Speaker Interview: Carl Johnson

Carl Johnson will be giving a talk on “Service discovery and configuration with Consul” at SCALE on Saturday, Feb. 21 at 6 p.m.The SCALE Team caught up with Carl to ask him about his presentation.

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

A: For the past two years I have managed Technology Operations at OpenX in Pasadena, California. I've been using Linux since the late 1990s and before that I ran a BBS while I was in high school. I got my start as a network engineer during the "first dot com boom" and have had various network, information security, and operations roles throughout my career since. The bulk of my career was spent at Yahoo! after they acquired Overture in 2003. At Yahoo! I learned quite a bit about designing and managing systems at scale. Over the years I have developed a preference for open source software and the communities that form around it. I originally started using Linux when I taught myself Perl and PHP in order to automate tedious network management tasks. These days Ruby is my favorite language. On the personal side, I am a dad to three young boys that keep me very busy outside of work!

Q: You're giving a talk on Service discovery and configuration with Consul. Without tipping your hand on the actual talk, can you give us an idea of what we might expect?

A: It will be an overview of a fairly new, open-source software project I'm very excited about: Consul. This software solves much of the pain we experience at OpenX managing our large environment. I will
discuss why I prefer Consul to other, similar tools, as well as perhaps make some controversial statements about configuration management software and commercial load balancers.

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: This is my second visit after last year. I was very impressed with the quality of the speakers and topics! In fact, this is one reason I submitted to speak at SCALE, as I felt I should do my part to contribute to the Southern California Linux and technology community. This year I expect even more attendees and I'm hopeful that my talk will strike a chord with others facing similar problems.

Q: You mentioned you might make some controversial statements about configuration management. Can you shed any more light on that?

A: Essentially I think that configuration management has become too much of a "kitchen sink" solution. While the software available today is excellent, it is easy to extend configuration management so far that it becomes a bit of a Rube Goldberg machine. I am a big fan of simplicity. When there is a central piece of software with a very large set of functionality and data behind it, that worries me. My talk will discuss a more decentralized model where configuration, health checks, and downstream service data lives closer to the consuming services themselves.

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

A: Just a plug for my company, OpenX. We are hiring across all sorts of technology positions. We also have a booth in the Expo Hall, so stop by and say hi!

[SCALE Team interview by Hannah Anderson.]