Wednesday morning’s Future Stack conference began like the majority of these sort of conferences normally do. That is, a bunch of professionals sitting and waiting patiently in a dimly lit room, stomachs full of the complimentary pastries and coffee, holding on for the MC to introduce the day. When suddenly, dance music started blearing out from the speakers as a group of dancers came gracefully tumbling down the path, performing cartwheels, spins and jumps, all whilst skilfully holding colourful boxes with the company’s logo on them.
Once the music had died down and introductions had been made, it was clear that this event was going to be a little bit different. After all, this was the conference that had managed to get the real life astronaut Tim Peake to give a key note speech at the end of the day.
Future Stack is part of the American software development company, New Relic. In the opening Keynote talk, Ken Gavranovic opened by discussing what it was that made him want to work in software in the first place, telling a story of how long he queued just to send a fax. He then went on to discuss his love of metrics, AI, traces and open source and what all this also meant to New Relic.
Next came the obligatory software demonstration as Jemiah Sius, senior product manager for the organisation, stepped on stage to show the audience the capabilities that New Relic has. He claimed that the firm used open source to be more collaborative, to solve problems together and to help users find the right platform.
“With New Relic, we can collect all types of data. So, anybody that’s familiar with, infrastructure, you might know that for a while our agents have been extensible, we call this infrastructure integrations, and a while back, we had one of our release created integration that allows you to add your network traffic to our in our DB in the form of a vase. But once we had that data, added to our database, the only way you can visualise it was using dashboards. With problem ability we’re actually able to go beyond dashboards.” Said Sius before continuing with his insightful example.
Talks and discussions
Other talks included titles such as “Connecting observability with business outcomes”, “Powering Africa’s Marketplaces with New Relic” and a breakout session named “Gett global technical support: How to manage production”
One of the most entertaining talks came from Ian Cohen, Chief Product &Technology Officer for Addison Lee Group, who started by checking that nobody was unable to see due to the glare coming off his (lack of) hair. In this controversial discussion he called “If “Digital” is the question… what’s the answer?”, Cohen spoke of how lots of companies are being pushed into digital transformation, but actually, many firms are reluctant to adopt it but feel the pressure to do so.
“Back in the day, traditional business was predictable.” Says Cohen. “It didn’t change much if you decided to do something, you would do it with ruthless efficiency, and you do it with predictability based on a certainty that pretty much everybody else was doing roughly the same. And so, we focused on consistency and reliability…Now it’s about speed.”
Peake of the day
Closing the day was the talk that everyone had waited for, the Key Note speech from astronaut and test pilot, Tim Peake.
Peake’s enigmatic and funny demeanour kept the audience hooked as he regaled them with stories of robotic arms, the tough and gruelling preparation that goes into his work, and the scientific changes that happened to his body as it struggled to cope with the literal changes in the atmosphere.
As the astronaut showed pictures that had been captured from his ship (which looked as though they had been painted by a master artist), he also spoke of how the team used tech to help them on their missions. He says, “We’ve just embarked on artificial intelligence onboard the Space Station a couple years ago. [Peake points to a picture on the screen]. This is Cemon, IBM AI robot built for DLR the German aerospace company”
“Of course, AI is very important to space because [as part of] the asteroid mission we were researching, we’re going to be going deep into space where, for example, in a Mars mission you might have a 24-minute time delay. And in those environments’ greater autonomy for the crew and complete autonomy for our robots is going to be very important. Hence, starting to introduce AI into our space-based systems, and as well as AI robotics is very important, we’re able to do more and more in high risk areas now with humanoid robots and use a haptic feedback as well.” The astronaut adds.
From dances, to dashboard competitions, Future Stack had an array of interesting talks from a great range of speakers.