On a quiet college campus in a small city in Eastern Europe, 1,200 professional and student developers recently descended to learn more about the future of coding. The general consensus from the participants was very much mission accomplished.
DevConf.cz is one of those annual events that looms high on the calendars of many Red Hat employees and contractors, since its location in Brno, Czech Republic puts it in the same location as Red Hat's largest engineering office in the world. Proximity to the Brno offices affords the event a lot of Red Hat attendees, but this is very much a conference for any developer who wants to see where market and community leaders are taking development best practices and projects.
OSAS Rolls Into Town
The Open Source and Standards (OSAS) team in Red Hat is dedicated to ensuring that our upstream communities are wildly successful. Success can take the form of more users, increased developer participation, brand advocacy… whatever a community needs. While we are dedicated to assisting those projects directly within our portfolio, we will also assist other Red Hat projects with their needs.
To support upstream communities, OSAS helps manage and organize events, provides infrastructure, and creates project resources such as branded giveaways, content for meetup and events, and governance support. We also ensure that Red Hat is appropriately involved in the standards bodies that influence Red Hat's products.
Delivering the message of this mission is a big part of why my colleagues and I traveled to Brno earlier this month, setting up our booth in the Brno University of Technology' Faculty of Information Technology building to hand out swag and talk about projects like Project Atomic, oVirt, Gluster, RDO, and CentOS. Other community projects present in the booth area included OpenShift, Foreman, and Fedora.
It can be said that the folks on the OSAS team are a well-traveled bunch who have been around the block a few times, so when we say the host team's hospitality was exemplary, we know what we are talking about. Particularly impressive was the work done by Eliska Malikova for the RDO community booth and Natalie Ardasevova for her work on conducting video interviews for the event. But, really, many people on the Brno team put forth the extra effort to make this event very smooth.
By Developers, For Developers
The problem with the packed schedule wasn't finding an interesting session to attend—it was figuring out which one you could see at any given time. (Luckily, you don't have to choose… sessions are now available on YouTube.)
Naturally, containers were a big, big draw, as this year many developers had gotten their feet wet with Docker basics in previous events and were now looking for more use cases and information on why and how they could deploy container-based tools. I personally had three long discussions in the hallway track on the virtues of containers vs. virtual machine technology. What was great about all of these discussions was if technical specifics got over my head, there was usually an expert on the topic within sight and sometimes literally within arm's length (I was not above just grabbing people and pulling them in).
But containers weren't the only game in town. Cloud, virtualization, storage, and security were also major topics at this year's conference. Members of the Fedora and CentOS communities were also able to get detailed updates on the upcoming features and events that will be affecting those respective projects. Throughout all of these sessions, the one common denominator was how open source technologies can be better harnessed by coders.
"We are using open source technologies at Uber—open source platforms—and we are also contributing to open source and we would like to see more people being involved and contributing to open source projects," explained Marek Brysa, Software Engineer, Uber Technologies, Inc.
The keynotes stayed on message with this idea of developer improvement as well. Tim Burke, VP, Cloud & Operating Infrastructure at Red Hat, dropped his wisdom on the crowds on how to be an engineering rock star. In his advice, Burke emphasized that beyond technical skills, the soft skills of socialization and interaction are just as key to a developer's success.
"Human interaction is really important," Burke said. "Face-to-face connections can be created that last for years." This, Burke added, is why he thinks events like DevConf.cz are vital to the health of the overall developer ecosystem.
These sessions weren't exactly beginner-level events, either. Attendees were given deep-level information about the topic at hand, and were able to ask many questions during and after the sessions. If anything, hallway tracks of discussions were the most active part of the conference, with clusters of people hanging around the session rooms and booth area for hours.
Nerds Invade Brno
The conference wasn't all about learning and work. Fellowship is just as big a part of an event as anything else, and our hosts did a great job pulling together events for attendees that appealed to all interests. From funny and informative tours of Brno's city center to a hosted event at the region's largest brewery, attendees were able to find a myriad of things to do.
Brno is a definitely a college town, and in the years I have started coming here, it has shown a lot of signs of positive growth. As the second-largest city in the Czech Republic, it is not a Prague, but there are great places to see and visit if you know where to look.
My favorite spot? The quiet little Unie Neslyšících [Deaf Union] Brno, a café with beer, coffee, and a wonderful atmosphere managed by deaf staff. Just a block away from the campus building venue, this spot was a great getaway from the conference to unwind and learn that sign languages, like spoken languages, come in lots of variety as well.
The Beginning of the Future
Much has been said about the coming of DevOps in the coding ecosystem, and certainly DevConf.cz did not ignore this topic. But developers here were also able to learn what's new and upcoming in the world of pure development—skills that they can take back to the classroom or the office and apply the very next day.
That's the best takeaway any conference can have, and DevConf.cz did not disappoint.