Bas @O’Reilly’s Velocity Conference 2019 – Berlin

This is the first blog in a series of 3 blogs about the Velocity Conference 2019 in Berlin.

Within SynTouch, I try to be on top of the next big thing from infrastructure perspective. Therefore, I went to O’Reilly’s Velocity conference, in my opinion one of the best conferences someone in my area of expertise can go to. This blog is my report on my experience. I wrote down what I took away from the conference and most important, my lessons learned. This blog is a mixture of my own opinions and those of the speakers.

Travelling with great Velocity

Six months ago, I’ve started a consulting job with a young fintech startup in Amsterdam. After years of doing Infrastructure as Code, GitOps and other modern infrastructure practices, I checked with my manager at SynTouch if I could attend Velocity in Berlin this year.

In my opinion, Velocity is the best conference for people in my line of work to attend. Other conferences often focus on one vendor or product, but Velocity is focused around the opensource ecosystem, with a focus on performance, resilience and security. It’s not strange to see that the people in report to really like to see me learning more about this stuff.

I packed my backs and went for Berlin at the end of business on Monday November 4th. After a pretty smooth trip with some small delays, I had a nice veggie burger when I arrived. I went for bed pretty early, because Tuesday promised to be an intense day!

Tuesday: Hands on tutorials to learn new tools

The day was split in tutorial sessions, taking the entire morning and afternoon. After this, architecture kata’s are organized, followed by a social event.

Observing and understanding distributed systems with OpenTelemetry Monitoring, Observability, and Performance – by Liz Fong-Jones (Honeycomb), Yoshi Yamaguchi (Google)

session slides

This was an amazing way to start the day. Initially, I was pretty overwhelmed by all the Go code and the pace the tutorial moved at. After I got a bit of help and caught up with the rest of the room, it went swimmingly. Go is an amazing language I learned over the summer, and adding telemetry to a sample fibbonnaci application was a breeze to do with some instructions. After the telemetry was programmed in, it was also really easy to export this data to Jaeger, which is a system you can send telemetry data to and use this tool to analyze it.

After we got our data into Jaeger, we fixed some bugs to clarify the data sent to Jaeger. After that, we exported to as well. That really looks like a tool I want to spend some attention to in the future!

SRE classroom: How to design a reliable application in three hours – Jesus Climent (Google), Akshay Kumar (Google)


I looked forward to this one. I strongly believe that SRE is the future of operations. In my view: radical automation, a lot of systems programming and a lot, a lot of architecture! I was not disappointed.

We were split in groups of six and we thought about how we would build a geo-redundant PubSub system spread over 3 datacenters across the United States. We started small and came up with a solution for one datacenter which we then scaled to the end state. We took into account constrains. A few of them were:

  • All request should be handled within 500 milliseconds
  • One complete datacenter should be able to disappear any time
  • We should store 100 days of message retention

Basically we were redesigning Kafka.

It was amazing to learn how the SRE’s at Google tackle this problem. I also realized there is a bunch of planning and designing in SRE. Operations as we know it is really going to change and moving much more to development and architecture. We will not be managing systems by hand again.

Architecture Kata’s

If you have worked with me, maybe even only for a couple of hours, it’s not a secret to you that my ambition is to move into an architecture role. These kata’s were the thing I looked forward to the most when going to the conference.

Sadly, it was a bit of a disappointment. Only 30 people could participate, the others were able to watch and enjoy free drinks. I didn’t want free drinks, I wanted to architect stuff.

Conclusion of Tuesday

Although the day ended with a downer, it was a fun day. I’m still amazed by the level of the people who attend this conference and I really enjoyed talking to a bunch of fellow attendees. The tutorials were very in-depth and I feel fortunate that I was able to attend them.

I went to a nice restaurant to have some dinner on my own and ponder on what I have learned today, and called it an early night.

Bas LangenbergBas @O’Reilly’s Velocity Conference 2019 – Berlin

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