ApacheCon 2000 Europe Conference Report :
Report from the third Apache conference
First published: 3rd November 2000
Report from ApacheCon Europe
This is a special report covering the ApacheCon 2000
conference in Europe held in London.
First published 3rd November 2000.
2000, the first ApacheCon outside USA was held on Apache
Week's home ground from October 23rd to October 25th. As
promised, Apache Week was there in London to cover the
Early Monday morning at 8 am, we had a brisk walk from the
Hilton London Olympia hotel where we were staying to the Olympia
Conference Center about three blocks away. There was no
fear of losing our way as shortly after leaving the hotel, we
were greeted by a succession of signboards displaying the
familiar Apache feather, leading us straight to the
Our first day did not really get off to a good start as
during the registration our records were not found in the
database. Luckily the organizers were efficient enough to
resolve this problem quickly and we were handed our passes
and complimentary ApacheCon bags containing three thick
manuals of conference proceedings and other goodies.
As the conference package included light breakfast and lunch
for all days registered, we all had empty stomachs that
morning. We really should have taken the word "light"
literally as to our dismay breakfast consisted of only one
plate of biscuits per table, and tea or coffee. The only
difference was you could keep your dirty cup after you had
drunk your coffee or tea. As this was the case, there were
plenty of seats for us to take our pick but like the other
attendees, we did not stay long for breakfast.
The conference had three main parallel "unthemed" tracks of
classes or talks with one hour, one and a half hours or two
hours time slots. There were a total of 42 classes, covering
the Apache web server, XML, Java, mod_perl, PHP, and a case
study of the real-life implementation of the Apache web
server. The classes were spread over three days, including a
busy Monday that packed in 21 of the 42 classes. There was
also an additional concurrent track of talks by vendors
namely, Sun Microsystems, IBM, MyComponents.com, and Oracle,
with a sprinkling of BoFs (Bird of a Feather sessions) as
As we were approaching the auditorium for the opening session
at 9 am, strains of a western tune drifted to our ears and
for a split second when we stepped into the room, we thought
we were transported back in time to the wild, wild west as
the formidable figure of Ken Coar loomed above us on the
stage with a cowboy hat on his head. Later he revealed that
the piece of music we heard was "Apache", one of the many
western-themed hits by the Shadows who reigned unchallenged
as Britain's top band between 1960 and 1963.
After the welcoming speech, Ken Coar proceeded to give an
update on the schedule where one talk was cancelled and a few
were swapped. This was not good news for those who had
already decided on the talks that they were going to attend.
For the few unlucky ones, this change caused their chosen
talks to be back to back so they have to go through the
mind-boggling task of making a choice again. The official
number of pre-registered attendees was about 900.
XML from Outer Space and Apache 2.0
For my first of the seven classes on the first day, I decided
to attend "Toward the Semantic Web: a View of XML from Outer
Space" given by Stefano Mazzocci, Cocoon's creator in
the Apache Cocoon project. The attendance was so high, that
even with extra chairs some delegates were left sitting on
the floor. This talk gave a clear explanation of the XML
model and the "semantic web", covering many of the
technologies that the W3C
are developing to shape the future of the World Wide Web.
Stefano described the ways in which XML can be used to
overcome some of the problems inherent in today's Web, and
demonstrated how they can be implemented using Cocoon, Xalan,
and other Apache projects.
After 2 hours of XML, an hour of Apache 2.0 by Ryan
Bloom was my next stop. The major changes in Apache 2.0
are the implementation of MPM (Multiple-Processing Modules),
APR (Apache Portable Run-Time) and I/O filtering. No release
date was decided for an Apache 2.0 beta, although Ryan
promised it would be as soon as possible.
Lunch was served between 12 pm and 2 pm but talks were still
being held during these two hours so it was either lunch or
class. At 1 pm, I had no choice but to forgo a class as
hunger beckoned and I joined one of the two long queues to
collect my meal at the reception and bars area. Seats were
limited but as the turnaround time was quick (no one loitered
at the lunch tables), everyone managed to find a place at the
tables in the end. A bit short on space but at least it
worked out well. After a meal that was nothing to shout
about, I had just enough time to drop by the Sun's Internet
Pavilion to check out my emails before joining the next class
at 2 pm.
It was time for a change so I joined a business-oriented talk
instead of another technical one. Peter Moulding gave
a few useful tips for convicing higher management to use
Apache instead of other proprietary web servers in his
"Apache in the Real World - Beating the In-house Bias" talk.
After this was another two hours slot class and it was
"Introduction to Apache Server" by Rich Bowen for me.
This class was more for users new to Apache so I left halfway
to listen to "AxKit - an XML Delivery Toolkit for Apache"
presented by Matt Sergeant. AxKit is implemented as a
Perl Apache module using mod_perl that provides on-the-fly
conversion from XML to a variety of format, such as HTML and
WML for WAP phones. It provides similar functionality to
After attending four classes and missing one due to lunch,
there were two more talks to go with 3 hours in total, an
hour and a half each. Sterling Hughes, co-author of
the soon-to-be-published-in-November "The PHP Developer's
Cookbook" gave a very technical talk on "Extending PHP4"
covering the PHP API and compiling a PHP extension in detail.
The talk covered the new scripting engine in PHP 4, Zend.
Like a traditional interpreter, the old PHP scripting engine
would execute scripts while parsing them. The new Zend engine
operates using the more efficient model of pre-compiling the
The last class of the first day was a highly entertaining and
animated talk by Ralf S. Engelschall, author of
mod_ssl, mod_rewrite, and much more. The talk, "Security
Solutions with SSL", covered the evolution of mod_ssl,
described its features, and gave twelve useful configuration
examples. Each of the beautifully presented slides included
an amusing quote to lighten up the atmosphere of this heavy
The LongevIT Spa
After a long day of exhausting technical classes, it was time
for a relaxing night event named "The LongevIT Spa" at the
Rock sponsored by IBM WebSphere. Round trip transportation
from the Olympia Center was provided. Most delegates had
absolutely no idea where the coaches were taking them. The Rock is a newly
opened nightclub. There were free cocktails and beers; head,
neck and shoulder massage; and two virtual reality simulators
that emitted smells too but we were too conservative to give
the latter two a try.
Despite the free flowing drinks, sushi and loud music, we
were desperate for a decent meal at 10 pm so we nipped out
for dinner and were back by 11 pm for the coach back to our
hotel. In doing so, we missed the raffle and the bag of
goodies given away by IBM - a pair of slippers, t-shirt,
CD-ROM and etc. We were real tired when we reached the hotel
and could barely walked to our room. What a day!
ApacheCon Europe 2000: Day
The schedule for the second day was not as punishing as the
first day. There were only a total of 12 classes held on this
day with only four to attend with three keynotes. There was
ample time for lunch and for visiting the exhibition that
didn't start until 12 pm.
Sun Microsystems Keynote
The first session of the second day was "JCP (Java Community
Process) and Apache" presented by George Paolini, Vice
President of Technologies and Advocacy. Basically he talked
about the role Sun has working with Apache Software
Foundation and the roadmap for the Java 2 platform.
Configuring Apache and mod_perl Applications
Juggling between Java Application Servers, mod_snake, and
mod_perl, I finally dropped the former two and settled on the
latter. In a nutshell, Eric Cholet talked about
configuring Apache with Perl using <Perl> sections and
@PerlConfig, and configuring mod_perl applications using
PerlSetVar and custom configuration directives. The main
question is why would anyone write Perl codes inside Apache
httpd.conf file? One of the benefits is that in a many
virtual hosts environment, Perl codes can be used within the
httpd.conf to generate suitable values for directives based
on some external variables.
Next Dr Kristof Kloeckner, Vice President of Business
Integration Development and Director from IBM Hursley
Laboratory enlightened us on how IBM relates to open source
both as a contributor and a beneficiary.
Soon it was lunchtime. Only an hour of IBM Management
Briefing, "Infrastructure for Web Services" in the Vendor
Theatre overlapped with the two hours lunchtime so there was
time to visit the exhibition. Around eighteen companies
including IBM, Sun Microsystems, Covalent Technologies,
Thawte, Zend Technologies Ltd, Eliad Technologies took part
in the trade show. There were a coffee stand in Sun's booth
and two romper rooms with pinball machines and two Sega
Racing Arcade machines. We picked up more freebies such as a
Tomcat cup and t-shirt, cap, and magazines and even tried our
hand at a pinball machine but alas, we were not Brooke
Soon it was time for three more classes within the next four
hours before the long awaited guest keynote by Douglas Adams.
I filled the next three hours with Tomcat by attending
"Migrating Apache JServ Applications to Tomcat" by Craig
McClanahan and "Advanced Tomcat Configuration and
Performance Tuning" by Costin Manolache who was a fast
speaker and completed his very technical talk in just an hour
within his two hours slot. Then it was an hour of "Improving
script and handler performance under mod_perl" by Stas
Bekman who unfortunately had to wrap up his talk quickly
as delegates were waiting to enter the room for the final
keynote of the day.
Covalent Technologies Guest Keynote
"Living in a Virtual World" was the keynote everyone was
waiting for. The whole auditorium was filled to the brink and
the audience were not let down as Douglas Adams soon
had them in stitches with his urban myths and unique
perspective about computers.
The last event for the second day was the reception serving
cocktails and hors d'oeuvers on the Exhibit Floor. "Bop Ad"
was definitely the STAR of the day as fans, ASF members and
fellow Apache enthusiasts alike queued for his autograph and
a free paperback copy of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the
Galaxy". With that, I ended the day and retreated to the
haven of my hotel room.
ApacheCon Europe 2000: Day
On Wednesday, I was late for the first talk of the day, as I
had to check out from my hotel. On this final day of the
conference, there were only a total of nine talks running in
the three concurrent tracks, two keynotes, a book-signing
event, a few vendor presentations by MyComponents.com and
Oracle, and not forgetting the closing plenary.
Managing your Web Site with Cocoon
When I reached the center at quarter-past nine, all three
talks had started. I planned to attend "Running a Successful
Web Hosting Business" by Frank DeChellis, one of the
two business-oriented talks in this conference. Peering
through the glass panel in the door, I couldn't find an
available seat in that class so I sneaked unnoticed into the
auditorium instead. This turned out to be a good choice, as
the talk "Managing your Web Site with Cocoon" was very well
presented by Doug Tidwell. Doug, author of an upcoming
book on XSLT, demonstrated how the array of tools written by
the Apache XML project
(including Cocoon, Xerces, Xalan, and FOP) could be used to
perform server-side transformations of XML documents. From a
single XML document, HTML, PDF and WML could all be served to
Next came the Oracle keynote titled "Convincing Management to
Embrace Open Software Development" by Brian
Behlendorf, president of the Apache Software Foundation
and cofounder of CollabNet. He gave a brief definition of
open source, and the various licences used such as the Apache
Licence, GNU General Public Licence and Mozilla Public
Licence. He described how open source software is designed
and built using the collective wisdom of a group of
developers, with contributions from a large user community.
When I heard the word "collective", images of the Borg
flashed through my mind. Brian also offered some tips on how
to make lawyers less nervous and ended the talk by sharing a
list of free buzzwords: "reduce time to market", "increase
margins", "expand public mind share" and "take ownership of
your future", with the audience.
Lunch and Exhibition
The exhibition hours were only from 12 pm to 6 pm but
outsiders were still registering on-site for exhibition
passes. I was slightly taken aback when I was stopped and
asked to show my pass (it was hidden under my jacket) at the
exhibition entrance but I guess they were just being careful.
During the two-hour lunch break from the main talks,
presentations by vendors were still in progress. I ate lunch
leisurely as most delegates had already taken theirs and no
one was waiting for my seat. I had a pleasant conversation
with two participants from Germany and the USA during lunch.
The latter only heard about ApacheCon after the Orlando
event. Instead of waiting for the next ApacheCon in the USA,
he persuaded his company to send him to this one. The former
was in charge of migrating his Netscape web server to the
Apache web server all by himself. Both of them were very
satisfied with the quality of this conference and the useful
technical details that they managed to absorb from the talks.
Oblivious to time, I missed the Wrox Press book-signing event
at 1 pm by Peter Wainwright, author of "Professional
Apache" but still, I managed to pick up a cute horsey toy
known as "CocoJ" from Eliad Technologies booth.
More talks and keynote
At 2 pm, I was off to "mod_perl Version 2.0" given by Doug
MacEachern. Because of the architectural changes in
Apache 2.0, particularly the introduction of thread support,
mod_perl has been rewritten from scratch. The presentation
was served by Apache 2.0 and the development version of
mod_perl 2.0, and Doug demonstrated use of some of the more
advanced features of Apache 2 which are supported in mod_perl
2, including I/O filtering.
Soon James Davidson took over the stage for the "Guru
Keynote" session titled "Jakarta Perspective". This was his
personal account of the origins and goals of the Jakarta project. In a
spontaneous talk, he reminisced about the history and
progress of Tomcat and Ant including an insight into the
various obstacles that had to be overcome in getting the ASF
and Sun together. In his zest to deliver an up-close and
personal look at Tomcat, users unfamiliar with the Jakarta
project might have complained that he had neglected to give a
clear definition of the Jakarta project. Nevertheless I
enjoyed the talk as it provided a glimpse into Tomcat's
For the final 2-hour class of the conference, I attended the
talk, "The Backhand Project: Load-Balancing and Monitoring
Apache Web Clusters" by Theo Schlossnagle. He
clarified the differences between "load balancing" and "high
availability" since they are often used interchangeably to
mean both. Both mod_backhand
were covered in this talk. Back to back with this class was
"WebDAV and Apache" by Greg Stein which other
delegates from Apache Week reported was an excellent talk
about WebDAV and mod_dav.
The closing session hosted by Ken Coar saw only one
third of the attendance of the opening plenary. He announced
that there were about 1200 registrants (20 percent more than
at Apachecon 2000 Orlando) with around half attending only
the exhibition. With a panel of ASF members on stage, it was
time for comments about the conference. The overall feedback
was positive. Some complaints were that the Monday schedule
was too tight and the Internet access was slow and not very
reliable. One suggestion was to introduce lightning sessions
where speakers would talk for five minutes on a subject.
Hands-on sessions in the evenings were also suggested.
While most attendees came from Europe, there were also some
from the USA, Canada, South America and even all the way from
Japan. Delegates who attended both ApacheCon conferences this
year commented that ApacheCon Europe was definitely better
than the previous one held in Orlando. If this is the trend
then it is good news as we can expect more improvement in the
next ApacheCon, which will be held in Santa Clara, California
from April 4th to April 6th. The location for the next
ApacheCon to be held outside the USA is yet to be determined,
but a hint was dropped about Australia.
As in all conferences, there were various technical glitches
when presentation laptops froze and batteries ran out, some
inexperienced speakers, and not enough seats but these were
all minor issues considering the excellent detailed technical
knowledge that was imparted by the speakers. An annoying
distraction was the occasional ringing of mobile phones
during the talks. Perhaps the audience need to be reminded to
switch off their cell phones at the start of presentations.
My personal opinion is that it is very important to pick
suitable talks to attend based on your own requirements, as
all of them seemed very interesting from the abstract
provided. As soon as you are aware that the talk is not what
you expect it to be, you must just walk out and join another
talk. This may seem very rude to the speaker but to make the
most of the conference, this is the only way. One suggestion
is for the planning committee to indicate the level of
technical knowledge required for the talk, so delegates can
make a better choice depending on their own expertise. This
conference was most suitable for "technical technical" people
who wanted to know in depth about a certain subject and to
talk to the authors of various modules but it also catered
for higher-level managers and new users. With that, I end my
report and hope to see you all at ApacheCon 2001 in Silicon
Valley next year!