ApacheCon US 2002
First published: 29th November 2002 for Apache Week
Some 500 miles and 19 months after the last conference on the state of the world for Apache, developers and users gathered in Las Vegas to converse again about the world's most popular web server.
After a day of tutorials, Ken Coar, Apache Software Foundation member and Conference Chair introduced this year's conference to the over 300 attendees. The conference included 60 presentations, 16 Birds of a Feather, 3 keynotes, and free access to the Comdex convention floor. After a brief break, Ken Coar introduced Tim O'Reilly, Founder and President of O'Reilly and Associates and his topic "Watching the Alpha Geeks."
O'Reilly opened with a quote from Sci-Fi writer William Gibson, "The future is here, it's just not evenly distributed yet." saying that Gibson describes exactly how one can understand the ever evolving world of computer technology.
O'Reilly's premise is that the evolution of technology follows a simple pattern that can be seen with the adoption and evolution of the personal computer: Hackers such as those who formed the famous Homebrew Computer Club started tinkering and developing computers for personal use as they pushed the technological envelope; These explorations evolved into businesses such as Apple and Microsoft as entrepreneurs start to make the new technology easier for ordinary users; As dominant players emerge that integrate the new technology into a platform such as the Wintel platform where barriers can be raised to keep other entrepreneurs from integrating into the new platform or a healthy ecosystem of corporations can evolve to help the new platform develop; And finally the hackers and entrepreneurs turn their attention to new areas, looking for new frontiers such as that of the Internet and its growth into a new computing platform.
O'Reilly moved on to what he sees going on now within the world of hackers and the next group of entrepreneurs, with the growing world of wireless networks, web services and the open source world.
So why then have companies struggled with trying to bring the wireless world to the public or struggled to build a model around open source software? Because according to O'Reilly, these companies are still trapped thinking in the old model of cheap hardware and proprietary software that defined the growth of the PC world, and that just as companies such as IBM had to shift from their world of mainframes and other proprietary hardware, the business leaders of today need to change their point of reference in order to fare better in these new, emerging worlds.
But most importantly, O'Reilly noted, was that the programmers who build these new technologies, define these emerging technologies, are designing the architecture of the next iteration of the computing world. This, O'Reilly feels, is where the world of Apache can help: by showing what models work in the evolving computer industry, that of adhering to standards, of building a small, but robust application with a modular design. In other words, what the hackers and programmers have succeeded in doing with the Apache server, related projects and how it is done, shows exactly what can and does work in the technological world of tomorrow.
The schedule of sessions about Apache on Tuesday included a talk by Mark Cox on Revealing Apache Security Secrets, Jim Jagielski's talk on Migrating to Apache 2.0, a presentation on the new Proxy module for Apache 2.0 by Graham Leggett, along with Theo Schlossnagle and George Schlossnagle who put together a session on deploying scaleable network architectures. The evening ended with a welcoming reception giving food and drinks for attendees to enjoy while they socialized and viewed the exhibit floor.
Wednesday's late morning keynote featured John Fowler, CTO of Software for Sun whose speech "Sun and Open Source: A Bright Future" allowed Fowler to discussed Sun's commitment to Open Standards and the Open Source community.
Fowler noted that since Sun's founding over two decades ago, the use of open standards and community participation has been of major importance. Fowler believes that since the founding of Sun there has been an overall shift within the computer industry from developing and selling new technology to that of building solutions that implement open standards. This shift is allowing technology that might originate from competing vendors to work together, providing an overall solution a customer can use, instead of having various vendor components that might solve one problem or another, but overall don't communicate or work together. Moreover, Fowler believes that the Apache project is a prefect example of open standards at work since the server is widely used and of such a benefit because of what standards it implements and how it handles those implementations.
In relation to the open source community at large, Fowler noted the major contributions Sun has made not only to Apache and related projects such as Tomcat, but also in non-Apache related projects such as the Gnome desktop and OpenOffice.org. Fowler feels that the work Sun has done with projects such as Apache have fundamentally changed how Sun operates, noting that open source communities can magnify the impact of a software project, not just in how many developers contribute or what is contributed but also in actual deployment of a project's technical solutions, because of the overall openness of the community.
A number of large and small companies shared their unique view of Apache and the open source world on the expo floor during the three days of talks.
AMD and Covalent took the most advantage of the conference by announcing a co-development project that includes Red Hat to port the Apache code base from the 32-bit architecture that allows it to run on the most commonly found x86 microprocessors to the 64-bit architecture that AMD is developing for its Opteron line of processors
To help highlight John Fowler's speech the Sun booth was dedicated to the various open source projects, both Apache and non-Apache as well as exhibiting the versatility of it's Java programming language again in conjunction with the Apache server as well as on its own.
Apple highlighted its Apple Developer Connection, which assists developers in deploying desktop and server systems based on Apple's Macintosh OS X platform. Apple of course has a number of web and network related tools available and includes the Apache Web Server by default in both the desktop and server versions of OS X.
Sams Publishing and BreakPoint Books were on hand to sell Apache and other web related books for the conference attendees. The books available covered just about any subject, from basic CGI programming to Java Servlets to Apache 2.0. A few other retail vendors filled out the low key expo floor including Daemon News which was featuring BSD Mall and Hackerthreads.com.
Wednesday, the busiest of the three days, brought Derek Ferguson's talk on Integrating Apache with Microsoft's .Net and a session on the next version of the XML parser Xerces given by Andy Clark. The afternoon sessions included George Schlossnagle's discussion about how to get the best performance from PHP, a talk by Gerald Richter on Embperl as well as talk by me, Paul Weinstein, on how to use and run a private certificate authority for authentication with Apache.
Thursday, the final day for ApacheCon featured a keynote from Richard Thieme whose speech, "New Ways of Thinking About Security: Open Source Thinking in a Bunged-up World" picked up where Tim O'Reilly left off by reiterating the idea that open source is more than just about code, but in reality is a way of living and thinking. This open source way of thinking is at its fundamental level based on the methods of communication that are commonly used within open source projects. Thieme also noted that, these projects and more importantly those that contribute and use open source technology, have become fluid individuals who's own identity is more modular, less ridged than of past generations, primarily because of the modular, distributed communication systems that are now are commonly used.
Just as O'Reilly sees his 'Alpha Geeks' as the early adaptors of technology, Thieme sees these early adaptors of open source and the open source ethic as a new social network emerging from preexisting boundaries. Because of this, Thieme thinks that security issues from around the world need to be seen in this new distributed world view. He noted that ApacheCon was indeed about a community coming together in a physical location, but really is about sharing secrets and how the Apache community shares its secrets, or chooses not to, can help those who are charged with building the next generation of security policies and laws. In other words issues of security, privacy and even intellectual property need to be built based on these new emerging communities and boundaries, thus being beneficial instead of building policies and laws that enforce old political and social boundaries that no longer make sense in the new world based on modular, world of networked communities.
Presentations on Apache for Thursday included Greg Stein's session introducing WebDAV and Apache as well as Rob McCool's presentation on the Stanford University's project to deploy machine readable content on the web. Mads Toftum's session on doing URL manipulation using mod_rewrite, Mark Wilcox's session on implementing LDAP along with presentations on data management in Apache 2.0 by Cliff Woolley and performance turning Apache by Thomas Wouters helped round out afternoon.
No doubt the highlight for many at this year's ApacheCon attendees was the Closing Session where Ken Coar raffled off a number of goodies supplied by the conference vendors including books, AMD processors and other wonderful swag. But most importantly to those in attendance and to the Apache community at large came the announcement that 2003 will see two ApacheCon conferences, the return of ApacheCon Europe which will occur in the spring at a location yet to be determined and ApacheCon US which will return to Las Vegas in November.
Overall most attendees seemed impressed with the return of ApacheCon. While the production of the event was modest compared to previous conferences the quality of the presenters and the presentations where of the same high quality one would expect. Indeed, with so many interesting talks it was easy to find people cutting out of one presentation to hear the end of another and this report only mentions the more typical Apache topics available for attendees. Most importantly, ApacheCon has shown that it is still The Apache Event for Apache developers and users to come together and discuss everyones favorite web server.Photos from ApacheCon 2002