The week commencing Monday 15th May 2023 saw the start of Manchester Tech Week and over the 17th and 18th May is DTX Manchester.
DTX, or Digital Transformation eXpo brings demos, talks, experiences and exhibitors to Manchester (Manchester Central) so that various people (both technical and non-technical) can come together. This helps to see what’s up & coming, how others have used solutions and what strategies may (or may not) be a good idea.
For the first time I attend DTX Manchester, share the experience and give some hints on how (in my opinion) to get the best from expos like DTX.
Note: In the interest of fairness, and as per my review policy – My ticket for DTX was free, as were the talks at the event. During this blog post I may mention companies etc.. that provided a talk.
The Day Begins
Greeted at the conference centre doors by Chewbacca (Star Wars) and a lanyard for my ID badge, the brief (I was early) wait for the conference to begin give me chance to go over the floor map. Lots of booths and stages for talks, and whilst waiting also the chance to meet more characters from Star Wars, including Din Djarin (The Mandalorian).
My initial walk around reminded me of how large Manchester Central is (more expos should be held here!) and gave me chance to have some conversations with companies at their booths. For the talks I attended I’m going to write some brief summaries.
10:20am – “Managing the unpredictable: How to lead in times of challenge and change”
Time for the first talk, its on the main stage and is a keynote from the former Director General of MI5, Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller and hosted by Jake Moore (Global Cybersecurity Advisor, ESET). There was some brief discussion about the timelines of Baroness Manningham-Buller’s career and then some interesting points that I would sum up as:
Fresh minds challenge group think and ask about the why of a process. This is a good thing.
The status quo should be challenged as it checks processes are still efficient / still the best way to complete a task.
Leaders should find ways to encourage, reward (even if its just verbal praise) and be there for their team.
There are different types of failure, failure should be reviewed and learned from.
There is a need for collaboration and communication between teams / organisations.
11:10am – “Architecting efficiency: How developer experience enables continuous development and release cycles”
Leaving the main stage and off to the DevOps Transform stage. Mariam Hussein (Engineer, Slalom), Mick Morse (Senior Architect, Slalom), Paul Gray (Principal Architect, Preventx) and Brad Marsh (Senior Engineer, Slalom) are giving a panel talk about the importance of visibility and communication. Also outlined is need to identify and remove blockers, and how observability helps to identify defects / issues early.
12:00pm – “Pipelines ahoy! The DevOps voyage of Beauty Bay’s CloudOps team”
Staying with the DevOps Transform stage and Adam Thomason (CloudOps Manager, Beauty Bay) delivers a case study on Beauty Bay’s cloud journey, discussing the use of Terraform (Infrastructure as Code), CI / CD pipelines and testing. Beauty Bay moved to using DevOps tooling / methodology with infrastructure, and challenged the established processes. To assist with this, proof of concepts (PoCs) were used, alongside the use of testing and observability – allowing for failures to be identified fast and then pivoted quickly.
Well written user stories, with clear acceptance criteria are used to create new branches and pull requests, which are automatically tested. This has reduced the number of bugs popping up in production and reduced the number of knowledge silos. The fear of deployments has decreased and there has been a reduction in the need for specialist knowledge when deploying.
12:40pm – “Commit to CI/CD on AWS: Automate deployment to your EKS cluster with CodePipeline”
Looking for somewhere to eat lunch I hit open a free table in the AWS Developer Lounge, and a technical session given by Grace Shaffi (Solutions Architect, AWS). This session was a great follow up to Pipelines Ahoy! with the AWS Code Family replacing some of the technology mentioned in the previous talk.
Grace took the crowd through how CI/CD can be used in various ways with various sources to deploy to AWS EKS. Key points I noted:
The use of containers is increasing
Customers running Kubernetes generally run into an increase in management overhead, which is where AWS EKS can help.
Containers help when deployments need speed, agility, portability and efficiency
GitOps is the term used when applying DevOps best practises (version control, collaboration, compliance, CI/CD) and applying them to infrastructure automation.
1:15pm – “Owning your user data: How the Financial Times saved thousands with automation”
Claire Robinson (Senior Customer Success Manager, CloudM) and Chris Hall (Head of Global Service Desks, Financial Times) discuss how CloudM helped the Financial Times (FT) save money with automation to remove archived accounts. The Financial Times were paying a large monthly figure (in the thousands) to store archived user accounts / data, and also spending staff time to remove the archived accounts. The automation has helped reduce the large monthly figure and the FT no longer need to use staff time to delete accounts.
My main take from this talk was that cloud services incur costs and automation is an efficient way of tackling unneeded services, which saves money and staff time.
2:00pm – “Web apps & APIs: Planning for emerging threats & Zero Days”
Another new acronym (to me) as I learned that WAAP is how Web Application and API Protection is referred to. Josh Davies (Principal Product Marketing Manager, Alert Logic) presented how WAAP can help with attacks, reducing likelihood of an attack and impact of an attack. Josh also discussed the use of bots to try and automatically land grab when zero day vulnerabilities are found, with threat actors attempting to be the first to exploit vulnerabilities on systems before any other threat actor can. An interesting fact presented was that 75% of attacks on APIs are credential related.
The mentions of OWASP and CWEs reminded me of my recent blog post.
2:35pm – “AI in SecOps: The reality”
I didn’t have this one on my schedule but as I came out of the Web Apps session and started walking past the Cyber Hack stage I caught some of this. Elliot Went (Senior Security Engineer, Sentinel One) gave a session discussing the differences between Artificial Intelligence types (Machine Learning and Deep Learning) and how they may be applied in security tooling. A lot of security tooling / security companies mention AI, and it was good to see someone explaining that AI is a wide field and that not all AI is the same.
Ending The Day
I concluded the day with some more booth visits, a listen of Andy Burnham (Greater Manchester Mayor)’s keynote on the launch of the MBacc, a pathway for young people looking at technical education. More information can be found at https://www.greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk/news/mayor-of-greater-manchester-unveils-plans-to-create-two-equal-pathways-for-young-people-pursuing-technical-careers-and-those-applying-for-university/
Getting The Best From An Expo
Wear comfy clothing and footwear
Expos can take place in a variety of locations, some close to public transport / parking and some not. Most will require some standing and some walking around conference floors, so dress comfy and make sure your footwear is appropriate.
Expos generally release a list, before the expo, of exhibition booths and talks that are taking place. Use it wisely to plan which talks interest you and which could be worth a listen, and to plan which booth are must visits. Getting to the end of an expo and finding you’ve missed a talk or booth can really highlight the importance of planning ahead.
Bring a pen and notebook, or digital equivalent
Attending a talk and listening helps to take in some of the information, but with multiple talks happening it is easy to forget details. Having a pen and notebook (some booths give them away) or a digital equivalent to take a few bullet point notes can really help make the talk more memorable.
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