Speaker Interview: Michael Dexter

Michael Dexter will be giving the talk, "FreeBSD Virtualization Options" on SCALE 13x Saturday at 4:30. A long-time BSD user, Michael comes down from Portland to speak, and the SCALE Team caught up with Michael to ask him a few questions about his presentation.

Q: Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background?

A: I am a Latvian-American Unix fanatic with two kids who spent the first eighteen years of his life in Hollywood. I was introduced to BSD Unix in January of 1991, several months before the announcement of Linux and was instantly drawn to what I considered to be "behind the facade" of the computer. Unix made perfect sense but took me quite some time to wrap my head around. Twenty years later, I am finally working full-time with open source Unix in the form of FreeBSD, FreeNAS and OpenBSD with my own support and monitoring company. The tools and the community around these tools have reached a stunning level of maturity and the only challenge is getting the word out.

Q: You're giving a talk on FreeBSD Virtualization Options. Without tipping your hand on the actual talk, can you give us an idea of what we might expect?

A: I have been giving conference talks about BSD Virtualization since 2009 and long hoped for something like the focus of my talk: bhyve, the BSD Hypervisor. Somewhat by accident I was the first person to approach the bhyve developers and asked them how to try it. One thing lead to another and I have been building a community around bhyve since before it officially arrived with FreeBSD 10.0 in January of 2014. bhyve is unique in that it is free of BIOS and device emulation and instead relies on modern hardware virtualization technologies such as the Extended Page Table or EPT which does its heavy lifting. The result is a small and elegant hypervisor that runs FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD and Linux guests at bare-metal (and sometimes faster) speeds. My talk will catch people up with the history and state of BSD and describe what can be done with bhyve and complimentary technologies like ZFS and Packet Filter. I will also touch on the classic FreeBSD strategies like Jails which are getting renewed attention thanks to all of the excitement surrounding Docker.

Q: Is this your first visit to SCALE? If so, what are your expectations? If not, can you give us your impressions of the event?

A: I believe my first SCALE was in 2007 and it was where I met aspiring stars in the community like Karen Sandler, Stormy Peters and Bradley Kuhn back before they became executive directors and the like at various FLOSS foundations. With some irony Karen and Bradley are too busy to attend this year but SCALE remains one of the great "gateway" open source events where new community members can get a great survey of the projects and communities out there. The increased BSD presence it good to see and I suspect the organizers will eventually say "the 'L' once stood for Linux".

Q: Is your work limited to the BSD community?

A: I live in Portland, Oregon, and have organized the last 100 or so Portland Linux/Unix Group (PLUG) speakers. Linus Torvalds kindly came to talk at our 20th anniversary meeting and the organization hosts two speakers plus a hands-on clinic every month. In Latvia I hosted BSD mirrors, was a founding signer of the Latvian Open Source Association (LAKA) and fostered a number of projects at bsd.lv. It sounds cheesy but I try to act both locally and globally. I am active in quite a few efforts but strangely the more I do, the less I feel I've done.

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

A: SCALE should be a great place to gauge if the systemd schism is real or just rhetoric. The concerns surrounding systemd could prove a unique opportunity for the BSDs not unlike the introduction of GPLv3 several years back. Either way, people have the greatest selection of free software options in history. I may as well also conclude by saying that everyone should considering making a donation to the FLOSS foundation of your choice!

I look forward to SCALE 2015!

[SCALE Team interview by Larry Cafiero]