Tourist in Techie Land: Reporting from Cloudcamp Vancouver

During introductory remarks for Cloudcamp Vancouver this past Saturday one of the organizers asked the group, ‘how many of you are technical people and how many are “from the business side”?’. The split was about 70/30 for the technical side.  The witty rejoinder to this result was something about why having it on a Saturday is a good idea – ‘only the technical guys would think this is a good way to spend a Saturday’. I saw one guy wearing a shirt that said, “I’d rather be surfing”, but the picture was of an open laptop.  Okay, so I’m joking about that last bit.  But, as a non-techie attending on behalf of Indicee, I was definitely in the minority.  Hence the “tourist” designation.

Here’s my thoughts on the day.

For the uninitiated, Cloudcamps are workshop-based events where the participants decide the curriculum at the beginning of the day.  Then, they spend the rest of the day talking about their main areas of interest with respect to “Cloud Computing“.  This can even include spirited, in fact heated, debate about how one defines Cloud Computing.

For our purposes, we can define Cloud Computing as what Indicee does! We deliver our software online through your browser.  And, our back office exists pretty much entirely on Amazon Web Services (EC2).  The Cloud. As a side note, I was delighted to hear that EC2 generously donates computing time to University of British Columbia (UBC) students to help build for the future.

That said, like a cloud, the definition is definitely nebulous and within the tech community it’s a moving target (to say the least). On Saturday, Dave Nielsen (Clouderati), stated a good working definition, I think.  Cloud is 1) managed, 2) self-serve and 3) on demand.  Dave is one of the founders of Cloudcamp.

Cloud is the essence of Software as a service, and we, Indicee, are the quintessential Saas provider.  We get all of our computing power and data storage metered like you get electricity from your local utility.

Destination Cloudcamp

So far over 15,000 people have participated in Cloudcamps worldwide.  The events are organized as an “unconference” which means, in short, Embrace The Chaos.  The organizers basically provide a blank canvas (within the context of Cloud) and with the help of an impromptu panel some topics are generated to fill up the breakout sessions later in the day.

Everyone involved brought their A-game so we were able to have a lot of fun collaborating on what the day would end up looking like.  The list of “official” organizers is here, but the cool thing about an unconference is that we ALL became organizers.

In the end seven sessions were defined:

  • Intro to Cloud Computing
  • Cloud Management & Interoperability
  • Designing for the Cloud & Best Practices
  • Cloud Computing for Large Enterprises
  • Security, Privacy, and Trust
  • Scaleable Data Management (SQL vs noSQL)
  • Enterprise Integration

If I can, I’d just like to pick out one thing from each of the sessions I attended to give you the flavour of the day.  Looking at my word count, I’m already pushing the bounds of net-friendly postings.  For more info, you can check out the Flip Notes from the day here.

Session #1: Cloud Management & Interoperability

Troy Angrignon kept a blistering pace through this lively roundtable in order to get through the points in good time.  The question of Vendor Lock-in was the overriding concern by a wide margin.  IT-guys are uber-paranoid of being held hostage and having their data held hostage.  It makes sense.  Once bitten, twice shy.  IT has a ton of baggage from the last generation of computing.  I don’t have the hubris to say “it’s different this time”, but I would say the issue is less difficult in a Cloud world than it was in the client/server world.  I hadn’t realized how intense these concerns were.  Good to know.

Session #2: Designing for the Cloud & Best Practices

Without being too facetious, my main takeaway is probably that I was in the wrong session.  This one was more of a how-to with respect to understanding the technology layers that make up a Cloud App; when to expect bottlenecks, and what to do about them.  Looking at the Flip Notes I think the Large Enterprises session would have held more value for me.  Know for next time.  Trevor O and Dave did a good job, it just wasn’t my bag.

Session #3: Scaleable Data Management – SQL or noSQL

I was really looking forward to this session because it had the potential to turn into an epic nerdfight.  All it would have taken is the presence of one militant, dogmatic ideologue on either side of the debate.  Unfortunately, our group was exceedingly rational and brought nuanced and balanced views.  My friend and colleague, Ryan Prociuk, really showed his chops on the subject bringing a ton of knowledge and experience to the group.

I won’t burden you with the gory details of this one.  Suffice to say, database are not one size fits all.

For now, just know the complexities of SQL (Structured Query Language) could be compared to writing macros in Excel. Tricky.  Here at Indicee, we prefer to let users ask questions using plain English.  It cuts down on the angst.

The highlight of the session, and indeed the DAY, was clearly Dave’s anecdote about running 50 million users on only 1 Oracle database.  It takes a fair bit of “wizardry” to pull something like that off.

Like the saying goes: “Plan for failure”


It was a great day.  To everyone who came out, good on ya.  To everyone I was able to connect with, good times.  And to the sponsors, thanks. Leave a comment!