What is Rootconf?
Rootconf is the conference on sysadmins, DevOps, SRE, Network engineers. Rootconf started its journey in 2012 in Bangalore, 2019 was the 7th edition of Rootconf. In these years, through all the Rootconfs, there is a community that has developed around Rootconf. Now people do come to attend Rootconf not just to attend the conference but also to attend friends and peers to discuss projects and ideas.
Need for more Rootconf
Over all these years, we have witnessed changes in the network, infrastructure, and security threats. We have designed Rootconf (in all these years), keeping in mind the changing needs of the community. Lately, we have realized that the needs of the community based on their geographic locations/ cities. Like in Pune, there is a considerable demand for sessions that deals with small size infrastructure suited for startups and SMEs as there is a growing startup industry there. In Delhi, there is a demand for discussion around data centers, network designs, and so on. And in Hyderabad, there is a want for solutions around large scale infrastructure. The Bangalore event did not suffice to solve all these needs. So more the merrier, we decided to have more than one Rootconf a year.
Rootconf Pune was the first of this 'outstation Rootconf journey'. The next was Rootconf Hyderabad. It was the first event for which I was organizing the editorial, community, and all by myself.
I joined HasGeek as Community Manager and Editorial co-ordinator. After my Rootconf, Bangalore Zainab fixed a goal for me.
Z : 'Anwesha, I want to organize Rootconf Hyderabad all by yourself, you must be doing with no or minimum help from me.'
A: "Ummm hmmm ooops"
Z: 'Do not worry, I will be there to guide you. We will have our test run with you in Pune. So buck up, girl.'
Rootconf Hyderabad, the conference
The preparation for Rootconf Hyderabad started with them. After months of the editorial process - scouting for the proposals, reviewing them, having several rehearsals, and after passing the iron test in Pune, I reached Hyderabad to join my colleague Mak. Mak runs the sales at Hasgeek. With the camera, we had our excellent AV captain Amogh. So I was utterly secured and not worried about those two aspects.
A day before the conference Damini, our emcee, and I chalked out the plans for navigating the schedule and coordinating the conference. We met the volunteers at the venue after a humongous lunch with Hyderabadi deliciously (honest confession: food is the primary reason why I love to attend the conference in Hyderabad). We have several call volunteers in which our volunteer coordinator Jyotsna briefed them the duties. But it is always essential to make the volunteers introduced with the ground reality. We had a meet up at Thought Works.
The day of the conference starts early, much too early for the organizers and volunteers. Rootconf Hyderabad was no different. We opened the registration, and people started flocking in the auditorium. I opened the conference by addressing -
- What is Rootconf?
- The journey of Rootconf.
- Why we need several editions of Rootconf in different geographical locations all across India?
Then our emcee Damini took over. The first half of our schedule designed keeping the problems of large scale infrastructure in mind, like observability, maintainability, scalability, performance, taming the large systems, and networking issues. Piyush started our first speaker gave a talk on Observability and control theory. Next was Flipkart's journey of "Fast object distribution using P2P" by Ankur Jain. After a quick beverage break, Anubhav Mishra shared his take on "Taming infrastructure workflow at scale", the story of Hashicorp Followed by Tasdik Rahman and his story of "Achieving repeatable, extensible and self serve infrastructure" at Gojek."
The next half of the day planned to address the issues shared with infrastructure despite size or complexity. Like - Security, DevOpSec, scaling, and of course, microservices (an infrastructure conference seems incomplete without the discussion around monolith to microservices). Our very own security expert Lavakumar started it with "Deploying and managing CSP: the browser-side firewall", describing the security complexities post mege cart attack days. Jambunathan shared the tale of "Designing microservices around your data design” . For the last talk of the day, we had Gaurav Kamboj. He told us what happens with the system engineers at Hotstar when Virat Kohli is batting on his 90s, in "Scaling hotstar.com for 25 million concurrent viewers"
Birds of a Feather (BOF) session has always been a favorite at Rootconf. These non-recorded sessions give the participants a chance, to be frank. We have facilitators to progress the discussion and not presenters. While we had talks going on in the main audi, there are dedicated BOF area where we had sessions on
- AI Ops facilitated by Jayesh Bapu Ahire and Jambunathan Valady,
- Infrastructure as Code facilitated by Anubhav Mishra, Tasdik Rahman
- Observability by Gaurav.
This was the first time gauging the popularity of the BOFs we tried something new. We had a BOF session planned at the primary audi. It was on "Doing DevSecOps in your organization," aided by Lava and Hari. It was one session in which our emcee Damini had a difficult time to end. People had so many stories to share questions to ask, but there was no time. I also got some angry looks (which I do not mind at all) :).
In India, I have noticed that most of the conferences fail to have good/up to the mark flash talks. Invariably they have community information, conference, or meetup notifications (the writer is guilty of doing it). So I proposed that why can not we accept proposals for flash talks as well. Half of them are pre-selected and rest selected on the spot. Zainab agreed to it. Now we are following this rule since Rootconf Pune, and the quality of the flash talks has improved a lot. We had some fantastic flash talks. You can check it for yourself at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlREWUAEMVk.
Organizing a conference is not a person's job. In an extensive infrastructure, it is the small tools, microservices that keeps an extensive system working. Consider conference as a system, tasks as microservices. It requires each task to be perfect for the conference to be successful and flawless. And I am blessed to have an amazing team. Each amazing volunteers, the Null Hyderabad, Mozilla, AWS community, our emcee Damini, Hall manager Geetanjali, Speakers, Sponsors, attendees, and my team HasGeek. Last but not least, thank you, Zainab, for trusting me, being by my side, and not letting me fall.
Organizing a conference has been the journey of estrogen and adrenaline overflow for me. Be it getting into nightmares the excitement of each ticket sales, the long chats with the reviewers about talks, BOFs, discussion with the communities what they want from Rootconf, jitters before the conference starts or tweets, a blog post from the people that they enjoyed the conference was useful for them. It was an exciting, scary, happy, and satisfying journey for me. And guess what, my life continues to be so as Rootconf is ready with it's Delhi edition. I hope to meet you there.