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Apache Software

Reflections On ApacheCon 2000

It's been a week now since ApacheCon 2000 ended. There's been some discussion over the events, with the release of Apache 2.0a being the main topic of conversation. But AC2K was more than just the venue that 2.0a was announced. It was an important and noteworthy conference in it's own right. If you're curious about what happened at AC2K, read on.
At this point I think it's prudent to make people aware that I was on the AC2K planning committee, but I'm not speaking for no one but myself. Also, I won't be giving a complete chronological account of AC2K. As the title says, these are my reflections on AC2K.

AC2K was held at the Caribe Royale in Orlando, Florida on March 8-10. Many people may have wondered about the choice of location, but in fact it was an extremely nice facility. Since the conference center and the hotel suites were located on the same campus and within easy walking distance, it kept the conference local and personal. The facilities had an extremely resort-like feel about them, most likely because ... wait for it, wait for it ... it's an actual resort. It was nice to be able to take a quick swim in the pool between sessions.

The conference started on the 8th, and there were many more walk-in registrations than anticipated. As a result, there weren't enough of some goodies (most noteworthy being the cool ApacheCon bags) to go around. In some ways, this was a Good Thing, since it meant that more people would be attending than originally expected, but it's never fun to run out of giveaways. Still, I got my share of coffee mugs and t-shirts. I think most people did as well :)

The conference opened with a plenary session of the Apache Software Foundation. AC2K boasted the biggest concentration of ASF members of any recent event, and provided the opportunity for many members to meet for the first time. The plenary also allowed for a nice Q&A session between the audience and the ASF. The big topic of interest was 2.0, and it was at this time that that a release of 2.0-alpha was promised by the weeks' end, or the following Monday at the latest.

Meanwhile, in the hallway of the conference center, Apple was busy setting up its Internet pavilion. The pavilion provided over a dozen Macs as well as several Ethernet drops for laptops. The entire pavilion was wired to the Net. Personally, I hope the pavilion was a success for Apple, because once it was set up, it was pretty much in constant use. The hotel also had Ethernet Net access in many of the suites. Unfortunately, the access was pretty flaky at times. When it worked, though, and when it wasn't overloaded, it was pretty nice.

There were three keynote addresses at ApacheCon. The first was given Thursday by Alfred Spector of IBM. Alfred talked about IBM's involvement in Open Source, Apache and Linux, stressing IBM's work in helping to make Apache 2.0 a reality. He also emphasized the need for developers to have easier access to tools and code to help them do their work. His keynote also included some talk of IBM's Websphere.

The 2nd keynote, also on Thursday, was given by Brian Behlendorf, President of the ASF. Brian spoke about what the ASF is, what it was designed to do, and what it's doing to help the various projects under the ASF umbrella. Key to the ASF is providing the infrastructure required to allow each project to focus on coding and development.

The final keynote was delivered Friday by Patricia Sueltz of Sun's Java Software Group. Patricia noted Sun's commitment to Open Source, citing Sun's release of code to various Open Source projects, such as the Tomcat servlet engine.

All three keynotes were extremely well-attended and, I think, extremely well-received. One of the common comments heard at AC2K was that although self-described "geeks and nerds" are Pro-Apache (and Pro-Open Source) that it's hard to convince "management" to move in that direction. At the very least, having heavyweights like Sun, IBM and Apple behind Apache should provide some justification to the movement.

Apache 2.0a was released at the conference's closing ceremony. The announcement was unique: Before the crowd of attendees, the announcement article was posted on Slashdot. When the main Slashdot page was refreshed, and the article was displayed, the crowd started to applaud. "There it is... we've announced 2.0a." At the same time, announcements were being sent to the various Apache mailing lists. During the closing plenary, the audience provided feedback regarding the conference while we all monitored the load and downloads on the Apache site on the viewscreen. It was all very geeky.

On Thursday and Friday, AC2K held an Expo with quite a number of vendors. Even the ASF had a booth, where nifty pins and luggage tags where given out. It was a great opportunity for the ASF to meet more personally with developers. I know I had a great time in the "ASF kissing booth." The Expo hall also had an area set aside for Expo vendors to do short presentations. The most popular presentation, IMO, was the one from ZEND by Zeev Suraski. It was standing-room-only, and there was even applause at the end of his presentations, an usual sound at Expo exhibits.

In general, the quality of the actual Conference presentations and speakers were quite good. Some audiences contained a mix of newbies and experts, so it was difficult for the speaker to get the right "technical level," but I think that everyone most likely left whatever presentation they went to with some new information. The "Birds Of a Feather" sessions were also very successful, since they were more brainstorming get togethers.

All in all, the conference was a great success. The feedback at the closing plenary certainly seemed to reinforce that. Sure, there were things that could have been done "better" and these will certainly be "fixed" in later ApacheCon's. But this was the first ApacheCon actually coordinated directly by the ASF. When all was said and done, there were more than 1000 attendees -- again, more than anyone expected. Of course, the feedback from those 1K attendees is very important. Attendees were encouraged to fill out "feedback/survey" forms, and one will be available online at the ApacheCon site soon. If you attended, please be sure that you are honest and thorough in your feedback.

Almost as important as the technical intercourse ("heh heh heh, he said 'intercourse'"), was the social aspect of the conference. It was great meeting so many Apache developers face to face, and having the opportunity to socialize with them. The 2 AC2K "social events" were some very bright spots of the conference. A lot of development happened right there while drinking a beer or munching on some buffalo wings.

With one successful ApacheCon under their belt, the ASF has no intention of not taking advantage of the momentum. ApacheCon Europe was announced at AC2K, and will be held October 23-25, 2000 in London, England at the Olympia Conference Center. Very soon, there will be a call for papers/presentations. Keep your eye on the ApacheCon site for more info.

Long live the feather!

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Reflections On ApacheCon 2000

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