Check out the new USENIX Web site.

Summary of the Advanced Topics Workshop

Held at the 12th Systems Administration Conference
(LISA XII), Boston, MA, December 8th, 1998.

Sponsored by USENIX and SAGE



Introductions and Statements of Problems

As both a way to introduce the attendees and to get a feel for the kinds of problems they faced, each person was asked to present his/her environment and (up to) three most difficult problems.

Atendees were reminded that they were there to share their own experience and knowledge, and not as representatives of their company (insofar as the goal of the workshop was not to sell either companies or products, but rather, to share ideas and problems with our peers). Since many of the issues and problems that were likely to be discussed were difficult simple because of the (sometimes staggering) scale of the problem (e.g., backing up 10 or even 100 gigabytes is hard -- backing up tens of terabytes is nearly impossible!), attendees were asked not to play ``mine's bigger than yours.'' However, when Lee Damon (of Qualcomm) introduced himself as ``working for the people that make these'' (and holding up a Qualcomm Q800 -- a very small cellular telephone), Brent Chapman held up his Morotola StarTAC (another very small cellular telephone) and said ``mine's smaller!'' Lee then noted that it's only when discussing ``cell phones, cameras, and pagers will you hear a man say `mine's smaller than yours' with pride.'' :-)

The attendees, their environment, and their problems are presented in alphabetical order.

Discussion of Selected Problem(s)

After the first round of presentations, the list of topics (problems) was sorted, and duplicated or similar topics were combined. A vote was taken to determine the first problem to discuss; the "winner" was "Consistency and/or standardization in systems administration practices, within a given organization, particularly as that organization grows."

An attempt was made to define the problem, but this proved rather more difficult than expected. What follows is Rob Kolstad's herculean attempt to summarize the discussion:

At this point, we realized that it was unlikely that we would get even a consistent statement of the problem. With this in mind, we broke for lunch and decided to take a different approach for the rest of the afternoon.

Presentations of Recent or Current Work

After lunch, we started another "around-the-room," asking each attendee to tell the group what new, exciting, or "cool" tasks or tools s/he had worked on/with in the past year. Several comments prompted quick "show-of-hands" surveys about either the tool/task at hand, or something related. The results of these surveys is shown in the next section of this document.

What follows are the highlights of this "discussion"; no attempt was made to record who "presented" what task/tool/idea.


During the course of the workshop, several informal, unscientific surveys were taken.

Of the 35 attendees:

Hot Technologies: Rumors and Refutations

In the time that remained, attendees were asked to give their opinions on either what would be a "hot" technology in the next year or so, or to refute some technology that was being hyped as "hot" but, in the attendee's opinion, wasn't. Again, no attempt was made to record who expressed which opinion/prediction.


I'd like to thank all the attendees for making the Advanced Topics Workshop the success that it was. The workshop succeeds mostly because of what the attendees put into it.

I'd also like to thank Rob Kolstad for his work as scribe and co-chair. His efforts allowed me to concentrate on interacting with the attendees without worrying that what was being said would be lost; he also provided valuable assistance that helped keep the workshop running smoothly. It is also thanks to Rob efforts that this summary exists at all; the only thing I did was sprinkle in some HTML.

Finally, I'd like to thank Judy DesHarnais, the rest of the USENIX conference staff, the USENIX office staff, the USENIX and SAGE boards, and all the rest of the volunteer that helped organize and run the conference. Without them, there would have been no conference.

Adam S. Moskowitz, Workshop chair