QCon SF 2008 – Day 2

November 20, 2008 | by Omar

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I was expecting more from the conference today than I experienced yesterday. What I’m expecting at a tech conference is to talk tech such that the speaker presents their expertise or lessons learned. I didn’t get much of that yesterday but today was another story. We kicked off the day with a talk by Tim Bray about the database and data access and the evolution of the database and what one needs to keep in mind when designing a system that uses them. He introduced techniques such as the use of MemCacheD that are used by all the big name web apps as a distributed cache of data retrieved from the database. He talked about Drizzle that is a light-weight database that removes all the stuff that no-one ever uses in major databases that slow down the database server and lastly column oriented databases such as Googles BigTable. All in all he provided some great insight on tech in the database layer which warrant further investigation.

Next was a panel discussion on scalability and emphasized the need to understand the update requirements of the system you are designing. They proposed that there are two types of design:

  1. Design for scalability up front
  2. Design for simplicity and deal with bottle-necks as they pop-up

I’m not sure if I’d ever go with option #2 but they made a good point about how many architects design for things to be bullet proof when one really doesn’t really have the requirement for it to be bulletproof. I fully agree with that principle. There was mention of several websites such as flickr that have made some very good decisions on having that happy medium

The next talk was about the Java 7 concurrency library and the need for making things concurrent given the fact that processors are not getting faster but are moving towards multiple cores. Therefore, we as developers need to ensure that we ensure our applications are making everything run in parallel (concurrent). One might feel that if you are running a website that since every request is being handled by a different thread your job is complete. However, how many of us receive enough requests 24*7 to keep all the cores busy. Therefore, we need to make sure that applications is decomposed to the extent that we are doing everything concurrently that can be done concurrently to ensure maximum CPU utilization and decreased response time and therefore an improved user experience.

The last session of interest was a panel discussion on the affect that the open-source movement has and on java. It was the consensus that the open-source saved java from mediocrity and J2EE from certain death. The focus of the discussion moved to open-source during the current economic condition. The panel felt that slashed budgets within most companies would allow open-source to flourish, at least those that are well established. The last point of interest was about how they make a decision within their companies about what to open-source and what to charge for. Bob Lee of Google said that they open-source low level tools and frameworks and charge for things they build upon them. Others such as a guy from MuleSource and Rod Johnson from Spring Source said that they charge when people are already likely to be paying other vendors for their product/services. For example, the quote of the night was from Rod Johnson

If you use MySql, tomcat and Apache as your application stack then you can use spring for free and that’s great. However, if you are using Oracle Rack for a database, BEA Weblogic for an app server then you have no right to complain when we charge you for a Spring to Oracle RACK connector.

The point being if you’re already spending money then why shouldn’t we ask to be paid for what we are offering.

Tomorrow has another set of very interesting streams and discussions. I’m looking forward to the stream called “Architectures you’ve always wondered about.”

Update: This blog post has been featured on the infoq.com website

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