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Usenix LISA: Still the best value in Sysadmin Training

It's almost time for Usenix LISA(Large Installation System Administration) and I recently was thinking back to my first LISA conference. There are a ton of good tech conferences out there; DevOpsDays, Strata, Structure, and plenty of others. Where I think LISA is different is really in the training section. Most conferences have talks for 30-60 minutes. That typically gets you deep enough to make you realize you want to know more. And then it's time to move on to the next talk, and you have ~4-6 per day, and 2-3 days of content. 12-18 things competing for your attention.

LISA's training is a bit different. It's typically either a 1/2 day or full day. That's 3 or 6 hours worth of content after you get take care of the breaks and lunch. It may even be part of a track that gets you focused on the same topic for 2-3 days. That dramatically changes things in my opinion. First, as a presenter, having to talk about a subject for 3 or 6 hours means I can't fake it - you really have to know the content, and be able to deal with the class taking you in a direction you didn't expect. It also means I can spend time and go deep into a subject - I don't have to rush over things. And that length means the instructor gets your attention - at most the class is 1 of 2 things you'll focus on during the entire day. As an instructor though - it also means an engaged audience - people who actually want to hear and learn about the content. No one wants to sit through 3 hours of content they aren't interested in, much less pay to do so.

 Despite the similarities LISA training isn't product training; it's more likely to be 3 hours of training in a class called: "Advanced Time Management: Team Efficiency" by the inimitable Tom Limoncelli, or learning about Linux Performance Tuning from Ted Ts'o. While there may be product related talks - LISA tends to focus on the practical, getting folks something beneficial that benefits their worklife, it might be tools, or it might be techniques - but the bottom line is that it is educating and building up folks in the sysadmin world. To that end, I maintain that LISA is still the best sysadmin conference out there. If you are a sysadmin the benefits for attending LISA are far larger than just the training program. The hallway track, tech sessions, and the rest of the conference are the best value you can get in sysadmin training in my opinion.

In full disclosure though, I am humbled that I get to present some cloud tutorials. 'Building a Big IaaS Cloud' and a tutorial with Chiradeep Vittal dealing with next generation networking. I'll be at LISA all week trying to soak up as much content as possible, though I'll also be hanging out at the Apache CloudStack booth.
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David Nalley is currently employed by Citrix as the Community Manager for the CloudStack project. In addition he's a long time contributor to the Fedora Project, where among other things he is currently serving on the Fedora Project Board. He's also contributed to in various forms to Cobbler, Zenoss,, OLPC Math4, and Sahana. He is a frequent speaker at Free Software conferences around the nation, and writes for a number of technical and open source media publications including Linux Pro Magazine and
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Guest Friday, 18 July 2014


Citrix supports the open source community via developer support and evangeslism. We have a number of developers and evangelists that participate actively in the open source community in Apache Cloudstack, OpenDaylight, Xen Project and XenServer. We also conduct educational activities via the Build A Cloud events held all over the world.