Velocity Conference Review (New York 2016)

| 4 min. (829 words)

Velocity is a technical conference focused on DevOps, web operations, performance, and the professionals that maintain and develop those services and applications. Velocity is organized by O’Reilly Media, who you may recognize from their books on engineering (with animals on the covers), videos, and other training materials. New York was the last North American stop on the Velocity Conference tour schedule.

Photo courtesy of O'Reilly Media

Photo courtesy of O’Reilly Media

The attendees at Velocity represented the diversity of the development and DevOps industry. I met everyone from software developers to system administrators to dedicated DevOps engineers. I even had the pleasure of meeting several local college and code school students who were there to learn and gain industry exposure.

Like with most conferences of this size, Velocity offered a multi-track session schedule with several topics and themes including:

  • DevOps
  • Financial systems
  • Infrastructure reimagined
  • Organizational optimization
  • Performance for the people
  • Sponsored sessions

Google, Facebook, Uber, Shopify, and other major players in the software industry were among the companies represented by the great line up O’Reilly brought together. Puppet, a Portland-based DevOps automation company, had a speaker present which made this Portland dweller feel right at home.

The Sessions

While there were many wonderful sessions at Velocity I definitely had a few favorites:

 Day One:

Cornelia Davis (Pivotal):  ‘DevOps: Who does what?’

Cornelia’s talk focused on the architecture and mindset changes needed to support weekly/daily releases. Utilizing Cloud Foundry Cornelia displayed how the platform could speed up development cycles by the utilization of Cloud Foundry’s application and services abstractions. Cornelia provided some great ideas around rethinking how to build and scale applications beyond just adding more hardware.

Florian Weingarten (Shopify): ‘Scaling Shopify’

As someone who helped build a multi-tenant software application, the reality of trying to scale those applications (and fix them when they go down!) can be daunting.  Florian’s session provided useful tips on how to address those scaling and disaster recovery concerns. I particularly enjoyed getting to hear how they managed to get their Rails app ready for such an intricate system of load balancing and failover protection. In an industry like e-commerce you can not afford to have data loss or extended downtime, so Shopify’s plan to tackle those issues was impressive.

Michael Stahnke (Puppet): ‘Must be Willing to Relocate: Not Anymore’

While I’ll admit to a strong bias for all things Portland, Puppet has made a name for itself in how it handles its local and remote teams.  Michael has personally managed both distributed teams and teams at the main corporate office, so his first hand examples and resources were incredibly useful to remote developers. If you are planning to start a distributed team or are currently on one and need some advice, you should definitely reach out to him!

Bridget Kromhout (Pivotal): Timothy Gross (Joyent) – Charity Majors (Honeycomb) – John Vincent (MailChimp) – ‘Ops in the Time of Serverless Containerized Webscale’

This talk definitely had me laughing amidst all the morsels of great information. Getting to hear the gory details of the practical application of ‘serverless’ architecture, containers, and beyond enterprise level scaling was entertaining and daunting at the same time. If you are someone who comes more from the developer side than the DevOps side, getting the real dirt on how these things play out in production is eye-opening.

Day Two:

Jan Schaumann (Yahoo): ‘It’s the People, Stupid’

It is all too common these days to hear about security breaches at big corporations and tech companies.  With the rise of information security technologies and the huge amounts of money being thrown at the problem, Jan posed the idea that the issue itself is the people, not the technology in most cases.  Jan focused on giving real world tips on how to use limited resources, planning for the human element in your security strategy, and knowing the limitations of the available technical solutions.

Sonia Burney (Akamai): Sabrina Burney (Akamai) – ‘Security and Performance: Breaking the Conundrum…again’

Velocity conference review - the speakers for the talk on building resilient systems at scale

Photo courtesy of O’Reilly Media

Sonia and Sabrina’s presentation targeted the intersection of application performance and security.  While current trends are pushing towards making more information available to the client/browser before it’s been requested, this leaves a wide gap in security that needs to be carefully thought out.  They went into detail about how to implement browser-side solutions that balance out improved performance without having to sacrifice security.  If you were at all interested in HTTP/2 security, workers, or general browser security (which you should be!), this was a great talk to see.

Final thoughts on Velocity Conference

Velocity definitely hit the mark when it comes to putting on a great technical conference. The diverse group of amazing speakers and engaging sponsors, went well with the downtown Manhattan venue location.

If you are involved with DevOps, web/application performance, or just want to see a conference done right I highly suggest making it to the next Velocity Conference. There is a wealth of information and networking available at these events that you shouldn’t miss!