CassandraNYC/NoSQL LAN PARTY was awesome success
Cassandra NYC has a meeting every month. we usually find one or more speakers and have had some really good slide decks. we have had several presentations where people simulate a muli-node cluster on a single laptop. while this is cool in itself, I felt that seeing 4 console windows on a screen does not do it for me. so i thought to myself, lets step it up a notch!
LAN party! If you never went to a LAN party in the old days. You used to want to play a game like quake and the internet was 14.4 modems that had a lot of lag. So people would bring their boxes all to one place and throw them on a hub (or switch if you were lucky) and play quake.
Thus the lan party was born. the concept is we bring switches, laptops, wires, and cassandra. and we setup a cassandra cluster, right there in the meetup.
it is like a windows 7 party. only much much cooler.
I brought this idea up to some people and everyone absolutely fricken loved it. the challenge to this event is that if you have to set anything up, in a short time window. you know that 1000000000 things can go wrong. bad wires, bad switches, configuration issues. so of course this was a bit scary. but we were supremely confident in two things 1) we knew what we were doing 2) that cassandra (even in a multi-datacenter environment) is actually REALLY easy to setup.
nathan, jake, levon and i did test run a week before to iron out the event and the order we were going to do things.
Let me give a ton of credit to a few people, first nathan milford. when setting up a lan party you can imagine someone coming with one dinky link-sys switch. well not nathan. nathan pulled out 3 48 port rack mounted switches and three laptops ! i am half convinced he took them from co-workers or off the rack out of production.
jake got us several datastax pen drives and loaded them with a jvm, cassandra tar, and a custom program made for calculating tokens (no event would be complete unless jake coded something)
my buddy brian from about.com saved me a ton of money by providing us 25 4 foot cables. Would you believe that best buy sells 3ft cables for 13.99 plus tax! No way I am paying for that hommie.
of course involved is the entire m6d crew. not only did m6d provide the meetup space. but they helped me teraform our common area. In less then a half hour we moved tables, set up wires, set up power strips and as people started arriving at 6:30, We were ready for action. Mrs. Stacey Capriolo was also down for the cause. Even though she had class at 8:30 the next morning she made the commute down to NYC to help out with some subnetting and CAT5 cable runs. It was pretty impressive as it was essentially a half hour data center build out :)
Action is the operative word here. Because a ton of credit also goes to the people who came to the meetup. There was 0 apathy in that room. I had expected a number of people to come and about 1/3rd of them would bring a laptop. That was NOT the case. Just about everyone came laptop in tow, and they were ready to rock. I give them a ton of credit as they made the event great.
We did really well following the power point we had developed in our planning session.
Believe it or not we actually spent more time setting up IPs on peoples laptop then we did setting up Cassandra. The most problems came from windows machines with people having trouble setting their java_home environment variable. But the awesome part of this event was people got to work side by side.
It was a mass of humanity, wires, laptops, cassandra....
....but it was undeniably cool. To take 20+ people, many who had never even used cassandra before!, to put them a room with switches and simulate a 3 datacenter deployment, to pull out ethernet cables, shut down laptops, even lose an entire datacenter and still have people reading and writing data. Windows Mac, Linux, its all good. Thanks Java for being awesome like that.
One person event told me something to the effect of "I read an article on the internet that said setting up Cassandra was really hard" and I said "Well now you must know that person was full of shit right?" We both smiled.
The one way I gauge the success of an event is how many people stay after. This event was really off the charts. For about 20 minutes after we concluded the final exercises people were still hacking away, reading and writing data, asking questions about how consistency levels work, and other what-if scenarios.
We even had pizza on the other side of the room and almost no one was getting up to get it! (Eventually the pizza did get dogged because many people were hungry.) I finally did get everyone out of my office to tear down the lab, but it was not easy.
Any day where a Cassandra cluster is set up is a good day. Have your own Cassandra Lan Party!