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From August 20th to 24th, Drupal users and experts from all over the world visited Munich for DrupalCon Europe 2012. Among them, Markus and I. Since we do what we can to be a good community member, we backed the event as a Bronze Sponsor. And boy, did we get something for our money!

Let me put it first that the organization team did an amazing job, in front of and during the conference. They chose the Westin Grand Hotel and the nearby Sheraton as venues for all the talks, show floors and group meetings. It didn’t take long after arriving to notice that this was a very good choice. Not only was there enough space for almost 2000 conference visitors but the hotel staff also mastered the logistics of providing everyone at any time with coffee, water and food. There seemed to be a food table and coffee stand at every corner and I never saw a queue worth mentioning. The food was so great in terms of both quality and variety that I didn’t dare to get on my scale for the following week. There were a few weak points, too, for example the badly ventilated “Garmisch” conference room in the basement.

Another great idea was to merge the conference bagde with the program guide. If you wanted to see what was going to be on next, you conveniently flipped open the booklet on your chest.

The most important part of DrupalCon is, of course, the sessions. This time, they were divided into the following topic tracks:*Coding and Development

  • Community
  • Frontend
  • Business and Strategy
  • Sitebuilding
  • DevOps

Additionally, you could take part in the Core Conversations discussing Drupal’s future and watch live discussions at the Day Stage. In sum, visitors could choose between 78 sessions. All of them (AFAIK) were recorded and the A/V team managed to put the recordings online within impressively short time.

I’m proud to have given two sessions myself: “ Simple devops workflows with Kanban” and “ Use datacenter tools to make your dev life easier”. I’m going to write some blog posts following up these sessions soon.

Speaker support by the DrupalCon team had been impressivly intense. Not only did they make sure that the speakers finish their materials in time but they also offered several webinars to help the speakers ramp up their presentation skills. The quality of the sessions I visited was quite mixed, though, and many people I spoke to wished for more pro-level topics. I think it’s a reasonable demand that DrupalCon sessions meet a higher standard than those at local DrupalCamps.

On the vendor show floors, most companies had chosen the dull and boring approach of having a more or less sophisticated booth where people handed out stuff and talked to visitors. Two of the few notable exceptions were propeople with their giant Jenga tower of Drupal components and Comm-Press who handed out T-shirts with QR codes that matched in pairs. Those who made the effort to find the Drupalista wearing the matching shirt could win an iPad or tickets for next year’s DrupalCon Portland.

There was a lot of buzz about the merger announcement of four well-known Drupal shops. Like everyone else, I was amazed that this made them the world’s biggest Drupal development business and surprised that they chose to keep the name of the smallest business, the german “Wunderkraut” (which translates, unbeknownst to many, as “wonder herb”). Looking back on my experience with big mergers, I wish them best of luck with the challenges they’re facing, especially the essential task of building a common company culture.

I’d like to end with shout outs to some people I enjoyed spending time with: Gerhard and Kris – thanks for having me on the DevOps track and for all the support! Micha, Thomas, Jan – thanks for a great evening with Pizza and late desserts! Barry and Josh – I had a lot of fun with my fellow Drupal hosting experts at the DevOps Meetup Munich and in the English Garden!

And finally, a big Thank You to the Drupal Association for organizing such a great event! I’m already looking forward to the next DrupalCon!

03 Sep 2012

It’s been 3 weeks now, but I still wanted to write and say thanks for making Drupal Camping the way it was!

It were 5 days of Drupal, great people, sunny weather, hard rain, interesting sessions and a generally a very nice place to be at.

Ralf and Pascal wrote about the event. You can find some photos on the Facebook Page and in Tobias Flickr set.

And just 3 days ago the german Drupal podcast DCPod published DrupalCampingKompottCast, featuring some Drupalcampers and Kars-T and Caseledde playing the official song.

Thank you for being so great, Drupal community :-D

And thanks a lot to comm-press for making this happen.

See you next year!

27 Jul 2012

A few weeks ago, we put our first MySQL cluster equipped with solid state disks (SSD) into production. It turned out to be a great improvement to our hosting platform, so from now on, we’ll put all new databases of our DrupalCONCEPT ELITE clusters on SSD-based database clusters!

An SSD is basically electronic memory with a disk interface so you can use it like a normal disk drive. But since it doesn’t need to move a head over a spinning magnetic surface to access its contents, it is faster than a normal harddisk by orders of magnitude.

This is a great advantage, especially for write access. On our harddisk-based MySQL clusters, we can boost read access by caching data in server memory at the first request and serving it from there for subsequent requests. Write requests, though, need to always go directly to the storage device to prevent data loss in the case of a sudden server crash. Normal hard disks have decent performance writing big chunks of data but look quite bad when they have to swing their heads all over the place for random write accesses. Unfortunately, most write requests on database machines actually are small changes at random places. The common way of mitigating this performance degradation is by combining many harddisks to a RAID array. The goal in this case is not to combine their storage capacity but to get as many independently moving disks heads as possible. Since, in this case, a RAID–10 configuration (data protection by mirroring complete disks) is superior to RAID–5 (data protection by calculating checksums), building a high-performance database server with harddisks becomes quite expensive.

By using SSDs as database storage, we can solve the performance problem quite elegantly. We combine a few of them into a RAID–10 array and add two normal harddisks in a RAID–1 configuration for data that is written in contiguous chunks, for example log files. The result is astonishing database performance (both read and write), paired with the still necessary protection from data loss.

And this awesome performance and data protection will be available to all our DrupalCONCEPT ELITE customers – both new and existing – from now on. And at no extra cost, too!

Too good to be true? Well, there’s actually one downside: If your application does some kind of insane database query that produces gigabytes of data, our new database clusters will deliver them so quickly that it will probably eat up your server’s network bandwidth. So tame those monster queries, folks! ;-)

If we already provide you with a DrupalCONCEPT ELITE cluster and you would like to migrate your existing databases to a SSD-based database cluster, please drop us a line. If you are interested in what makes DrupalCONCEPT ELITE one of the best Drupal hosting platforms in the world, check out the DrupalCONCEPT website!

11 Jul 2012

We are sponsoring Drupal Dev Camp Barcelona 2012

The Drupal Developer Days conference in Barcelona started today, and our Drupal architect Markus is there to give a talk about “ Staging with Git and Drush”.

Just in time for this big meeting of Drupal developers, we’ve got a new offer: free development instances !

Every development instance comes with its own Git repository, database, and Apache Solr core. They’re hosted on a shared DrupalCONCEPT PRO cluster, so these development instances offer great availability – no more worries that your dev server might die right before the project deadline! Since the only limitation for development instances is that they can’t be assigned an official domain name, they are an ideal solution for developing and testing your Drupal website.

How do you get your free DrupalCONCEPT development instance? It’s easy:

*Go to our order form,

*choose “PRO-DEV”,

*get started and have fun!

The Drupal Developer Days will be a great opportunity to exchange ideas and practices with Drupal devs from all over the world and we at freistil IT are happy to be a sponsor of the event! We wish all participants a successful conference and great days in sunny Catalonia!

15 Jun 2012

I’m writing this post on my flight back to Germany from DrupalCamp Scotland, which took place on 25 and 26 May in Edinburgh. I had been invited to take part in a panel with major Drupal hosting providers and had responded happily with “Challenge accepted!”

The Informatics Forum at the University of Edinburgh was an ideal venue for DrupalCamp Scotland. There was enough space for sessions and meet-ups, and with all those coffee shops, pubs and beer gardens in the vicinity catering for students, we could easily continue our talks over a latte or a beer. Speaking of catering: Nobody had to go home hungry thanks to tasty sandwiches for lunch, and tea, coffee and cake during all the breaks. The second conference day even concluded with an assortment of ales sponsored by the Williams Brewery!

The DrupalCamp programme was interesting and diverse. On the first day, titled “Drupal for Business”, people mainly learned about Drupal and its advantages. Jeremy “Jam” McGuire set the tone in his introductory note by describing how Drupal fits neatly into the successful open source ecosphere of projects and businesses. Other sessions were about e-commerce, project management and social media.

On Saturday was the official DrupalCamp and it got more technical with sessions like “Storage API”, “Symfony: An Introduction” and “Entities Everywhere”.

For a final session titled “Roast of the Hosts”, the Drupal Scotland team had put together a panel of three Drupal hosting specialists, namely Acquia, Pantheon and freistil IT. Jakub Suchy, Josh Koenig and myself each had 5 minutes to present our hosting platforms and then answered questions from the audience. I’m really, really proud that our DrupalCONCEPT platform was considered to be part of this panel and I had great fun – on the panel as during the whole DrupalCamp.

So, many thanks to all the organizers at Drupal Scotland for their efforts! And since Edinburgh is a great city, too, I’m sure that this won’t have been my last visit to Scotland!

27 May 2012

I just hopped on the train to Vienna where I’ll participate in the Drupal Business Days conference from Thursday to Saturday. I’m taking the night train, so I’ll reach Vienna in the early morning hours. Markus will follow tomorrow, because he’s still busy with client work. Additionally, that way, we make sure that there’s at all times someone on the team with decent internet connectivity should some server hiccup.

All previous Drupal business events I’ve visited so far this year were great successes, overall and for freistil IT in particular. Both in Amsterdam and in Rome, I’ve met great people, had inspiring talks and learned new things that helped us improve. In return, we decided to become Gold Sponsor of the European Drupal Business Days. I’m sure that the next three days will be worth a multiple of the sponsorship fee.

We’re IT guys, so we’ll be more than happy for everyone who would like to talk to us. ;-) Especially if it’s about running small, medium or huge Drupal websites and in how many ways your website could benefit from running on our DrupalCONCEPT hosting platform. If you do want to meet us, drop us a line at info@freistil.it or send us a direct message on Twitter @freistil! Alternatively, simply look out for our green DrupalCONCEPT shirts!

The CxO Meetup on the first of the three conference days will be another Drupal event that benefits from Microsoft’s hospitality. To many, this may still sound odd, but I have experienced twice now how their representatives manage to blend in and even add useful insight to the discussion. So, kudos to Microsoft for doing another kind of great hosting!

Thanks also to the nice folks at ProPeople for organizing the conference!

It seems that the weather will be nice in Vienna, so that’s one more reason to look forward to the Drupal Business Days. See you there?

02 May 2012

Last year, I’ve given a talk at the Open Source Datacenter Conference about how we use Chef to automate our system administration. For us, Chef is the key to efficient IT infrastructure management. Since last year, we have more than doubled the number of our servers while the number of sysadmins still is the same.

But having powerful tools is just half of the equation. Over the recent months, we have learned (sometimes the hard way…) that having mature processes in place is at least equally important.

I'm speaking at OSDC 2012!

That’s why my talk at this year’s OSDC 2012 will be about “ Operations and Kanban”. Kanban is an agile task and project management method. There are other well-known agile methods like Scrum, but for IT operations teams, Kanban oftentimes fits the bill better.

In my talk, I will explain the history and basics of the Kanban method and elaborate on how IT teams can implement and use it in their daily practice.

At freistil IT, we’ve been using the Kanban method to organize our work for some time now. We’ve started with simple day-to-day tasks and then gradually extended its use to bigger projects. Kanban can be implemented with a simple whiteboard, but since we are a distributed team, we prefer web-based tools. In this context, we have found Trello an ideal solution. Its design is clearly inspired by the staged Kanban approach, it’s easy to use, there’s an iOS app and it’s free. I’ll give a few examples how we implemented Kanban with Trello in my talk as well.

Judging from the line-up of presenters and topics, OSDC 2012 will again be a great experience and I’d like to thank the awesome folks at Netways for letting me be a part of it!

You’re going to be at OSDC, too? Drop me a line at jochen@freistil.it and let’s talk over a few drinks!

22 Apr 2012

For the recent weeks, we’ve been making a great effort to minimize our reaction times to support requests. And we’re proud of the positive feedback we get from our customers every day!

With this improvement in mind, we’d like to inform you that over the Easter days, we’re going to shift down support capacity a few gears. And with “Easter days”, we mean the week from 6th April (Good Friday) to Friday, 13th April.

During that time, support will be limited mostly to emergency cases and we’ll take the liberty of postponing tasks that aren’t related to service problems by a few days.

We’re going to use (or even utilize) this off-time to regroup, spend some quality time with our loved ones and tackle some of those “when I’ve got the time” projects.

Of course, if there’s an emergency, you’ll always be able to reach a qualified member of our team.

We wish you a happy Easter weekend and some joyful spring days! Your freistil team

03 Apr 2012

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