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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 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
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.
September 12, 2012
In case you missed the announcement, last month we released Riak 1.2 into the wild. This release was many months in the making and contains bug fixes, performance enhancements, as well as upgrades to operations and cluster management.
Last week at the San Francisco Bay Area Riak Meetup, Andy Gross and Shanley Kane discussed what’s changed in Riak 1.2 and why you should care. In case you were not able to make it, the video of their talk is now online. If you’ve been on the fence about either upgrading to 1.2 or putting a fresh Riak install into production, then this video is for you. The talk is 30 minutes long–consider it a worthwhile investment.
If after watching this video you’re still not convinced, come to RICON on October 10-11. There will be plenty of Riak users and distributed systems experts on hand to answer all your tough questions. Tickets won’t last long, so register now.
Thanks for being a part of Riak.
August 29, 2012
tl;dr – There will be no shortage of language-specific content at RICON when it comes to building Riak-backed applications. If you and your team working on a Riak application and have specific questions or needs around your language or framework of choice, you should be at RICON. Register here. The early bird price ends this Friday.
We are billing RICON as a “distributed systems conference dedicated to developers.” We mean this in two ways:
- We are raising awareness and strengthening a community around what it takes to build “distributed systems”; in which a set of physical resources that are spread over unpredictable networks cooperate to run a service in production with little or no downtime. Riak is one of a wide set of technologies that make this possible.
- We are delivering on a promise to simplify how developers interact with distributed systems at the language level. This is largely focused on Riak, but not entirely.
A brief look at the RICON schedule will make it quickly apparent that there is plenty of bonafide distributed systems knowledge and experience to go around. What may not be completely obvious (as was pointed out to me a few days ago by a prospective attendee and trusted advisor) is the depth of language-specific knowledge and experience that is represented in RICON’s schedule. I wanted to make sure we cleared this up.
For those of you interested what it takes to build applications with Riak (at the language level), here are the details of what will be represented in the talks. (Keep in mind that the listed speakers constitute but a tiny subset of knowledge that will be present.)
Java and the JVM
- Comcast contributed the first ever Riak Java client some time around the beginning of 2010. Though that code has changed immensely over the past three years, Riak has spread to various teams who are now using it in production, mostly with Java on the front-end. Michael Bevilacqua-Linn’s Big Data in the Small talk will give valuable insight on how to build JVM-based services that talk to Riak.
- George Reese’s Migrating from MySQL to Riak session will highlight their work using the Java-based Dasein persistence framework alongside Riak.
- Brian Roach and Russell Brown, primary maintainers of the Java client, will be wandering the crowd. There will also be several community members using Riak in production with Clojure and Scala that have experience to share.
- Riak is written in Erlang. And it follows OTP principles in that it’s composed of various Erlang applications and extensions like riak kv and riak_core. To that end, Bryan Fink’s talk on Riak Pipe, Ryan Zezeski’s Riak and Solr session, and a few other talks from the Basho Team will highlight how to build Erlang applications with Riak.
- OpenX is using riak_core to do all sorts of crazy, amazing things. Anthony Molinaro’s talk about how he and his team are serving trillions of ads per year will go deep on building Erlang services with Riak.
- Gary Flake is giving Day Two’s opening keynote. He and his team at Clipboard have put Riak through its paces and built a social network fronted by Node.js. He will have much advice and wisdom to pass along.
- Matt Ranney and Voxer operate one of the biggest Node.js applications known to man. They recently open-sourced their Riak node.js client and, along with real-world experience about running Riak clusters that are creeping towards petabytes of data, his talk will be invaluable to anyone building an application with Riak and Node.
Ruby and Rails
- The (not-yet-announced) talk from Ines Sombra and Michael Brodhead of EngineYard will include a non-trivial amount of Riak and Ruby production knowledge.
- Sean Cribbs, original author of Riak’s Ruby client, will be on-hand, along with a handful of community members who have Ruby/Rails applications in production.
- The team at Bump is full of talent, and they are steeped in Python experience. The first application they wrote when they switched from MongoDB to Riak was Python-based, and their talk about building a transaction log on Riak will touch on their Python usage, too.
- Various community members who have contributed to and use the Riak Python Client will be in attendance, ready to answer questions and debate implementation details.
- Bump’s talk will be valuable to Haskell fans, too, as they will be detailing using Riak with a custom, open-source Haskell proxy that handles client-side resolution.
- There are a few other known applications running Riak with Haskell in the wild. They, too, will be represented among the crowd.
- In addition to being Riak Core experts, OpenX wrote a custom C backend for Riak that will be highlighted in their talk.
- Andy Gross, primary author of the still-beta Riak C Client, will be at RICON and is expecting to share his plan for the future with would-be contributors.
What Other Languages Enthusiasts Should Attend?
Just because there isn’t a “Building a Blog with Riak and OCaml” talk on the schedule doesn’t mean that fans of OCaml should shy away from RICON. (In fact, Dave Parfitt has been hacking on an OCaml client and I’m sure he would love your input.) Fans of languages like Perl, Clojure, Go, and Smalltalk are encouraged to join. I have no doubt that you’ll leave feeling more confident about building applications that scale in your specific domain (and as I’ve said before we’ll happily refund your admission price if leave RICON feeling less-than-enriched.)
It’s also worth noting that, along with the massive power of the 100s of non-Basho attendees, nearly every member of the Basho Team that writes code – Engineering, Developer Advocates, Architects, Evangelists – will be at RICON as both eager onlookers and Riak authorities.
Join us for RICON. We’re looking forward to seeing you in October.
August 23, 2012
Over the last few weeks we’ve been rolling out the talk details for RICON2012, Basho’s first-ever developer conference dedicated to Riak and the future of distributed systems in production. Taking place in San Francisco this October, it should be invaluable to anyone working in, around or with large-scale systems. While there are some talks we have yet to announce, the majority are live.
tl;dr – Go buy your tickets for RICON. Do it right now. The early-bird price of $250 ends in just over a week, and for that reasonable fee you’re not only getting access to more than 20 amazing talks on distributed systems and Riak in production, but you’ll be part of a two day celebration that includes parties, lightning talks, amazing swag, talented developers and ops professionals from around the world, hack sessions, and much more. (Watch the blog and the @basho for details on the “much more”. )
The full schedule is here. Some of the highlights are below.
And if anyone needs convincing about why they should come to RICON, feel free to email me directly – email@example.com. I’m happy to answer any and all questions about why you and your teams should join us.
There will be three keynotes, and they will all be exceptional.
- Opening, Day 1: Dr. Eric Brewer, VP, Infrastructure at Google and Professor of Computer Science at UC Berkeley (who also happens to be the creator of the CAP Theorem), will be kicking things off. RICON is more or less taking place on the anniversaries of both the CAP Theorem and the release of Amazon’s “Dynamo Paper”. This talk should be memorable.
- Opening, Day 2: Gary Flake, CEO of Clipboard, and ex-Technical Fellow at Microsoft, will be sharing details on how and why he and his team chose Riak for a social application.
- Closing, Day 2: UC Berkeley Professor Joseph Hellerstein will be closing the conference with a talk titled Keep CALM and Query ON.
Riak In Production
If you’re looking for reasons to run Riak in production from honest, articulate, experienced users, there will be no shortage. A portion of what’s planned:
- Voxer’s Matt Ranney will be on hand to tell the crowd what he both loves about Riak and would like to see fixed. They have 100s of TBs of data in Riak spread over more than 60 machines.
- The Bump team started with a MongoDB to Riak migration some months ago and have since built various apps and features on it. They will be presenting on how they built a Transaction-Logs based protocol with Riak and Haskell.
- Various teams at Comcast rely on Riak in production. Michael Bevilacqua-Linn, a Principal Engineer, is joining us to share details on how Riak integrates with a custom in-memory system to power xfinity.net.
- EnStratus CTO George Reese is presenting on the work he and his team are doing to move from MySQL to Riak in an effort build high-availability into their platform.
- Dietrich Featherston, an engineer on the Boundary Team, is giving at talk called Modern Radiology for Distributed Systems that will highlight their work with Riak and show you why it’s important to take a “radiological view” of your entire system.
Distributed Systems In Production
Riak isn’t the only focus of RICON. Some of the talks that will touch on other distributed systems:
- Dana Contreras from Twitter will be talking about how they managed to rebuild their massive infrastructure on the fly.
- Mandi Walls’ talk about using Chef for distributed systems will be invaluable to anyone tasked with managing N machines at scale.
- The inestimable Theo Schlossnagle is going in-depth on how you should approach monitoring clusters of machines in production.
Basho On Riak
A handful of Basho Engineers are giving talks on certain components of Riak and what future functionality you can expect from us and the community. Some of the highlights:
- Sean Cribbs and Russell Brown are going deep on data structures in Riak. (Yes, actual data structures.)
- Bryan Fink will shed some light on Riak Pipe, Riak’s MapReduce Engine, and how it can be used for large-scale data processing.
- Kelly McLaughlin and Reid Draper are two of the primary engineers working on Riak CS, Riak’s cloud storage extension. They’ll be walking you through how and why we built it and why it’s valuable.
- Ryan Zezeski is talking about the future of distributed search with Riak and Solr
Speaker Lineup Includes Twitter, Best Buy, Comcast and Bump to Headline Basho Developer Conference.
CAMBRIDGE, MA – (Marketwire – Aug 22, 2012) – Distributed systems technologies are becoming increasingly necessary to handle the demanding requirements for today’s Web, mobile and social applications and to build effective public, private, and hybrid clouds. Basho is exclusively focused on innovations that efficiently enable and support distributed architectures. Basho created RICON to bring together developers, industry experts and academics to explore and advance the use of distributed architectures in production.
Basho is proud to announce the following confirmed speaker lineup for RICON 2012, to be held October 10-11 in San Francisco, CA.
Keynote speakers include:
- Dr. Eric Brewer, VP, Infrastructure at Google and Professor of Computer Science at UC Berkeley
- Gary Flake, CEO at Clipboard.com
- Joseph Hellerstein, Professor at UC Berkeley
Additional featured speakers include (This list will be expanded upon in the coming weeks):
- Michael Bevilacqua-Linn, Principal Engineer at Comcast
- Michael Brodhead, Programmer at Engine Yard
- Dana Contreras, Engineer at Twitter
- Joel Crabb, Chief Architect at BestBuy.com
- Selena Deckelmann, Major Contributor at PostgreSQL
- Tim Douglas, Engineer at Bump Technologies
- Dietrich Featherston, Engineer at Boundary
- Kevin Kluge, Vice President of Products at Citrix
- Anthony Molinaro, Engineer at OpenX
- Will Moss, Engineer at Bump Technologies
- Matt Ranney, Founder and CTO at Voxer
- George Reese, CTO at enStratus
- Theo Schlossnagle, CEO at OmniTI
- Ines Sombra, Engineer at Engine Yard
- Mandi Walls, Evangelist at Opscode
RICON will be held over two days and will feature more than 20 talks spread out over two tracks.
Key sessions include:
- Using Chef to Manage Distributed Systems – Using features to dynamically configure relationships among components in complex system topologies
- Building a Transaction Logs – based Protocol on Riak- Bump’s real life experience deploying Riak, focusing on issues with dependant operations
- Big Data in the Small – Lessons learned from Comcast’s foray into distributed systems development
- Migrating from MySQL to Riak – Moving from a transactional to consistent persistent model using enterprise replication, secondary indexes and automated object/Riak persistence mapping
- Rebuilding a Bird in Flight – New ideas for current architecture and the know-how to scale from hundreds to millions while keeping uptime high and latency low
- Building a Social Application on Riak – Overcoming read and write bottlenecks to improve performance and scalability
- Data Structures in Riak – Approaching the problem of conflict resolution for complex data structures and formal strategies in recent literature
- Modern Radiology for Distributed Systems – A radiological view of network-derived imagery and what it can tell companies about current systems as a whole
- Keep CALM and Query On – Using the CALM Theorem to link Consistency and Logical Monotonicity, and how it can inform distributed software development
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For more details on the speakers, sessions and registration, please visit the conference website at: www.ricon2012.com
About Basho Technologies
Basho Technologies is the leader in highly-available, distributed database technologies used to power scalable, data-intensive Web, mobile, and e-commerce applications and large cloud computing platforms. Basho customers, including fast-growing Web businesses and large Fortune 500 enterprises, use Riak to implement content delivery platforms and global session stores, to aggregate large amounts of data for logging, search, and analytics, to manage, store and stream unstructured data, and to build scalable cloud computing platforms.