Several Basho team members will be presenting on distributed systems topics at QCon San Francisco.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – November 7, 2012 – Attending QCon International Software Development Conference this week in San Francisco? We’d love to meet up and talk to you about Riak! You can catch us in the exhibitor’s hall all week, or at the welcome party taking place after the talks Wednesday, November 7 at Thirsty Bear. Additionally, several Basho team members will be presenting on distributed systems topics. Check out the talk synopsis below and hope to see you there.
Thursday, November 8
Riak and Dynamo, 5 Years Later
Andy Gross, Basho Chief Architect
October 2012 marks the five year anniversary of Amazon’s seminal Dynamo paper, which inspired most of the NoSQL databases that appeared shortly after its publication, including Riak. In this session, Andy will reflect on five years of involvement with Riak and distributed databases and discuss what went right, what went wrong, and what the next five years may hold for Riak as we outgrow our Dynamo roots.
Fear No More: Embrace Eventual Consistency
Sean Cribbs, Basho Software Engineer
A number of years ago, Eric Brewer, father of the CAP theorem, coined an architectural style of loosely-coupled distributed systems “BASE”, meaning, “Basically Available, Soft-state, and Eventually-consistent”. Clearly he meant this as a counterpoint to the “ACID” properties of traditional database systems. BASE systems choose to remain available to operations, sacrificing strict synchronization. While developers are very comfortable with the convenience of ACID, eventual consistency can be frightening, unfamiliar territory.
This talk will dive into the design of eventually consistent systems, touching on theory and practice. We’ll see why EC doesn’t mean “inconsistent” but is actually a different kind of consistency, with different tradeoffs. These new skills should help developers know when to embrace eventually-consistent solutions instead of fearing them.
Friday, November 9
Dynamo: Theme and Variations
Shanley Kane, Basho Director of Product Management
The Dynamo paper, released by Amazon five years ago, laid out a set of technical “themes” for highly available, fault-tolerant distributed systems. Since then, numerous NoSQL products have been built on its core principles. These “variations,” along with recent advances in research, represent both a fascinating study in technical evolution and the forefront of the non-relational world. In this talk, we’ll cover the foundations of Dynamo – consistent hashing, vector clocks, hinted handoff, gossip protocol – advances in each area, and how querying and application development has changed as a result of them.
November 14, 2012
The video from last week’s BashoChats Meetup is ready for consumption. Rusty Sears was kind enough to join us for an overview of Stasis. Stasis is “a flexible transactional storage library that is geared toward high-performance applications and system developers.” Rusty worked on it when he was at UC Berkeley and is now doing related work as part of Microsoft’s Cloud and Information Services Lab.
The talk runs just over 30 minutes, and is well worth your time. You’ll soon realize why Eric Brewer mentioned Stasis in his RICON2012 keynote as the type of framework that will be important for the next generation of distributed systems.
Enjoy, and make sure to sign up for BashoChats. When we announce January’s speaker, you’ll be glad you did…
November 4, 2012
For those of you not familiar with Riak Core, it’s more-or-less the distributed systems infrastructure that makes up, well, the core of how Riak distributes data and scales. For some introductory reading (that’s not pure code), there’s an old but still valuable blog post on the Basho Blog that’s well worth your time.
Why a separate list? Because Core is a powerful library that can be (and is being) used to build applications distinct of the other OTP apps (kv, search, pipe, etc.) that make up Riak. I know of at least 10 companies that have Riak Core apps in production, and I’m sure there are many more just waiting to share their use cases with the
world (hint hint…). Plenty of Riak issues are Core-related, and these should still be handled on the Riak Mailing List. However, as Core gets more use, there are questions, comments, and concerns that will be specific to Core, so a separate forum for these makes sense. There will be some overlap, too, and Basho will take responsibility for cross-posting when necessary.
We’ve long been convinced of the power of Core, but it has received less tooling (docs, tutorials, etc.) due to lack of engineering time. This is a great first step to helping put more community power and focus behind Core.
October 26, 2012
A few weeks back the Basho Team put on RICON2012. This was our first developer conference, and by nearly all-accounts, we put on a good show. Here are a few comments from those who were at RICON:
— Sean Schade (@seanschade) October 13, 2012
— Evan Meagher (@evanm) October 11, 2012
— Dana Contreras (@DanaDanger) October 11, 2012
For more, you can browse the @basho favorites for the numerous tweets we managed to tag during RICON. A few blog posts   also popped up with positive reviews (with at least one more on the way).
We’ve received more than a few inquiries asking about how we went about planning and executing RICON, so we wanted to publish something on it before too long. This post will cover (in very brief detail) the components of RICON we chose to focus on. We didn’t necessarily do anything new, and as you’ll notice a lot of the ideas were borrowed or modified.
Basho is an open source company, and our flagship project, Riak, has been out for more than three years now. During that time, we’ve built up a strong community, and today 1000s of companies and organizations are using Riak in production. We discussed doing a pure Riak conference (and the Riak community is big enough to warrant such an event), but Basho’s ambitions are, quite frankly, a bit bigger than Riak, and we believe in the future of distributed systems. We also know that making distributed systems something every developer embraces and understands isn’t doable alone, so building a community around it is essential to its success.
So, sometime around the beginning of July, the decision was made put on a conference. We announced it later that month, and got to work. We had just over three months.
Own The Venue
One of our first endeavors was searching for a venue. We knew we wanted to be in San Francisco, and wanted something intimate. Led by the efforts of Amber, we narrowed down the options to a handful and eventually settled on the W Hotel in SOMA. Their third floor has various meeting rooms, and capacity was about 300 people. We then learned that the second floor, which was primarily a bar, could be ours for both days, too, if we so desired. This would be a perfect spot for hacking and relaxing. What really sold us (aside from the amazing staff at the W) was the fact that we could own the venue for a few days. Our attendees wouldn’t be running through mazes to find tracks; or going off-site for lunch. We would be able to carve out space for RICON that would be largely untouched.
The immediate downside is that the W isn’t cheap, meaning even if we cut a deal with them for rooms, the rate would still be pretty steep. It ended up coming to just over $300/night with the RICON code. Certainly not a steal. We mitigated this with the following: ticket prices were kept low – the early bird was just $250 and the full price was just $100 more; also, San Francisco has a lot of hotels, so if you looked around there was cheaper lodging to be had.
Speaker Selection, Variety, and Composition
Keeping with the “distributed systems conference for developers” theme, we set out to find speakers that could cover the current and future state of the space. This wasn’t an easy task, but we assembled an impressive line up of developers, engineers, executives, and academicians. One thing that should have been immediately apparent was that the focus wasn’t Riak. Of the three keynotes, two were dedicated to larger trends in distributed systems; we had talks about Postgres and Chef; “Scaling Cassandra” was one of the lightning talks.
We were also dedicated to showcasing female speakers, though we could have done better. Women were part of just under 20% of all the talks the conference total which (anecdotally) is much higher than what most of us were used to seeing at developer events. Admittedly, we wanted this ratio be higher, and at future RICONs we’ll push that much closer to 50/50.
On the top of our priority list was bullet-proof WiFi. There would be no complaints from RICON attendees about connectivity or bandwidth. We worked with the team at Unwired to get a 100MBit dedicated ethernet drop (which included running a line from the roof of the W down to their machine room – a tidy 31 floors). Meraki then came aboard as official WiFi sponsors and provided us with enough hardware to blanket bolth floors of the conference – more than 20,000 square feet – with reliable, fast internet. They wrote about it on their blog shortly after RICON concluded. Also, you can expect a full length post from Sean Carey, Seth Thomas and Ryan Carey on all the work they did to keep you connected (because it was downright awesome).
Thanks to Nimby, Artur, and the rest of the crew (and servers) at Fastly, we were able to stream the entire conference live. We did this both days, all day, and streamed out 1080p video at about 60 frames/second. By the end of the conference the live stream only dropped a total of 2,086 out of approx 2,808,000 frames (99.9%); a testament to the quality of the streaming infrastructure available from Fastly. This was something that came together within the week preceding RICON, and we were very fortunate for it as it enabled us to increase the impact of RICON by orders of magnitude. If you’re having a conference, stream it live, and use Fastly to do it. Please.
Make It Accessible to Non-attendees
Live streaming was just one of various ways we made RICON accessible to the those who weren’t able to attend. On the day of the event, we deployed a dedicated RICON Live site (which has since been deprecated) that included links to code and slides decks from RICON, tweets, and pun-riddled play lists for both days   (in addition to the stream). From a traffic perspective, we had as many visitors connect to the RICON Live site during the conference as we did on basho.com during the entire previous month.
Making RICON accessible to others around the world was also very important to us as we are a distributed company. We believe very deeply in this approach to building companies, communities, and distributed systems, and we wanted RICON to reflect this.
Only Distribute What People Will Keep
Early on we decided to keep to eliminate as many printed materials as possible. Conference bags and the paper products that go in them cost a lot of money and are very wasteful because not many people keep them. Instead, every attendee was given a customized hoodie wrapped in their conference pass. And we built the passes such that we could include the sponsors’ stickers therein.
Coffee (Preferably Ritual)
Good, readily-available coffee is essential to keeping people excited and energized for two days of in-depth talks. We made sure that there would be freshly-brewed coffee all day both days. Additionally, we brought in a two person team from Ritual Coffee Roasters to serve espresso drinks in the hacker lounge for both days. Niley and the team at Trifork made this happen. This was a huge hit (not surprisingly) and I hope to see more events doing it as it’s not too pricey and makes for an easy-to-sell sponsorship. The cherry on the cake was that the brewed coffee in the hallways was also from Ritual.
It’s Not All About The Talks
The conference ran two days, with two tracks each day. There were 23 full length talks. That’s a tremendous amount of content. But we wanted to make sure that there was plenty of room to relax, hack, socialize, and get work done. To that end we made the entire 2nd floor of the hotel wide open and equipped it with power, food, coffee, and a few video games (including NES courtesy of the generous @cscotta.
Party Like It’s 1999
Night one featured a party sponsored by GitHub and Boundary. Much like with the venue, we wanted a space we could call our own, and we settled on 620 Jones. 620 Jones has the largest outdoor patio in San Francisco, and Amber had the idea to project the sponsor logos on the buildings that surrounded the patio. The view from Geary Street:
We also opened the party up to non-attendees which meant that significant others and those who weren’t able to attend but happened to be local could take part in the festivities. And, thanks to the sponsors, all the refreshments were free for the entire evening and we were able to feature a top shelf selection.
Design What Matters; Don’t Over Do It
The micro-site for the conference was one of the first assets built for RICON. Pulling from our design elements at Basho, the team branded and formatted a simple page, highlighting speakers and playing off of our pre-existing logos, color palette and fonts. We also made sure the site was ready for mobile devices (as that’s what people use while they are walking from talk to talk).
From Day 1, the consensus was that we didn’t want to print sheets upon sheets of paper that would be discarded. The only paper printing done was isolated to the passes and involved a traditional dye cut press. We wanted to provide a practical handout (name tag, schedule etc.), along with memento – a take away from the event that Sarah dreamt up, including a over lay of San Francisco, twitter handles, an embossed Riak node, Riak code snippet lining the inside, and the RICON twitter hash tag.
Working with a small, intimate space, RICON design was intentionally under spoken, and integrated with the authentic elements of the Basho brand and the uniqueness that the W had to offer.
No Sales People And Thoughtful, Generous Sponsors
The majority of the Basho Sales team was at RICON, but you probably didn’t realize this. The culture at Basho is engineering-driven. As such, our sales people take pride in knowing just as much about the space as our users and customers do. They were at RICON but they weren’t trying to hard close anyone. Instead they were there to learn just like the rest of us.
Our amazing sponsors also helped our attendees focus by staying largely in the background and branding things like parties, lightning talks, coffee bars, and lanyards. We cut a lot of custom deals for sponsors (there was no official prospectus), and we worked with everyone who committed money and time to RICON to make their investment fit their needs.
Lightning talks are nothing new. They are usually a huge hit if you do them right. Make them informal, encourage crowd participation (in the form of light heckling and interactive Q & A), and make sure you’re serving refreshments for the duration. Tom ran the lightning talks from top to bottom and crushed it. All told there were eleven talks at about 5-7 minutes each. Nearly all RICON attendees were present for this session and enjoyed topics varied from “Scaling Cassandra” to “How to Demotivate Your Best Talent”, providing an excellent finale to RICON Day 1.
Don’t Skimp On The Food
The W Staff worked with us to put together custom menus for both days. The lunch was served on the 4th floor roof deck, and the seating and was such that it encouraged interaction while eating. We were of the opinion that the food should be plentiful and exceed expectations for conference fare. Attendees were treated to buffet stations themed after San Francisco, and we served everything from tacos to vegan pasta to cheese and fruit plates to seared Ahi sliders.
Take Care Of Your Speakers
We tried to made it easy for the speakers to commit to being a part of RICON. We didn’t have a formal CFP (this year anyway) but instead opted to extend invites. Every speaker was of course given a free pass to RICON. If they were non-local, we paid their airfare to and from San Francisco. We also put them up at the W if they needed lodging.
Additionally, when each speaker registered, we had one person dedicated to walking them around the venue; they were given a personal tour that started with the track room they were slated to speak in, covered the entirety of the conference space, and ended with arrival at the dedicated Speaker’s Lounge.
There’s a lot we didn’t cover. This post is long-winded as it is. If you’ve got any specific questions, comments, or ideas on how we might of done things better, shoot an email to email@example.com. We would love to talk to you.
All told, just under 350 people registered for RICON and we sold out three times (and flirted with the fire code at the W in the process). This was a huge event for Basho as a company for our personal growth, and nearly all of our team touched it in some way; some were speakers, some stayed late setting up the space; some hustled tickets; others worked the Riak help desk during the event; etc.
Most importantly, we were able to share our passion for distributed systems with developers the world over. We’re counting down the days until we get to do this again. See you at RICON2013.
Thanks for being a part of RICON.
October 16, 2012
We are pleased to announce that Basho package repositories for Riak downloads are now available! Hopefully this makes installing Riak even easier. Here’s the summary of what’s currently available:
RHEL 5 and clones
RHEL 6 and clones
then install riak
Debian / Ubuntu:
get the signing key:
add the repository to your system:
then install Riak
This information will soon be added to the Riak Docs, but we couldn’t wait to share the good news.
Enjoy and thanks for being a part of Riak.
October 9, 2012
Basho is excited to announce that – in partnership with Microsoft – Riak is a fully-supported and tested NoSQL database option for Windows Azure. Our goal has been to increase the deployment options we can recommend for Riak on public clouds. Riak brings a master-less, scalable, distributed database option to Azure. And one that’s straightforward to administer… at scale.
As of today, the preferred OS for Riak on Azure is CentOS 6.2. The Basho team has created extensive documentation and packaging tools that will enable you to get Riak up and running in just a few minutes on the platform.
This is just the beginning of our work on Azure. Over the coming weeks we’ll be working with the Microsoft team to add tools that make creation and benchmarking of large clusters simple. We have started development to automate the creation of Riak clusters for benchmarks. We will also be hardening an official Riak image for the gallery and much more.
On a related note, Microsoft is sponsoring RICON this week in San Francisco, and all attendees will be getting some complimentary time to run Riak on Azure. We’re looking forward to people getting some good use on the platform.
October 8, 2012
I’m proud to announce that today, Basho has delivered an overhaul to our existing documents to docs.basho.com. We streamlined the navigation, look and feel, and content. We also made some changes that will allow us to easily document future versions of Riak, without crushing legacy documents.
When I first investigated Riak for my book, I was impressed by the technical elegance of the project, but wished that the documentation better conveyed the beauty of the project. Today’s launch takes us one step closer to helping Riak users, and the merely curious, to discover the beauty I had — without resorting to reading the source code.
Crafting documentation isn’t the sexiest piece of an open source project, but it’s one of the vital ones. You can have amazingly well designed code (we do) that’s well tested (it is), but if users don’t know how to work it, your project will never grow beyond a curiosity for insiders and dedicated enthusiasts.
There is a lot to get excited about these changes. Here are a few of the gems:
Ground-up Information Architecting
The top goal of this rebuild was to make it easier to quickly find the information you’re looking for. We organized our existing wiki docs (which were growing a bit wild) into categories which would be of interest to various end users: beginners, developers and operators, and separated guides from references.
We have new avenues for finding docs, beyond the obvious primary navigation on the left. As you dive into the pages you may notice subtler forms. At the top of some longer docs, there exists a table of contents for fast navigation. And floating to the right is a version bar. This allows you to see versions of this document that apply to older versions of Riak.
Once you read through a document, most pages have a secondary “These May Also Interest You” list of links you might also want to read up on.
Most docs are also tagged with keywords. If you click one, you’ll be taken to an index of all documents with that same keyword for fast orthogonal navigation. Click on
One of the realities of managing docs is wrangling changes to the application between versions. If you’re not careful, your documentation can easily become out of date, or filled with warnings (note! this only applies to 1.2.x!). We were inspired by the way that Node.js managed their docs, keeping every previous version since the beginning of time and pointing the latest directory to the newest version.
This allows you to not only navigate back in time to older versions, but also helps reduce the chance of broken links and allows us to evolve the design over time without confusing those who are used to older document versions.
The docs don’t merely reflect Basho’s newer styles, but also an intent to give you the information you need to get things done. Collapsible nav is useful when reading out side-by-side docs (check out our Riak to Dynamo comparison work in progress).
A responsively designed site will shrink/hide items to take full advantage of smaller screens like iPads and smartphones.
The design has other goodies, too, like a straightforward landing page, clear code samples, and easy to read type and font sizes.
The navigation look and feel should also help clarify where you are in the documentation at all times, reducing the chance of getting lost.
Similar to the Riak wiki, the Riak documentation and code is open source, and is open for anyone to contribute. I also created a new FAQ Markup Language, called FML. All of our FAQs are written in this markup. The rest is largely markdown and Middleman’s frontmatter.
This isn’t out yet, but look for it within the week.
The old wiki site used Google to search through the static site, so we thought: why not use Riak?
We’re test driving the newest Riak Search functionality for some good reasons. Importantly, we use Riak Search to eat our proverbial dog food. But there’s a better reason: because the new search ended up being the best method for searching content with high uptime.
We wanted to search with facets, by version ranges for example. We wanted to extract metadata from each document’s frontmatter, so we created a custom extractor. Clearly we wanted full-text search. We wanted it to be fast and distributed, a core feature of the new search.
The new Riak Search leverages the real power of SOLR, with the benefit of Riak KV as a storage engine. One installation. One cluster to manage. No mess, no fuss.
We’re sorry to have to play teaser to this new search, but it will be out before you know it. (If you’re at RICON this week, you’ll be learning all about it.)
So many people made these docs possible, there are literally too many to name them all here. But special thanks go to John Newman for his amazing design skills, Seth Benton and Brian Shumate for amazing work and eyes to detail. Justin Pease and the CliServ team for their hand in a realistic view of what users actually need; Mark Phillips, Shanley Kane, and the rest of Marketing for a strategic vision for these docs; Sean Cribbs and the Basho Engineering Team for working on version 1.0 of the docs; Ryan Zezeski for the new search, and the rest of Basho and our community for supporting this project.
This isn’t the Oscars, so I’ll just add, thanks go to everyone who had a hand in making these, including the community who worked to build Riak docs v1.0. Writing documentation might seem easy, but it’s a massive undertaking—and this is just the beginning.
October 8, 2012
At this point you probably know that for the past several months the Basho Team has been planning a two-day conference dedicated to both Riak and distributed systems. We’ve christened this conference RICON and it’s happening this Wednesday in San Francisco.
As of the middle of last week, RICON is officially sold out. A few days from now, hundreds of hackers, technologists, and executives from around the globe (just north of 350 total attendees to be exact) will descend on the W Hotel in SOMA for two full days of talks from some of the industry’s leading minds on distributed systems. (There will also be copious hacking and a big party; more details on the latter below.)
If you will not be joining us in SF this week, there is no need to be upset. In the spirit of sharing and open-source, we’ve gone through great lengths to include you:
Once the conference starts, we’ll be making all the proceedings available from the RICON Live site.
- First and foremost, we’re live-streaming all the talks, starting at 9AM Pacific on Wednesday. This is thanks to the brilliant folks at Fastly (who, in a number of days, built the ability to stream specially for RICON).
- Keep an eye on the #RICON2012 tweets and bump the RICON playlist in your home, office, coffee shop, or house boat.
- Track all the code, slides, and other resources that are released at RICON.
To everyone attending Wednesday, we look forward to seeing you there. To those of you who couldn’t make it, enjoy RICON Live. And make sure to register for RICON2013.
Thanks for being a part of Riak and RICON.
October 5, 2012
The opening of Basho’s Tokyo office, has been an exciting endeavor for everyone involved. We felt that Basho’s arm in Japan should embrace the traditions and culture of Japanese business whole-heartedly, so the opening ceremony for Basho Japan was held in traditional, Japanese “Shinto” fashion.
Following Japanese business tradition, a Shinto priest was invited from the local shrine Suga-Jinjya to perform a ceremony that, by the Shinto tradition, will help Basho continute to do well in Japan.
Following is the video of the opening ceremony in Japan. Enjoy!
October 1, 2012
tl;dr – RSVP to our London Launch Party on Wednesday, 3 October 2012.
At the beginning of this year, Ian Plosker and I were tasked to bring the quality service Basho is known for in the US to our customers in Europe. We came to London in March to find the future office of Basho’s European headquarters. We found a comfy office in the heart of the thriving startup community in Shoreditch.
Since May we have decorated, hired, started the Riak London Meetup, attracted attention and added new customers – our European operations are running strong. This week, it is time for us to take step back and celebrate this milestone in Basho’s history.
This Wednesday, the 3rd of October at Corbet Place (The Old Truman Brewery) in Shoreditch at 18:30 BST, we are having a party and you should be there. The space is limited to 200 people, so please RSVP. Come celebrate with Basho executives, employees, investors, customers, and Riak users – registration, beer, and canapes are free.