Feedback on the LOADays 2013 – Small but powerful

For the second year, Normation was present at the LOADays in Antwerp, Belgium, as I went there to do a talk about Cobbler, discover some new interesting projects and enjoy the awesome social event of the first day (and Belgian beer) ! This post will expose my feedback on this conference, what I saw there and which conferences interested me the most.


The LOADays is a Belgian yearly small sized sysadmin meeting at the Don Bosco Werken én leren institude of Antwerp, with about 150 to 200 attendees, and 15 speakers this year. It is principally conference oriented, but with hands-on sessions too on a separate room.

I went there for the first time a year ago, with a very positive impression on the conferences, and especially the human size of the event: you get to talk to people for real and spend some time with them, having beers / coke / sparkling water with pizza with them during the social event (a very fun time at the end of the first day with free pizza and beverages, courtesy of the sponsors and the Don Bosco institute employees). It is also the first time I went there to do a talk myself, which was a thrilling experience. Simply put, a micro FOSDEM where you can actually interact with people as well as attend quality conferences.

This year edition was, as always, very intensive and full of ever more competent people !

I did attend these conferences:

OpenLDAP’s Lightning Memory-Mapped DB (Howard Chu)

As usual, Howard made a short introduction using his beloved violin: introducing a fast key value store with an Irish ballad, that is true creativity !

This talk explained the insides of LMDB, all the little details that made it speed. We saw the pros and cons of using Copy-on-Write concepts in a key value store (Garbage collection issues, Object tree management) and how does LMDB operates compared to existing key values stores.

Finally, Howard showed some very promising benchmarks comparing LMDB to various modern key-value implementations like Tokyo/KyotoCabinet, Google’s LevelDB, …

I already saw this conference at this year’s FOSDEM, but now there are more benchmarks and implementations available (In CFEngine, OpenLDAP, SQLite …), and I am still confident that this DB has a bright future ahead.

Link: here (with slides)

What’s new in syslog-ng (Peter Czanik)

A quick introduction to the new features of syslog-ng, by Peter Czanik (New filtering and correlation facilities? Hummmm…)

This talk was about the new filtering and content handling features present in recent Syslog-NG versions, viewed from the inside. Some very interesting correlation facilities are now usable in Syslog-NG, which can be used as a central platform to create custom log entries in case of some event triggers.

This can be used in complex scenarios as well as simple ones to make log entries more readable and relevant to the actual problem.

Link: here (with slides)

Introduction to Ansible (Jan Piet Mens)

Because Python, KISS-proof and easy to learn. Ansible, try it, love it.

This was one of the big interesting talks I was here for, the Ansible tool that enables one to create simple to complex scenarios to be applied on multiples machines via SSH. This is basically a deployment/configuration management software, but with a different and less agent centric approach than the other tools.

Using Ansible, you are able either to create simple iterative scenarios like “copy this file here and launch this command” or use playbooks, pre-made or hand made scenarios to do a specific task like installing a complete service.

This was very interesting as Jan Piet (Which is a cool guy) also presented some additional and “still beta” features like Fireball, the bus messaging transport for Ansible which dramatically speeds up the exchanges between nodes and the Orchestrator.

Link: here (with slides)

OpenNebula Fundamentals (Jaime Melis)

A first introduction to the OpenNebula datacenter virtualization management infrastructure.

It was a first introduction to what the OpenNebula project is, how it works and how you can deploy it in an already existing IT infrastructure. I liked the approach of the tool, a modular and easy to tweak collection of shell scripts called by the interface.

A promising first bite before the hands-on I attended later !

Link: here (with slides)

Fast and reliable multi-OS provisionning with Cobbler (Matthieu Cerda)

Well, no wonder, it’s me, I had to be here. I was trying to convince people that PXE automatization is desirable, if not recommended !

I explained during my talk that a PXE service is often desirable in companies managing a lot of machines, but is also hard to maintain. This is where Cobbler kicks in: It enables you to install and maintain easily (no, I really mean it).

It also enables its user to maintain distributions, profiles and preseed/kickstart/autoyast profiles using either CLI tools or a Web interface.

Link: here (with slides)

Integrating Linux into an Active Directory domain (Gábor Nyers)

A presentation from Gabor, a Novell guy, explaining how to integrate SuSE to AD domains. With very interesting extras like btrfs snapshotting integration in Samba.

It was a very surprising talk for me which was just expecting yet another Samba 4 presentation, to see that Novell proposed very innovative features to be integrated into Samba, especially remote-local copies (Something I did really want in CIFS for a long time) and improved file version handling using btrfs snapshots.

Link: here (with slides)

Building your Enterprise Cloud with OpenNebula (Jaime Melis, 3 hours hands-on)

Going all in with the new OpenNebula tools this time, with help from the project guys !

This was a long (3 hour) hands-on session to introduce people to the OpenNebula cloud computing stack.

It was a very fun experience, playing with the beta version of OpenNebula (Which is quite usable already, with only some GUI glitches), and discovering how the tool works inside.

I was a bit limited by the power offered by my laptop (Launching VMs inside VMs is not for weak CPUs), but we were able to play around a bit with normal instances and OpenNebula market ones.

I found it interesting to see that usable and simple hosted alternatives to Amazon / Azure exist which are fun to use AND production ready.

Link: here (with slides)

Conclusion (as a sysadmin)

This years edition was again a total success, with special mentions for the quality / level of the conferences and the social event. I had the occasion to discuss with a lot of different people, with very diverse nationalities, which was a very fun and enlightening experience. Hello again to Garrett Honeycutt, Howard Chu, Francesco Vollero, Jan Piet Mens and all the guys I talked to/drank with/laughed with, you guys rock !

Conclusion (as a speaker)

The conferences were good, and fun fact, all the speakers were given a Raspberry Pi at the end of their talk.

Thanks a lot to the Don Bosco institute to have welcomed us again this year and for the excellent breakfast, and the LOADays staff for the flawless organization ( Kris Buytaert (@KrisBuytaert) and Toshaan Bharvani (@toshywoshy) especially ). A special note for the hotel room provided by Toshaan, which was a dream, I rarely slept so well in a hotel 🙂

Jul, 02, 2013