Wednesday, 20 June 2012

MongoDB UK

Today I attended the UK MongoDB conference presented by 10gen at the Mermaid Conference Center at Blackfriars in London. This is the first time I've been to a true commercial conference as opposed to independent developer conferences such as ACCU and Agile Cambridge. I signed up to come several months ago when I was thinking about using MongoDB for a project. Since then it's become less attractive as I couldn't see an application for it that wouldn't have needed a relational database as well. Convincing clients that MongoDB is a good idea is one thing, but convincing them that they need a relational database too just doesn't seem feasible. I came anyway as I was still interested and I'm glad I did.

The Mermaid Conference Centre is nice enough, but a real rabbit warren where they seem to need about a dozen ushers just to show you where do go. The lunch was excellent. Better than the normal finger food buffets at other conferences. If cost wasn't an issue I'd run a conference here, especially as it's on the banks of the Thames.

As with most conferences it started off with a keynote. The keynote was given by Eliot Horowitz the CTO and cofounder of 10gen. Eliot lacked charisma, but what he had to say about why they developed MongoDB was interesting and certainly convinced me that it was the right thing for them to do.

I spent the first three sessions with Eliot and Alvin Richards, who as well as having a cool name also brought some much needed charisma to the proceedings, learning about how to use MongoDB to implement an IRC application. This was a really good choice of example as it also allowed them to discuss replication, sharding and using MongoDB for messaging rather than something like ActiveMQ. I learnt a lot and started to see how I might use MongoDB for an application where a relational database would not be needed.

After the lunch break, during in which I was set upon by someone describing themselves as a 10gen partner and trying to sell me things (10gen I am not impressed) I saw Gregor Macacdam from 10gen's support team give an overview of MongoDB on Microsoft’s existing PaaS (Platform as a Service) offering and their new IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) offering. This was not a very engaging presentation and could have benefited from a real demonstration and a speaker who can make eye contact with the audience.

Next up was Sean Reilly talking about why schema diagrams are evil. This presentation was hilarious, engaging and far too close to home. Sean was just brilliant, if a little nervous. He described really well why it's bad to publish your database schema. People become coupled to it. Far better to keep it secret and publish an API. I hope I'll have the chance to see him speak again one day.

The final session I attended was in a rather dingy room. The Mermaid Conference Centre advertises all its rooms as being bright. I was there to hear Chris Harris speak about MongoDB on  Amazon’s EC2 platform. It was quite difficult to hear what he was saying. The room was also very warm so I wasn’t able to take much of it in, but Chris appeared to be giving some good practical advice on how to start analysing MongoDB, improve performance and how to maximise resilience. Unfortunately he over ran quite significantly.

I missed the beginning of the end note, again given by Eliot Horowitz. He did a quick run through of the future roadmap of MongoDB and asked the audience for any features they thought MongoDB need that he hadn’t mentioned. Apparently in the past some had suggested SQL!

Overall this was a reasonable day. I don’t think I’ll be back though. 10gen need to look at how the ACCU run conferences. I think they would learn a lot.

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