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stackconf 2024 | Highlights from Day 1

von | Jun 18, 2024 | stackconf

When our Event team asked for some to join stackconf this year, I happily volunteered and so it is me again writing our conference blog. I think the last time when I joined our conference in Berlin it was still its predecessor, so it’s my first stackconf. But if you know our Event team you can expect a well organized conference and great talks. And the talks were what made me excited already in advance as they are not on my typical topics, so I can widen my horizon.

 

The Morning

The conference started as always with a warm welcome from Bernd and with some minutes to crab a coffee and find the talk you wanted to hear. For me the first talk I was interested in was “Why is there no new Release? Nobody pays for the basics :-(“ by Schlomo Schapiro who I know as a great speaker and nice guy already for many years. His talk was not only about ReaR (Relax and Recover), but also about recovery of Linux servers in general and the importance of it, especially of having a plan and workflow for the worst case. ReaR is more a backup and recovery automation and workflow improvement than a backup software and from my experience using it I can agree to this. If you have not done yet have a look at the tool and when the talk is online watch it for some nice insights.

Second one was “Buzzing across the eBPF Landscape and into the Hive” by Bill Mulligan. He told us that eBPF makes the Linux Kernel programmable in a secure and efficient way. Why this is needed he showed in a nice pair of comic strips showing the process from an application developer requiring a new feature in the kernel and its landing in Distribution Kernels which can be reduced from several years to a much shorter time span.
With the basics explained, he jumped to the benefits for the Kubernetes world and then to real world examples. One example was Cilium what is becoming the network and networking security solution for Kubernetes. Another example was observability with Hubble and Tetragon which are based on Cilium. But he did not only tell us use cases, he also outlined what is not the use case. For example, a customer facing interface will never care about eBPF.
Finally, he gave a wider overview on projects, evenly mentioning eBPF on Windows, and more about the community.

AI is everywhere nowadays, so are talks about it. But I think “Generative AI Security — A Practical Guide to Securing Your AI Application” by Manuel Heinkel and Puria Izady was the first one I have seen focusing on Security. Manuel introduced us into the topic by explaining how AWS defines a responsible AI and that Security is one of the required values. The insights he gave to scope, lifecycle, dataflow, and top security risks of generative AIs were very interesting. While waiting on the recording to be available you can already talk a look on his recommendations the OWASP Top 10 for Large Language Model Applications and Mitre Atlas.
Puria jumped in for the more complex examples of vulnerabilities and mitigations. One library to help you choose a LLM for your own use case he introduced to the audience was fmeval. This is of course AWS focused, but can be extended to other LLMs which sounds interesting.
Overall a very amazing talk which I could only cover in a very basic way because of the many details mentioned, but one I can really recommend to watch from the conference archive.

The last one before lunch was Vishwa Krishnakumar with “Scaling Up, Not Out: Managing Enterprise Demands in a Growing SaaS Startup”. The talk was different as he shared his experience as a founder of a successful company. He took us from day 0 where you make the first decisions to product market fit where you are an established company. He focused on engineering and the events which can you make stumble. Furthermore, he gave tips on which things you should tackle already from day 1 as it will pave your way. This included when to say No to specific features, something not all have learned!

 

The Ignite Talks

Having the ignites after lunch is always great. The small talks offer the option to include different topics, but the first one “Practical AI with Machine Learning for Observability” by Costa Tsaousis was adding great details to two topics covered by other talks: AI and Observability. Automatically having Anomaly rates is a great thing if you analyze data. So now I have even a harder time to decide between talks tomorrow as it was a good preview on his full talk on Netdata.

Next one was Natalie Serebryakova with “Is Rust good for Kubernetes?”. She compared Go which is used for most parts of the Kubernetes ecosystem with Rust and made good points for using it.

Last one for today was “The DevOps Driving School: What comes after DevOps?” by Schlomo Schapiro as he explained every conference needs a DevOps talk. He made a point for learning DevOps in production as it should be normal for all and gave also some capabilities you need to achieve for getting to this state.

 

The Afternoon

Dotan Horovits I already know for several years as he is also a frequent speaker at Cfgmgmtcamp. He always does great talks on topics that matter, so my expectation were high on “Metadata: The Secret Sauce for Full Observability”. His definition of metadata is data about data which give your data (in his case telemetry data) context. He also made a great point about structured log events, which provide included metadata and consistency. Those can then be enhanced by custom metadata to create meaningful events.
Next telemetry data he focused on were traces which show the flow of a request and really require context. Followed by metrics, which are by default just numbers without much context. So this kind of data really needs enrichment. Having metadata on all this different telemetry data enables correlation, and this is what we need to break down data silos. OpenTelemetry is a project that can help here by standardization.
So a good look into a topic which is not solved in many environments based on hand signs in the audience which seemed to enjoy his talks, too.

Our own Daniel Bodky gave a talk “Towards Standardized Platforms: How the CNOE Project Can Help” I did not want to miss. After some questions to know his audience Daniel started by defining a platform, so what his talk is about. Afterwards he draws parallels between DevOps and Plattform Engineering and I liked his message of tiring down walls between teams. But his talk was not only about culture but also by tooling which brings in the CNOE Project.
Into detail, he went on idpbuilder, a tool which combines many from Kubernetes ecosystem tpin up a complete internal developer platform. It easily created a nice looking, featureful platform. And making a completely scratch-build kubernetes based setup looking easy is a well-done job! Based on the existing example Daniel added a custom one which he created in about half an hour making it look even more easy.
This showcase can really be helpful to convince managers that having your own platform is not so complicated and cost-incentive as they may think, and can improve productivity in your engineering team.

I could not decide between the next two talks, so I simply stayed in the room to see Alayshia Knighten talk about “Unleashing Potential Across Teams: The Power of Infrastructure as Code”. First she asked why we should care about IaC and answered the question by showing the benefits for different teams. Then she showed a democase as a practical example of the power of IaC.
If I had not been convinced already, I would be it now after her talk.

And last but not least I was listening to “Insights into Managed Service Provision: A STACKIT Retrospective” by Patrick Koss. Patrick started his talk with the motivation to provide a managed service and followed with how the decision was made for Kubernetes. After this he had gone into details about for example Kubernetes operators. Hearing which challenges they faced and how they solved them was quite interesting, especially as I would call STACKIT a German success story where it often feels like US company dominate the market.

 

The Evening

But stackconf is not only about the great talks, but also about socializing. While this happens during breaks, lunch and even before during breakfast, it reaches its high in the evening event. So I will leave you now, going to Umspannwerk Ost to enjoy the evening, but will be back tomorrow with the recap of day 2! And of course, I will make sure to include a paragraph about the evening event!

 

Dirk Götz
Dirk Götz
Principal Consultant

Dirk ist Red Hat Spezialist und arbeitet bei NETWAYS im Bereich Consulting für Icinga, Puppet, Ansible, Foreman und andere Systems-Management-Lösungen. Früher war er bei einem Träger der gesetzlichen Rentenversicherung als Senior Administrator beschäftigt und auch für die Ausbildung der Azubis verantwortlich wie nun bei NETWAYS.

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