USENIX's LISA still for system administrators

LISA is a systems administrators conference–although this year it tried to evolve into a DevOps conference, with modest success–so the topics that concern it are fairly stable from year to year. Configuration management, storage options, security, cloud computing (particularly with Xen), IPv6, customer relations, and a bit of NoSQL formed the pillars of the program.

When keynoter Ben Rockwood did introduce DevOps, he leapfrogged over the usual discussions of communications and scheduling to a heady exhortation that seemed to gather everything good and true under the umbrella of DevOps, citing figures from Frederick Winslow Taylor to W. Edwards Deming and many of the leaders of the Toyota company as precedents. I thought that the unique insights and practices of DevOps got lost in the urge to generalize, but the presentation was very well received.

The presentation is also a reminder that USENIX, the long-standing sponsor of LISA and many other conferences, is much more than the sum of its conferences, research projects, and publications–it is a tight-knit community. All the people who came to the mike after Rockwood’s keynote did much more than pose a question; they dialogued with him and joked with the audience. The community looks pretty healthy. Over 1200 attendees braved the Boston weather for this conference, there is a good age range among the people I saw, and if the preponderance were white males, the organization is doing things to reach out. (There was a panel on Women in Tech.)

The formal presentations I went to varied in quality, although I always felt that the presenter was superbly qualified–often too expert to fit everything he had to say into scope of the presentation. The format at LISA takes some getting used to. It ranges from “This is why you should use Xen” tutorials to very erudite research findings in the “invited paper” talks. I particularly enjoyed Xen Day, held far away from the rest of the conference in a small packed room.

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