Speaker Interview: Brian Proffitt

Light sabers and physics: This is the talk you are looking for. Brian Proffitt gives SCALE 13x attendees "Why Scale Up is Like Star Trek and Scale Out is Like Star Wars" on SCALE 13x Saturday at 3 p.m. The SCALE Team beamed down to talk to Brian about his presentation.

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

A: My name is Brian Proffitt, a long-time observer and participant in the FLOSS community. I have been a Community Liaison for the oVirt project for just over a year, and prior to that I have worked at SUSE and the Linux Foundation, punctuated by lots of time as a technology journalist, when I got to act all judgey – but with gravitas.

Q: You're giving a talk on Why Scale Up is Like Star Trek and Scale Out is Like Star Wars. Without tipping your hand on the actual talk, can you give us an idea of what we might expect?

A: Light sabers and transporters! Physics is no obstacle! Although, in seriousness, for this talk, I really understood the pets/cattle metaphor Randy Bias and Bill Baker came up with for cloud computing, but as a father to vegetarians, I kept slipping in heirloom tomatoes and wheat farms as an alternate metaphor. So, I thought, what if I could deliver a geek-friendly metaphor? And thus, this talk was born on a small desert planet with multiple suns. I'll leave it to attendees to decide if that world is Tatooine or Vulcan.

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 have been coming to SCALEs for quite a while now, and it has always been my favorite community event. The program, the people, the shared terror of never being able to escape the hotel bar... this event has a unique camaraderie that has led to a lot of great work in the FLOSS community.

Q: Why is this talk important for attendees?

A: This talk is really part of a larger theme I have been messing around with in my head for quite a while: that much of what we do in technology is really just taking abstract logic and math concepts and making them fit within the idioms and metaphors that are so pervasive in our society. Spreadsheets, of all things, are a classic example--the whole workbook/worksheet interface is a metaphor based on the real-live accounting ledger books that were around until the late 20th Century.

Everything we do in IT, if you think about it, revolves around metaphors. In a very real sense, I believe that developers and technologists are just as creative in storytelling as "traditional" artisans like painters, musicians, dancers... It's just we tell our stories with mathematics, logic, and machines. It's a theme I hope to explore a little in my talk at SCALE and throughout the year.

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

A: Nope, I'll be in the bar if you need me.

[SCALE Team interview by Larry Cafiero]