the people who shaped the internet were there with him. She thought that was pretty cool. Then Dan relayed that he realized the people who are shaping the internet we will use tomorrow were also there. That gave him a very warm feeling. The work we are doing today, as insignificant as it might seem, might very well shape the future of how others use the internet.

Overall Conclusions

Looking back over the conference, I'm in awe at the level of presenters and attendees at BSDCan. Being able to talk to the people who wrote the tools you use on a daily basis is a humbling experience. At the same time, being able to talk to those same developers about how you use their tools provides valuable feedback that ultimately can lead to improvements in those tools directly related to your use. My only regret about BSDCan 2011 is that it wasn't longer, or that I didn't have more time to interact with everyone there.
Thank you Dan for organizing the event! Thank you to all the volunteers, sponsors, speakers, and attendees for making my first BSDCan experience a great one. I look forward to seeing you all again next year!

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