For 24 years, the LISA Special Interest Group for Sysadmins (LISA SIG, formerly known as SAGE) has been a resource and virtual meeting ground for the sysadmin community at USENIX. Despite its sometimes tumultuous history, dedicated members have provided content for Short Topics books, shared insight with colleagues via mailing lists, and helped advance the state of the profession via the creation of the System Administrators' Code of Ethics, contributions to salary surveys, postings to colleagues via the Jobs Board, and nominations for the Outstanding Achievement Award.
What started as an experiment in 2015 has now been unleashed as an ongoing project in 2016. In order to keep momentum building between annual LISA conferences, USENIX has launched monthly "LISA Conversations." The LISA conference has hosted numerous exciting and thought-provoking speakers and presentations since its inauguration in 1986. As part of our open access initiative, USENIX has been recording and making them freely accessible since 2008. It's time to watch (or re-watch) these past sessions and discuss what's changed in the greater system administration community.
I wasn't able to attend last year's LISA Conference, so when I started planning out my sessions for this year, I was surprised to see that the tutorials ended on Tuesday instead of going all week. That wasn't entirely true, though. The half- and full-day tutorials stop once the technical program starts, but the technical program is interspersed with mini-tutorials.
Kyle Neumann had never attended LISA before, but when his employer encouraged him to go to a conference, he started looking around. A Reddit comment and his own research lead him to LISA. Although his primarily role is a Windows administrator, he didn't necessarily want to go to a Microsoft-specific conference. He told me he likes that LISA content focuses on the domain, not a specific technology. "Even the technology-specific stuff," he said, "is technologies instead of technology."
The benefits of moving computing infrastructure to the cloud are widely, if not universally, accepted. That doesn't mean it's always easy. In particular, user management can be tough. You don't want to open your Active Directory server to the whole world, but you want to be able to seamlessly manage users. And small startups might not have the resources to stand up and securely maintain their own directory service.
Conferences have a tough time keeping the wireless network up, sysadmin conferences even more so. With the LISA Build team planning to expand the network from just the keynote area to the entire conference, serious network gear was needed. Fortunately, Xirrus stepped in to donate 10 high-density access points. For the past 10 years, Xirrus equipment has focused on density, allowing for greater coverage and capacity with fewer units. In fact, they told me that for conferences like LISA, they can use four times fewer APs than competitors.
The Wednesday and Thursday morning keynotes provided an excellent contrast. One could call them "government: for better or for worse." On Wednesday, Mikey Dickerson gave attendees an update on what has changed in government IT in the year since the United Stats Digital Service (USDS) was established. ACLU Principal Technologist Christopher Soghoian spoke on Thursday about the role of sysadmins in the age of cyberwar and digital spying.
IT infrastructure often moves to the cloud for increased flexibility and decreased provisioning time. Midfin wants to provide the same thing to internal resources. By provisioning networking, storage, and compute together, machines can go from zero-to-ready for configuration in a matter of seconds. Midfin recently exited stealth and LISA is their first conference appearance. Co-founder Ajith Jayamohan told me they chose LISA because they "believe in being open. LISA is the perfect venue. There are a lot of like-minded people here."
Alice Goldfuss currently works as a Site Reliability Engineer at New Relic, but she didn't start out there. She had her own desktop computer at the age of nine and taught herself HTML, but when it came time to go to college, Alice chose a film and animation program. The years of constant constructive criticism taught her how to separate professional critique from personal and honed her ability to tell a story.