By Alan Skontra
CloudCamp, a free-flowing “unconference” for cloud computing enthusiasts, added Newark to its growing list of international locations with an event at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) on Wednesday, August 1, 2012. More than 100 people braved inclement weather to attend the camp, which featured a sponsor-provided buffet dinner and two open bars.
Mohammad Zaman, who serves as cloud platform services director at the New York office of international cloud solutions provider Virtustream, said he got the idea of organizing a local CloudCamp in Newark after hosting a meetup for enthusiasts the first Wednesday of every month. Zaman said those meetings had been growing to the extent that he decided to begin planning large gatherings and organizing a CloudCamp every quarter.
Zaman called cloud computing a “rapidly growing field. … It’s the new wave of doing IT and related services” and “the single largest growth area for IT. Companies are spending more and more on it, while other areas are shrinking,” he said.
CloudCamp Newark featured a special guest moderator, Reuven Cohen, a founder of the original CloudCamp. Cohen recently sold his company, Toronto-based Enomaly, to Virtustream and now writes an online column for Forbes.
Cohen said cloud computing has come a long way since he and others — many of whom he had previously known only through Twitter — organized the first CloudCamp in San Francisco in 2008. “A lot’s happened in the cloud world since then,” Cohen noted. “We went from people asking, ‘What is it?’ to ‘What can we do with it?’ ”
Wherever CloudCamps take place, whether in Newark, New York or far-flung London and Singapore, their organizers follow a template to foster vigorous audience participation. “The topics are raised by the audience, and we find experts in the audience to answer those questions,” Zaman said.
Cohen explained the concept of the “unconference” as something with a general structure initially but plenty of room for improvisation. “It’s really defined by the attendees. No two meetings are ever the same,” he explained.
At the event, Cohen welcomed audience members and then introduced several industry experts, who each presented a five-minute-long “lightning talk.” Presenters included Jimmy Guerrero, an “evangelist” for Red Hat’s OpenShift, who spoke on the benefits of Platform as a Service (PaaS); Meryl Robin, virtual solutions director at Tel Aviv-based Radware, who discussed application acceleration; Richard Schatzberg, a founding member of the National Cloud Technologists Association, which teaches tech workers to become certified cloud experts; and Kevin Dattolico, Virtustream vice president of sales, who spoke on the cloud’s size and scale.
Judith Sheft, NJIT associate vice president of technology development, spoke to the audience about cloud-related jobs. She mentioned that industry organizations such as the New Jersey Technology Council provide employers and potential employees resources for finding each other. Sheft answered an audience member’s question about what qualities cloud employers seek in employees. “They’re looking for not only tech skills but cultural aspects, like whether you can work on a team and how well you communicate,” she said.
The camp ended with two rounds of breakout sessions, at which audience members gathered in smaller groups to discuss prearranged topics of interest such as “Cloud Assessment and Migration of Your Application” and “Starting Your Company for Cloud Services.” Though each group featured an expert guide to get the discussion started, the sessions were unstructured and included a lot of member interaction.