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Top 21 conferences for DevOps and sysadmins in 2018

Things move fast in the realm of DevOps and containers, and serious system administrators need to keep up. The best way to do so may be to attend a conference or other tech event. This list helps you decide which ones are worth your time and money.

Future enterprise software historians will likely remember 2018 as a pivotal year in which battles raged around the roles and relative importance of DevOps, containers, microservices, cloud computing, serverless technologies, and IT operations. Beyond the breathless vendor hype for all these technologies is a deep and genuine sense of bewilderment and confusion.

Depending on your perspective, we’ve either reached a moment of extreme peril or blissful opportunity. There will be winners and losers, pain and joy. Based on our experiences from previous eras of IT transformation, we’ve got a bumpy ride ahead.

Some job categories might vanish. Plenty of Silicon Valley VCs are betting big money that serverless tech and function as a service (FaaS) will render systems administrators obsolete.

However, in the early days of DevOps, similar prognostications of rampant economic dislocation were made, and little of it happened. "There have been many predictions that sysadmin, DevOps, and IT operations as a whole will disappear and that systems will just run themselves magically in the cloud. That's just not true,” says Mike Loukides, vice president of content strategy at O'Reilly Media. “At best, cloud services and improved tooling means that fewer people can manage more systems effectively. But since the complexity and number of systems we use is growing without bound, people will always be needed to manage them."

One way or the other, the world of enterprise software is changing and evolving. If you’re an IT professional, that means you need to keep a careful eye on trends, techniques, and technologies that can either help or hinder your career.

To help you stay in front of the looming tidal wave of changes sweeping across our industry, we compiled this list of conferences, summits, and events dedicated to DevOps and other critical elements of the rapidly transforming enterprise IT landscape.

Note that many of the event organizers mentioned in this article produce many tech-related events over the course of a typical year. Even if you don’t find an event near you at a convenient time, poke around on their websites. They may have a range of conferences that meet your needs.

Obviously, you can’t attend every event. That’s why we developed this handy list, divided into three sections:

  • Must attend
  • Should attend
  • Worth considering

The events are listed by date within each of the three sections.

This DevOps conference list is by no means intended to be complete or comprehensive. It reflects the opinions and biases of a handful of software engineers, IT managers, academics, and tech journalists whom we polled informally. Many of those practitioners emphasized that they look for events that are community based, with in-depth talks given by diverse speakers who are experts in the technologies. Do check the links before making travel plans, since key conference details such as price, location, and date often change—sometimes at the last minute.

Must attend

These events definitely should be on your short list. They feature solid content, quality speakers, serious discussions, and good opportunities for acquiring practical knowledge about DevOps, IT automation, systems administration, containers, microservices, and agile software development methodologies.

IBM Think 2018

Twitter: @IBM

Web: https://www.ibm.com/events/think/

Date: March 19-22, 2018

Location: Las Vegas, NV

Cost: $2,295 (early-bird discount available; on-site rate is higher)

When it comes to basic research in computer science, Big Blue remains unmatched. That’s one of the many reasons developers and coders religiously attend IBM events. You can never exactly predict what you’ll learn, but whatever it is, it’s likely to be interesting and unexpected.

Think 2018 will give you a chance to learn about everything from blockchain, AI, and cloud to IT infrastructure, IoT, and security. It has thousands of hands-on labs, certifications, and think tanks.

Red Hat Summit

Twitter: @RedHatEvents

Web: https://www.redhat.com/en/summit/2018

Date: May 8-10, 2018

Location: San Francisco, CA

Cost: Not available at this time

Red Hat Summit is all about open source, which makes sense because Red Hat has consistently been one of the most successful providers of open source products. (If open source is a key part of your company’s strategy, also be sure to look at our recommended 2018 open source conferences.)

But what draws developers to the Red Hat Summits isn’t the technology alone; it’s about possibilities and potential. “Open source technology gives us a platform for imagination, a focal point to collectively push for new possibilities,” according to the Red Hat events team.

Who attends? ​Executives, architects, consultants, admins, engineers, analysts, managers, and developers. It attracts everyone from career IT professionals to part-time open source contributors. Attendees represent multiple industries, from all over the world, creating a “global village” of open source true believers.

Gartner IT Operations Strategies & Solutions Summit

Twitter: @Gartner_inc

Web: https://www.gartner.com/events/na/infrastructure-operations-management

Date: May 15-17, 2018

Location: Orlando, FL

Cost: $3,075 (early-bird, public sector, and group rate discounts available)

Gartner is all about business, and its conferences reflect the firm’s deeply earnest approach to information technology. It’s not enough to just know about DevOps, cloud computing, and automation—you need to integrate them into your operations. That means these technologies need to be scalable, which entails a broad range of complex issues that are rarely considered by software engineers.

Gartner conferences go beyond computer science; they address emerging trends in IT strategy. Some find discussions about the fine points of IT strategy off-putting, but it’s become an inescapable part of modern corporate management.

From Gartner’s perspective, “the road to digital transformation runs through IT operations. The adoption of fast-evolving technologies, methodologies, and tools have not only created new capabilities, but have become a catalyst for innovation across the enterprise.”

With that in mind, the summit covers a multitude of topics, including desktop engineering and operations, end-user computing, client computing operations, cloud strategy, cloud operations, enterprise mobility, digital workplace strategy, IT service desk/support, networking, network services, application management, change management, capacity planning, business continuity, and disaster recovery.

Most Gartner sessions have a CIO or other executive audience in mind rather than those seeking hands-on instruction. If you’re thinking about using your programming and operational skills to ascend the ranks of IT management, definitely attend this conference.

Unsure how to get started with containers? Yes, we have a guide for that.

Velocity

Twitter: @velocityconf

Web: https://conferences.oreilly.com/velocity/

Dates: June 11-14; Sept. 30 – Oct. 3; Oct. 30 – Nov. 2, 2018

Locations: San Jose, CA; New York, NY; London, England

Cost: To be determined

O’Reilly conferences usually evoke the primal spirit of Woodstock, only without the mud. Here’s where you can expect to meet the smartest of the smart and pick up esoteric knowledge.

So if you’re a professional software engineer or aspiring to become one, you really can’t afford to skip Velocity. The sheer volume of information may feel overwhelming, but you won’t be bored.

Essentially, the Velocity conferences are organized to help software architects, application developers, and systems engineers build and manage distributed, resilient, and highly available websites and applications for business, industry, government, and academia. There’s a little bit of everything at Velocity and never a dull moment.

LISA18: 32nd Large Installation System Administration Conference

Twitter: @LISAConference

Web: https://www.usenix.org/conference/lisa18

Date: Oct. 28 – Nov. 2, 2018

Location: Nashville, TN

Cost: Not available at this time

You can’t go wrong attending LISA18. It’s got training, tutorials, hands-on labs, top-notch presentations, and fantastic panel discussions. The audience is engaged, attentive, and enthusiastic. That caused one system administrator to exclaim, “I will go to LISA because I know and trust it and it's been key to my career—I’ve learned so much there!”

If you’re looking to learn more about containers, architecture, microservices, operations, maintenance, and troubleshooting, LISA is the conference to attend.

AWS re:Invent

Twitter: @AWSreInvent

Web: https://reinvent.awsevents.com/

Date: Nov. 26-30, 2018

Location: Las Vegas, NV

Cost: Not available at this time

The re:Invent conference is becoming more relevant every year, since Amazon Web Services (AWS) has become a dominant player in the cloud economy. For all practical purposes, that means that if you’re truly serious about a career in DevOps or systems administration, you absolutely need to keep up with whatever is going on in the Amazon universe. Presentations are a mix of case studies (one 2017 session was “Leveraging AWS to Fight Financial Crime and Protect National Security”) and instructional overviews (like “Migrating Large Scale Data Sets to the Cloud”).

At re:Invent, you’ll also meet the vendors and suppliers that populate the AWS ecosystem. The conference includes boot camps, hands-on labs, hackathons, game days, and jam sessions—all the cool stuff coders and system administrators generally appreciate.

Should attend

Conferences in this next group are worth the time, but they aren’t imperative. That said, if you work in a shop that uses Docker, you should probably attend Docker.con, and if you use Jenkins, you won’t want to miss Jenkins World. In any case, these events are worth attending if you have the time, energy, and interest.

DevOpsDays

Twitter: @devopsdays

Web: http://www.devopsdays.org

Dates: Multiple events, held throughout the year. Check dates on website.

Location: Events are held in various cities including Charlotte, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Des Moines, Vancouver, Moscow, Kiev, and Beijing.

Cost: Varies

DevOpsDays is a worldwide series of technical conferences covering software development, IT infrastructure operations, and the intersection between them. Topics typically include automation, testing, security, and organizational culture.

The first DevOpsDays conference was held in Ghent, Belgium, in 2009. Since then, the events have multiplied. “If there isn’t one in your city, contact us about organizing one yourself,” says the event’s leadership team.

Despite their worldwide reach, DevOpsDays events are amazingly local. The global DevOpsDays organization is decentralized; local event organizers handle their own sponsorships, registration, and everything else associated with their events. Core teams guide the local organizers.

As you would imagine, each event is unique. In many cases, that’s a plus, but some network administrators say they've had experiences best described as “varying quality.” On the other hand, the fact that they’re local means the conferences are more convenient and less expensive to attend, since hotel costs aren’t a factor.

“These events are organized by companies in a localized region, and the attendees are part and parcel of the experience. Unlike a traditional conference, the attendees are in charge of building the agenda in near real time,” says Carl Levine, senior technical evangelist at NS1. “Practitioners are always open and willing to help attendees who are not well versed in DevOps to understand and embrace the culture.”

For questions about a specific DevOpsDays event, contact the local organizers via their contact page. If you have questions about hosting your own event or about potential future events you don’t see listed, email the core organizers.

Containers and Cloud Native Roadshow

Twitter: @RedHatEvents

Web: https://www.redhat.com/en/events/containers-and-cloud-native-roadshow-dc

Dates: Jan. 18, 2018; Feb. 1, 2018

Locations: Washington, D.C.; Boston, MA

Cost: Not available at this time

​Red Hat’s Container and Cloud Native Roadshow provides hands-on opportunities for building, deploying, and managing containerized cloud-native applications using industry-standard open source technologies. The conference focuses on educating and enabling attendees based on their role, whether in operations or software development.

The Ops Team Track includes:

  • OpenShift and container-native storage fundamentals
  • Introduction to OpenShift platform management
  • Application management on OpenShift
  • Application storage management with container-native storage

The Dev Team Track includes:

  • Introduction to cloud-native applications
  • Building microservices with WildFly Swarm, Spring Boot, and Eclipse Vert.x
  • Increasing developer productivity with containers
  • Continuous integration and continuous delivery of resilient and fault-tolerant microservices

The roadshows are designed for directors, infrastructure architects, infrastructure specialists, enterprise architects, developers, DevOps engineers, and application architects.

RSA Conference 2018

Twitter: @RSAConference

Web: https://www.rsaconference.com/events/us18

Date: April 16-20, 2018

Location: San Francisco, CA

Cost: $2,695, with significant early-bird discounts available

The annual RSA Conference offers a deep cross-section of cybersecurity vendors and experts. Despite its circus-like atmosphere, the conference provides incredibly valuable opportunities to meet people who spend their lives dealing with security challenges and are happy to talk about their experiences. It’s so jammed with attendees that it’s virtually impossible not to run into someone you either know or would like to meet.

RSA is a must-attend for security folks, but it’s also a great venue for operations professionals and software developers to pick up tons of useful information and ideas on secure application design, containerization, and agile development methodologies. If you’re deploying technology in a business, it makes sense to do so with a security-first attitude—and these are the people who can help you do that.

Interop ITX

Twitter: @interop

Web: https://www.interop.com/

Dates: April 30 – May 4, 2018

Location: Las Vegas, NV

Cost: $2,899 (early-bird discounts; check for deals and day passes)

Interop is one of the more venerable developer conferences, and justifiably so. Thousands attend, which makes it a great venue for meeting a diverse range of people with widely varied experiences and catching up on a lot of relevant technologies.

DevOps professionals can learn more about automation, configuration management, continuous delivery, and building cross-functional teams. This year’s event features an IoT theater, AI summit, government track, security pro summit, and hands-on training. Informational sessions include an infrastructure-as-code course for beginners, a cybersecurity crash course, a deep dive on packet analysis, and an introduction to design thinking.

Interop always has an active trade show floor, which means you can buttonhole vendors to learn about their latest products. The show also offers opportunities for learning about virtual environments, modernized data centers, container technologies, and architectures that support mobility and enterprise security.

Monitorama

Twitter: @monitorama

Web: http://monitorama.com/

Date: June 4-6, 2018

Location: Portland, OR

Cost: $600

Network administrators know the value of analyzing log files and otherwise tracking system behavior. Monitorama brings together industry experts and community leaders to discuss the newest approaches in monitoring and observability, including presentations about the tools and techniques in use at large web architectures.

This write-in conference was suggested by someone says the event is “put on by people that love monitoring; it wasn't corporate or sales driven at all.” According to experienced admins, the community at Monitorama is equally as good as the presenters. “It’s an amazing place to be, with smart people, great speakers, and great doughnuts.”

DockerCon 2018

Twitter: @dockercon

Web: https://2018.dockercon.com/

Date: June 12-14, 2018

Location: San Francisco, CA

Cost: Not available at this time

Docker is all about taking container technology mainstream, and DockerCon is all about learning the best ways to use Docker, which now boasts hundreds of the world’s largest enterprises as customers. The Docker community is unfazed by dire predictions that container technologies will be disrupted by serverless architecture. If you ask Docker users what the future looks like, they will tell you to expect healthy growth and continuing high adoption rates in 2018.

From a developer’s or data center professional’s perspective, it makes sense to acquire as much practical knowledge about Docker as you can. The best place to acquire that knowledge is probably DockerCon. Go for it.

HotCloud '18: 10th USENIX Workshop on Hot Topics in Cloud Computing

Twitter: @usenix

Web: https://www.usenix.org/conference/hotcloud18

Date: July 9, 2018

Location: Boston, MA

Cost: $345 (discounts for members and students)

Many challenges remain in the design, implementation, and deployment of operational cloud computing systems. If you want to participate in finding solutions, you might want to pencil in Boston in July.

HotCloud '18 brings together cloud computing researchers and practitioners from academia and industry to share perspectives, report on recent developments, discuss research in progress, and identify new trends in the rapidly expanding cloud space.

Among the topics addressed are multiple models of cloud computing including the scalable and reliable management of on-premises private clusters, remotely hosted servers in data centers, and hybrid data center models jointly using resources in data centers, private clusters, and edge clusters.

It’s one of several excellent conferences and workshops organized by USENIX. You can check out all of them here.

Jenkins World 2018

Twitter: @jenkinsconf

Web: https://www.cloudbees.com/jenkinsworld

Date: Sept. 16-19, 2018

Location: San Francisco, CA

Cost: Not available at this time

Jenkins World ​is for serious disciples of DevOps. Or as one fan puts it, the conference “focuses on principles, not rituals.” Jenkins World is famous for being “a conference governed by the community for the community.”

Indeed, the annual conference is the largest gathering of Jenkins users has lots of hands-on advice and shared experience, such as “How Rosetta Stone implemented continuous delivery;” “When things go wrong: Logs to the rescue;” and “How the Federal Reserve Bank of New York navigates the 'supply chain' of open source software.” Jenkins is friendly with plenty of other open source tools, so you can expect to learn about Docker, Pipelines, and Blue Ocean at least in integration terms.

Microsoft Ignite

Twitter: @MS_Ignite

Web: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/ignite

Date: Sept. 24-28, 2018

Location: Orlando, FL

Cost: To be determined, though you can pre-register now. Last year’s full conference price was $2,220, with discounts for students and academics.

As we all know, Microsoft is a huge player, which means every IT practitioner should at least consider attending Ignite. Whatever you think of the company and its products, you cannot ignore them, and your infrastructure has to interoperate with them. Microsoft also competes directly with AWS, Google, and IBM in the increasingly vituperative war for dominance of the enterprise cloud space, which is another good reason for IT professionals to keep a close watch on the house that Gates built. Ignite will doubtlessly provide plenty of clues—some subtle and some obvious—that might help your career.

The five-day Ignite conference covers critical topics such as architecture, deployment, implementation, migration, development, operations and management, security, access management, compliance, usage, and adoption. The exhibit hall is huge, so you can meet directly with the numerous vendors that are part of the extended Microsoft ecosystem.

KubeCon

Twitter: @kubecon

Web: https://events.linuxfoundation.org/events/kubecon-cloudnativecon-north-america-2018/

Date: Dec. 11-13, 2018

Location: Seattle, WA

Cost: Not available at this time

If you’re interested in helping create the future of cloud-native computing, you’ll want to attend KubeCon. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s flagship conference gathers adopters and technologists from open source and cloud-native communities. Past conferences have included presentations from Kubernetes, Prometheus OpenTracing, Fluentd, Linkerd, gRPC, CoreDNS, containerd, rkt, CNI, and more.

Last year’s agenda included sessions on running enterprise Kubernetes with Tectonic; using Istio to build a cloud-native service mesh; automating networks in a container world; building your own database as a service; and container troubleshooting with Sysdig Open Source.

Worth considering

Some events are of interest only to people who use a single product in-depth; others may be appealing if the conference happens in be in your hometown. It’s always worth checking to see if an event is convenient and easy to attend—by which we mean the boss says, "Sure, you might as well go!"

DevOps Enterprise Summit

Twitter@DOES_EUR

Web: https://events.itrevolution.com/eur/

Date: June 25-26, 2018

Location: London, England

Cost: To be determined

As its name suggests, the DevOps Enterprise Summit is a good opportunity for senior IT executives to network with developers, operations specialists, software architects, and systems administrators. “The event programming emphasizes both evolving technical and architectural practices and the methods needed to lead widespread change efforts in large organizations. The goal is to give leaders the tools and practices they need to develop and deploy software faster and to win in the marketplace,” says the website.

Last year’s conference featured sessions on DevOps transformation, scaling agile in business environments, value stream integration, cloud strategy, and automation. Among them: “Transformational Leadership and DevOps Beyond the Research;” “The Balanced Calendar: How to Optimize Your Time;” and “DevOps Handbook Experiments in Accelerating Delivery,” by a solutions architect from a large insurance company.

ChefConf

Twitter: @ChefConf

Web: https://chefconf.chef.io/

Dates: May 23-26, 2018

Location: Chicago, IL

Cost: $1,000 “special” includes conference pass, workshop, Chef certification exams, Hackday, and all social activities.

The conference is focused on Chef tools and techniques for DevOps and digital transformation. The agenda includes Chef training, workshops, DevOps, community and partner summits, a welcome reception, and game night. If you work with Chef, this conference is for you!

Gartner’s Symposium/ITxpo

Twitter: @Gartner_SYM

Web: http://www.gartner.com/events/na/orlando-symposium

Date: Oct. 14-18, 2018

Location: Orlando, FL

Cost: $6,000, with discount for public sector

This Gartner conference is designed for CIOs, but it’s also a good place for mingling with experts and executives representing the full spectrum of IT disciplines. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s worth considering. Gartner events have a cachet that’s hard to match. This year’s symposium spotlights artificial intelligence, customer experience, cloud strategy, resiliency, security, and the IoT.

IT/Dev Connections

Twitter: @devconnections

Web: http://www.devconnections.com

Date: Oct. 15-18, 2018

Location: Dallas, TX

Cost: $2,099 (all access); $1,299 (early bird)

This conference is geared toward software engineers and other IT professionals. It features in-depth training from experts in cloud services, business intelligence, DevOps, enterprise collaboration, enterprise management, mobility, security, and advanced data analytics.

“IT/Dev Connections 2018 is considered the ‘Anti-Keynote’ conference—which essentially means we don't force attendees to manually sift through fluff or marketing content, nor do we base the event on vendor messaging. IT/Dev Connections offers the most intense training opportunity available—more than you’ll get at any vendor-sponsored conference. So skip the marketing and get to the meat!” says the website.

SaltConf18

Twitter: @SaltStack

Web: http://saltconf.com

Date: Sept. 10-14, 2018

Location: Salt Lake City, UT

Cost: Not available at this time

This is a conference for IT professionals who use Salt, a Python-based open source configuration management software and remote execution engine. If your IT shop uses Salt, attending this conference is a no-brainer, especially if you want to meet with a wide ranging group of systems administrators, cloud builders and architects, enterprise IT operations, IT directors and managers, developers, and site reliability engineers.

The Salt user community has a reputation for technical excellence, so if you use Salt products, by all means attend this conference.

Did we miss any must-attend DevOps conferences? Let us know by tweeting to us at @EnterpriseNxt.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.