Säntis Systems Summit Recap

The inaugural Säntis System Summit in Appenzell, Switzerland kicked off. The unconference was full of great people, topics, and beautiful scenery.

Säntis Systems Summit Recap

What an amazing event. I'm not just saying this because our company 56K.Cloud organized the event, but it was indeed an inspiring event enabling creativity in a unique setting. 56K.Cloud co-founder Darragh Grealish and Justin Cormack from Docker ran point on organizing the event and boy did they deliver.

Most conferences/summits are held in venues with little to no windows, atmosphere, or setting which encourages creativity. The idea of the Säntis Systems Summit is encourage attendees to escape the hustle and bustle of the cities which they live. The summit accomplished this by traveling to the Swiss Alps to allow people to detach from daily activities while immersing into the topics of the Summit.

The week of the Säntis Systems Summit was also a RISC-V Workshop hosted in Zurich, Switzerland. RISC V (Pronounced RISC Five) is an Open Source Instruction Set Architecture (ISA). In layman's terms, it is an Open Source processor initiative removing the secrecy and expense related to new hardware development. Believe it or not, I was developing on RISC Unix systems already back in 2000. Since a lot of interesting Systems people were already in Zurich for the event, we proposed to extend the event for 2 more days in the Swiss Alps.

We had attendees traveling from China, California, New York, UK, Switzerland, Germany, representing companies from local Startups to Google, Red Hat, and Huawei. It was a great mix of people to speak with and making new connections.

Getting There

Not often do attendees of conferences or summits travel using Public Transportation. Since we live in Switzerland with one of the best Public Transport, it was an easy option for attendees. Booking your ticket for the Summit included the option for the transfer from Zurich to Appenzell.

We met early Friday morning at the central train station in Zurich. From Zurich, we boarded a train towards Appenzell where we transferred to a bus that took us up to the summit (literally). The entire journey, we had some fantastic conversations with people attending. We were already kicking off the networking/un-conference in the train.

The Venue

The Summit took place at Säntis The Hotel (Yup, that's the name). This beautiful and modern hotel was our home base for the next two days. The hotel connects directly to the gondola, which transports us to the top of the mountain. Across the street was the traditional cheese maker where you can taste all the local cheese (yummy).

The hotel terrace was full of cyclists, hikers, and day-trippers visiting the area. The summit took place in a beautiful room with all glass viewing the forest behind the hotel. We propped all the doors open for the fresh breeze and sound of nature just outside.

Agenda

The Summit is an Unconference event. An Unconference is quite popular and has been around a long time and is a popular format for Open Source events. The concept is that the topics are participant driven. If people have an interesting topic, they want to discuss they propose it and add it to the scheduling board. Attendees can then attend to decide where they want to attend and participate in discussions.


We had some topics by Halvar Flake where he discussed Weird machines, exploitability, and provable unexploitability. Also, video from where he presented this in full - https://vimeo.com/252868605. Open Computing Frameworks, Mirage OS, and running RISC V in Docker containers using RISC V Bring Up by Red Hat's Carlos Eduardo. These were just some of the discussions I was able to attend and gain new knowledge. It was amazing to learn about totally different topics and technologies which I usually don't get exposure.

Planning board

After the various discussions, we took a break, check-in to the hotel, and all took the gondola to the top of the Säntis mountain. At the top of the mountain, we took in the spectacular panorama of the Swiss Alps. Darragh then informed us that he organized an exclusive tour of the Swisscom Network infrastructure and giant antenna at the top of Säntis. It was quite impressive the infrastructure that is required to keep the tech running despite the harsh elements of wind, snow, and cold.

The Systems summit returning from top of the mountain in the Gondola

Reactions to the event

What's Next

Now that Systems Summit was a success, attendees were already asking for the next event.  Well, the plan is to host a winter unconference event but this time with a snow setting, skiing, and some fondue. Stay tuned as we start preparing for Systems Summit Winter Edition. I'm looking forward to attending, contribute, learn, and hopefully ski at the next event. Be sure to follow Systems Summit for news and updates.

As I was waiting for the bus back down the mountain, the traditional farmer tradition of walking the cows up the mountain to greener pastures unfolded right in front of us. What better way to wrap up the first and definitely not the last Säntis Systems Summit.

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