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March 16, 2008

dtrace.conf(08) was this past Friday, and (no surprise, given the attendees), it ended up being an incredible (un)conference. DTrace is able to cut across vertical boundaries in the software stack (taking you from say, PHP through to the kernel), and it is not surprising that this was also reflected in our conference, which ran from the darkness of new depths (namely, Andrew Gardner from the University of Arizona on using DTrace on dynamically reconfigurable FPGAs) through the more familiar deep of virtual machines (VMware, Xen and Zones) and operating system kernels (Solaris, OS X, BSD, QNX), into the rolling hills of databases (PostgreSQL) and craggy peaks of the Java virtual machine, and finally to the hypoxic heights of environments like Erlang and AIR. And as it is the nature of DTrace to reflect not the flowery theory of a system but rather its brutish reality, it was not at all surprising (but refreshing nonetheless) that nearly every presentation had a demo to go with it. Of these, it was particularly interesting that several were on actual production machines — and that several others were on the presenter’s Mac laptop. (I know I have been over the business case of the Leopard port of DTrace before, but these demos served to once again remind of the new vistas that have been opened up by having DTrace on such a popular development platform — and how the open sourcing of DTrace has indisputably been in Sun’s best business interest.)

When we opened in the morning, I claimed that the room had as much software talent as has ever been assembled in 70 people; after seeing the day’s presentations and the many discussions that they spawned, I would double down on that claim in an instant. And while the raw pulling power of the room was awe-inspiring, the highlight for me was looking around as everyone was eating dinner: despite many companies having sent more than one participant, no dinner conversation seemed to have two people from the same company — or even from the same layer of the stack. It almost brought a tear to the eye to see such interaction among such superlative software talent from such disjoint domains, and my dinner partner captured the zeitgeist precisely: “it’s like a commune in here.”

Anyway, I had a hell of a time, and judging by their blog entries, Keith, Theo, Jarod and Stephen did too. So thanks everyone for coming, and a huge thank you to our sponsor Forsythe — and here’s looking forward to dtrace.conf(09)!

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