Why I love LDAPCon

This post is loosely based on a lightning talk last week in Brussels.  We had a few minutes to fill and I felt compelled to spill my guts, despite having nothing prepared.

For those that have never heard about LDAPCon, it’s a biennial event, first held in ’07, with rotating venues, always in interesting places.  The talks are a 50/50 split between technology providers and usages.

You can check out this year’s talks, along with sides — here.

It’s not a ‘big’ conference — attendance hovers between 70 and 80.  It doesn’t last very long — about two days.  There’s very little glitz or glory.  You won’t find the big vendors with their entourages of executives and marketing reps, wearing fancy suits, sporting fast talk and empty promises.  Nor are there giveaways, flashy parties or big name entertainers.  For the most part the media and analysts ignore it; participants don’t get much exposure to the outside world.  Everyone just sits in a single, large conference room for the duration and listens to every talk (gasp).

So what is it about this modest little gathering that I love so much?

Not my first rodeo.  The end of my career is much closer than its beginning, and I’ve been to dozens of conferences over the decades.  Large, small and everything in between.  For example, I’ve attended JavaOne twelve times and been to half a dozen IBM mega conferences.

Let’s start with relevance.  Contrary to what you may think LDAP is not going away.  It’s not sexy or exciting.  Depending on your role in technology you may not even have heard of it (although I can guarantee that your information is housed within its walls).  But it’s useful.  If you’re interested in security you better understand LDAP.  If you choose not to use it you better have good reasons.  Ignore at your peril.

I’ve been working with LDAP technology (as a user) for almost twenty years.  When I first started, back in the late ’90’s there was a fair amount of hype behind it.  Over the years that hype has faded of course.  As it faded, I found myself alone in the tech centers.  In other words, I was the only one who understood how it worked, and why it was needed.  As the years passed, I found my knowledge growing stale.  Without others to bounce ideas there’s little chance for learning. You might say I was thirsting for knowledge.

My first LDAPCon was Heidelberg in ’11.  It was as if I had found an oasis after stumbling about in the desert alone for years.  AH — at last others who understand and from whom I can learn and work with.

Many conferences are rather impersonal.  This is understandable of course, because the communities aren’t well established or are so large that it would be impossible to know everyone, or even a significant minority.

The leaders of these large technology communities are more like rock stars than ordinary people.  Often (not always) with oversized egos fed by the adoration of their ‘fans’.  This is great if you are seeking an autograph or inspiration, but not so much if you’re wanting help or validation of ideas.

Not the case at LDAPCon.  You’ll still find the leaders and architects, but not the egos.  Rather, they understand the importance of helping others find their way and encourage interaction and collaboration.

Sprinkle in with these leaders earnest newcomers.  Much like when I arrived in Heidelberg the pattern repeats.  These newcomers bring energy and passion that fuels the ecosystem and helps to stave off obsolescence.  There is a continuous stream of ideas coming forth ensuring the products and protocols remain relevant.

The newcomers are welcomed with open arms and not ignored.  This creates a warm atmosphere for collaboration.  New ideas are cherished not shunned.  Newcomers are elevated not marginalized.

Not a marketing conference.  You won’t find booths (like at a carnival) where passersby are cajoled and enticed by shiny lights and glitzy demos.  Where on the last day they warily pack up their rides and go to the next stop on the circuit.

Not a competitive atmosphere, rather collaborative.  Here is where server vendors like Forgerock, Redhat, Microsoft, Symas, and others meet to work together on common goals, improving conditions for the community.  They don’t all show up to every one, but are certainly welcome when they do.

Here, on the last day, there is some sadness.  We go and have some beer together, share war stories (one last time) and make plans for the future.

The next LDAPCon will probably again be held in Europe.  Perhaps Berlin or Brno.

I can hardly wait.

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Secure Web Apps with JavaEE and Apache Fortress

ApacheCon is just a couple months away — coming up May 16-18 in Miami. We asked Shawn McKinney, Software Architect at Symas Corporation,  to share some details about his talk at ApacheCon. His presentation — “The Anatomy of a Secure Web Application Using Java EE, Spring Security, and Apache Fortress” will focus on an end-to-end application security architecture for an Apache Wicket Web app running in Tomcat. McKinney explains more in this interview.

Source: Secure Web Apps with JavaEE and Apache Fortress

Project Link: Apache Fortress Demo Project

Apache Fortress Two Years and Still Going

A couple of years ago I wrote about my first ApacheCon experience in Budapest along with some thoughts about the move into the ASF.

Much like before, it’s the last night in Seville, late and can’t sleep. Contemplating another great ApacheCon Europe experience is a pleasant way to pass the time, but with a 4am wake-up call and an early flight out, I should be sleeping. Regardless this offers the opportunity to write about how things are going since the move…

From a development perspective, Fortress is doing fine. The Apache Directory project has indeed proved to be a nice home. The overall fit is there in terms of technological alignment, along with the expected (hate to use the word) synergies. The team has done quite a lot and have patiently brought us into the fold.

From a community perspective things are starting to pick up.  Downloads are up to several thousand a month and mailing list activity is holding steady.

We’ve added several new contributors to the team bringing the much needed fresh blood, with one newly elected to the PMC. There have been five releases so far, with some nice features, and the right quality targets are being hit.  So overall things are going great.

Finally, the ApacheCon experience provides the connection with the community to make sure we stay on track with their needs.  It also gives me a much needed psychological boost.  Working on open source projects tends to drain the batteries and ApacheCon is the chance to recharge.

LDAP is dead. Long Live LDAP!

David Goodman’s keynote, LDAP 2020 Paradise Lost or Regained?, provides a retrospective for us to contemplate. In it, he describes LDAP’s roots (X.500), where it’s been (U of Mich, Netscape, Sun, Symas, Microsoft, ForgeRock, etc.), and offered insights of what needs to change.

Bottom line, it’s healthy to continually ask the question – Is LDAP dead?  For the answer, we’ll only slightly alter Mark Twain’s famous quotation:

Reports of LDAP’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

Why is that?  For starters, because of conferences like LDAPCon. More than its in-depth technical analysis and tutorials, is what happens in the spaces between the talks.

These spaces nurture the protocol by allowing free discussions on the flaws, and room to create plans for corresponding fixes/enhancements.

Just what are these fixes and enhancements?  Have a look at the program and slides.  Subscribe to the LDAPExt mailing list, share in best practices, and above all, keep attending LDAPCon!

See you at LDAPCon 2017!!

JavaOne Survival Guide

With next week being my 12th time at JavaOne, here’s some wisdom for those who’ve never been.

  1. Use the schedule builder.  Many sessions fill up early and if you didn’t reserve your seat you’ll be stuck in overflow.

  2. Don’t miss the Oracle Appreciation Event.  It’s one of the hottest attractions in San Francisco.  Event bracelets are highly sought after and traded by the locals on the free market.  I recommend leaving well in advance of the encores to avoid the long queues that gather for the return bus trip.

  3. Enjoy a brew at the Thirsty Bear a block from the Moscone center.  You’ll be glad you did.  And don’t skip the tapas.

  4. Attend the BOFS.  More casual (and fun) than the event keynotes or technical sessions.  BOFs are a great way to meet the leading minds working with Java.  The relaxed format encourages audience participation and are a way for your voice to be heard.
  5. Trouble reserving a room within your price range nearby?  Try renting an Airbnb apartment.  Often times apartments may be rented for a fraction of the cost you would otherwise pay for a hotel room.
  6. Take the BART.  No need to rent that car or pay $40 in cab fare.  BART has terminals at both local airports, is fast, easy and cheap.
  7. Get out and walk a bit.  Market Street (shopping), Union Square (more shopping), and China Town (eating and sightseeing)  is walking distance from the conference hotels.  Better yet, stop by the Embarcadero for a ride on one of the ferries shuttling commuters across the bay.

    If you’re lucky you might snag a bar seat at the Slanted Door which is one of the best restaurants in town.

    Need a laugh?  Check out Pier 39’s Sea Lions at the Wharf.

  8. Stay until Friday.  Avoid the mad rush to the airport on Thursday afternoon.  The conference pace slows to a crawl which is nice after all the earlier hustle and bustle.  There’s usually plenty of free beer left as Oracle tries to drain the last of the kegs.

Top Five Reasons for Attending ApacheCon

Capturing the pros so when I consider returning, along with its cons, i.e. time away from home and family, there is a balanced decision.

  1. Inspiration. When asking a colleague, who was attending for the first time, what she liked most about the conference this is the word she used. I agree. There are so many cool things going on, and people passionate about what they’re doing, it’s hard not to get inspired.
  2. Fellowship. With my 3rd ApacheCon now in the rear-view mirror, I can say with confidence that attending is a unique experience, compared to other conferences. At first I didn’t know the reason, now I do. It’s community values, making it more like a family reunion than a tech conference. Seeing old friends, finding out what they’ve been up to, and enjoying the shared common bond is an integral part of the experience.
  3. Learning. This one goes without saying, but it’s good to point out anyway. Plan on learning something when you come. You can learn from the newbies about the cool, innovative stuff, or from the old-timers about the Apache processes. It’s the best of both worlds.
  4. Cooperation.  Perhaps the biggest reason that we site to our boss.  Because we’re a tight-nit community, it naturally follows we want to help each other be successful.
  5. Discovery. Always a pro. Get something useful that you weren’t even looking for. This year I learned that Kerberos is causing great pain within the Hadoop ecosystem.  And that there is a new project in the incubator, Apache Unomi, that may help to change the way we think our data should be used over the Internet.